If you take a minute to think about what you put your skin through from the moment you are born all the way to adulthood, you will have a newfound respect for the largest and hardest working organ in the body. Unlike the heart or lungs, skin is external and puts up with plenty of abuse over the average Australian’s lifetime through sun exposure, drinking alcohol, poor diet and more. The ability of skin to heal again and again is something to marvel at, but that doesn’t mean it should be taken for granted.
When you go for a facial peel, you want to make your skin look better and younger by removing some lines and wrinkles, visible pores and marks. In the process, you are essentially damaging your skin by chemically burning it (in a controlled, safe environment) to remove its upper, damaged layers and expose new, clear layers beneath. Part of this is dead tissue (which would eventually be sloughed off through time, as our skin renews itself roughly every 28 days) and part of this is living tissue, replete with nerve endings (which is why peels can be painful, depending on how deep they go).
Depending on the level of damage (a salicylic acid peel or glycolic acid face peel will give a milder result) the visible epidermis will be removed and the underlying dermis impacted. Again, depending on how intense your face peel was, you will experience moderate to severe peeling and redness.
Unlike your epidermis, your dermis is not accustomed to exposure. During your period of recovery, the clinic that administered the chemical peel would have given you advice on what to do after a peel as well as what products you need to use. A huge component of these recommendations would concern sun exposure, and sun protection.
When you have received a deep face peel (such as a high percentage TCA peel) your skin is at risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, where melanin is deposited within the dermis, which is now vulnerable and exposed. When sun exposure occurs, this melanin deposit will drastically darken and become highly visible. Once post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is developed, it is nearly impossible to reverse through conventional means and you will need to get professional, long-term help which can prove to be time-consuming and costly.
The good news is that post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is avoidable for most. By following the post-peel instructions given by your clinic and using a very high spectrum, professional grade UV protection, you drastically reduce your risk of developing it. So the next time you go for a face peel and your dermatologist recommends you purchase a specialised sun protection product, make sure you take their advice so you don’t risk undoing all your skin’s hard work.