Chemical peels for sensitive skin

For a long time I was scared of using chemical peels on my sensitive skin. Maybe it was the word ‘chemical’, maybe it’s the scary YouTube videos of when peels go wrong, maybe it’s because I didn’t understand what a good chemical peel really meant.

Recently, I gave chemical peels a go on my sensitive skin at home. Here are my results and everything else you need to know about chemical peels for sensitive skin…

What is a fruit acid peel? What is a chemical peel?

Chemical peels and fruit peels strip away dead skin from the surface. They do this through the use of chemicals, such as glycolic acid or lactic acid (chemical peels), or fruit enzymes (fruit acid peels).

What does a chemical peel do to the skin?

Chemical peels strip the outermost layer of the skin, leaving it smoother. When used correctly, they can treat acne, wrinkles and are a great way of preparing the skin for a deep nourishing skin treatment.

Here are some makeup free, filter free, photoshop free photos to give you an idea of my personal experience. The change for me is more evident when you feel my skin rather than look at it. Nevertheless, hopefully this gives you an idea.

Before using a chemical peel

Before I did the peel I had some small pimples on my forehead (only just visible) and my face felt rather dull in general. Lockdown life with three kids!

Immediately following a chemical peel

During the peel, I experienced a mild tingling sensation and my face went a little red in parts. This is totally normal.

After two months of chemical peels (twice per week)

All in all my skin feels a little brighter and a lot plumper. My cheeks feel plumper in particular. I still have some redness around my chin and nose, but this could also be due to the regular use of the COVID medical face masks. All in all, I’m happy.

Can chemical peels go wrong?

Yes. Chemical peels vary a lot from brand to brand. Some deeper peels are for specialist cases and should be performed by a qualified plastic surgeon only. Some chemical peels must only be applied for a couple of minutes, others need a longer treatment time.

A mild tingling sensation is normal while the chemical peels nibble away the dead surface skin, however in some cases users have reported pigmentation spots and even scarring.

However when used correctly, at home chemical peels from trusted skincare brands are totally safe. Always read the label, check the ingredients list and ensure the chemical peel is marked for use on sensitive skin.

Are chemical peels safe for sensitive skin?

Yes. In fact I’d go as far to say that ruling out chemical peels for sensitive skin types is a shame. They are many great chemical acids which are safe for sensitive skin.

If they’re the correct percentage formula and they’re used correctly, chemical peels can do wonders for sensitive skin.

Which acid is best for sensitive skin?

Lactic acid is often cited as the best AHA exfoliant for sensitive skin as it’s milder compared to glycolic acid. However it’s also important to look at the formulation, including the proportion used and which other acids it’s combined with.

Is glycolic acid safe for sensitive skin?

It depends. Glycolic acid used correctly is an effective exfoliant suitable for all skin types. However, you’ll need to find a mild formulation. Also, as with all skin types, you need to get your skin used to the application of AHAs.

Which chemical peel is best for sensitive skin?

I’ve been using a brand called QMS Medicosmetics, and specifically the Collagen System Sensitive. This pack contains a gentle chemical peel as well as day and night collagen serums.

The reason I chose this peel was because it was labelled safe for sensitive skin and QMS is a brand I trust.

The QMS chemical peel is great for sensitive skin as it self neutralises after 15 minutes, meaning you can’t really overdo it. It uses licorice and chamomile extracts for their healing, anti inflammatory properties. Meanwhile glycolic and lactic acid act as exfoliants.

QMS was founded by a doctor specialising in burn treatment. Looking to find a more effective, yet gentle solution for such sensitive skin he founded QMS medicosmetics. With sensitive skin prone to psoriasis, eczema and dryness, I’ve never had an adverse reaction to any of its products.

They’re not cheap (this tri pack retails at £199). However I figured I didn’t want to cut corners and risk long term damage with a chemical peel unsuitable for my sensitive skin.

chemical peel for sensitive skin

How often should you get a chemical peel? 

Milder formulations of chemical peels for sensitive skin can be used up to three times per week, with a break in between each application. For the first week you apply it just once per week, then the next week you can try twice per week, gradually working up to three times per week.

It really depends on your skin and the formulation you’re using. If you have any doubts, speak to a qualified dermatologist.

What is the best moisturizer to use after a chemical peel? What else should I do after a peel? 

The chemical peel for sensitive skin that I am using comes in a pack with a day and night collagen formulation. The idea is that you remove dead surface cells to prep skin for deeper nourishment.

Of course, you can use the moisturiser you prefer; just ensure it’s a super gentle formulation. Chemical peels, even those formulated for sensitive skin can make the skin feel sensitized, or even a little itchy and dry.

After a chemical peel:

  • Wash your face with cold or tepid, never hot, water
  • Don’t exfoliate. The chemical peel already acts as an exfoliant. There’s no need for a cleansing brush or scrub
  • Use a rich, gentle moisturiser
  • Apply a sunscreen suitable for the face regularly – even indoors – and especially for the week during and after a peel. My sun protection is 50 SPF.
  • Avoid the sauna, steam room and other forms of excessive heat
  • Drink plenty of water

What acids should not be used together?

The basic rule is: don’t mix chemical peels with other exfoliants.

Salicylic acid and glycolic acid are both chemical peels. Using them at the same time will be too harsh, and could cause a reaction in sensitive skin.

Retinol isn’t a peel or exfoliant perse, but it does work by smoothing skin. Doubling retinol and a chemical peel could be too much for sensitive skin.

Also, vitamin C used in conjunction with chemical peels would be rendered useless due to the pH imbalance.

How long do chemical peel results last?

I’ve been using my peel for one month now. Since week three I’ve been seeing a gradual improvement in the smoothness and suppleness of my skin.

The changes aren’t permanent though. Chemical peels for sensitive skin aren’t invasive plastic surgery procedures!

It really depends on the peel, your skin type and your lifestyle, but the general consensus is that results last for a month or two after you stop using them. I haven’t stopped using my peel yet, so I can’t say personally. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop using this system.

Are chemical peels worth it?

Yes and no. As mentioned at home chemical peels for sensitive skin aren’t the same as an invasive procedure. That’s why I like them. However, if you’re expecting immediate and long term results, then you might be disappointed.

In my case I only noticed a real difference three weeks in to the treatment course and real results only after two months in.

The QMS Medicosmetics Collagen System Sensitive system is great. I love it. However it’s not for every budget. If you’re looking for a most cost effective way to improve your skin, drink more water!

That said, I’m no longer scared of using chemical peels on my sensitive skin. In fact, along with a commitment to drink more water, they’re part of my skincare routine.

The QMS Collagen System Sensitive pack costs £199 GBP (3 x 30ml bottles). The Active Exfoliant 7% Sensitive costs £73 GBP for 30ml.

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