I Got a Chemical Peel for the First Time and Uh...This Is What Happened

Yeah...

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As a newly-minted skincare freak fresh off her first big girl facial with extractions, I made an appointment for a chemical peel, sure that it was the next step in an A+ skincare regimen. (This, despite the Samantha Jones horror story that has been cemented in my mind since I first binged on Sex and the City...)

After a few Google searches, I decided upon the VI Peel, which is pharmaceutical-grade, safe for all skin types and tones, promises no pain, requires little downtown time, and has a seven-day turnaround time.

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How does it work? Essentially, a chemical peel creates a safe amount of micro-damage that removes the top layer of skin and allows new cells to grow more easily. As for the benefits? Well, Salma Pothiawala, MD at Schweiger Dermatology, broke it down like this:

"The vitamins and acids in the peel work to shrink pores, correct fine lines and wrinkles, stimulate collagen and elastin production within the skin, and improve acne and hyperpigmentation," she explained. "Your skin will be luminous and glowing after the peeling process is complete."

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Annnnnd sold.

Day #1

Dr. Pothiawala began by applying acetone to my face to remove all the oil. Though it smelled like nail polish remover, it didn't sting at all. After that, she applied the first layer of the peel, which aside from a bit of discomfort at first, felt fine. She continued to layer the mask to give it a frost-like effect, then had me use a personal fan for a few minutes to help it dry.

To allow the solution to properly neutralize, I'd have to keep it on my face for eight hours. When I finally looked in the mirror before leaving the office, I realized I looked a bit like Tan Mom (I was unable to to use any makeup). Fortunately, I took the NYC subway—a notorious, judge-free zone—to a friend's place, stayed in, and binged on reality television (the only way to do it in my eyes).

Before bed, I washed the peel off and opened up the VI Peel take-home kit, which had a cleanser, treatment towelettes, post-peel protectant, and SPF 50. After washing my face with the cleanser, I applied a moist towelette to my skin—as instructed—soaked in a solution with Retin-A and Vitamin C. Then I dove into bed.

Day # 2

When I woke up, my skin felt soft, but it was noticeably pink and shiny. I washed my face and applied the post-peel protectant. Even thought I spent virtually the entire day inside, I made the mistake of not using the SPF given to me. Like, at all. Apparently, that's a major no-no even when inside (what??) as UV rays are everywhere. Word to the wise—use the SPF! That night, I performed the same cleansing/towel ritual that I did the previous night.

Day # 3

An hour after I woke up, I saw the first signs of peeling underneath my nose, which was the signal I could start to use moisturizer again. I noticed the peeling had started from the middle of the face and spread out, just as Dr. Pothiawala said it would. Before I went to sleep, I washed my face with my regular gentle cleanser and slathered my face with moisturizer. (Ahhhh.)

Day #4

When I looked in the mirror the next morning, it was peel central all up on my face. My face was already noticeably red, which is a normal reaction, but mine was *really* red since I have pretty sensitive skin. (Oh, hello Tomato Face.) At work, explaining my peely Patrick Bateman situation to colleagues was kind of awkward, but everyone seemed to get used to it fast. That night, my skin felt super dry and I applied moisturizer like it was my job. Which, it kind of was.

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Day #5

My skin kept peeling and it started to feel like a sunburn, which wasn't painful per se, but pretty uncomfortable. I had moisturizer and SPF near me at all times and that night I drank lots of water and made sure to switch to a silk pillowcase (Slip Silk Pillowcase, $79.95) for less scratchy friction on my face while I slept.

Day #6

The peeling and redness finally began to dwindle and I was started to see and *feel* the full effects. (My face was SO soft, you guys!) To keep my skin moisturized and refreshed, I used a Korean hyluronic acid moisturizing mask a friend imported for me because she loves me and wants me to be happy. It left my skin feeling even softer.

Day #7

Despite small spots of peeling, my face was back to "normal"—though with some major differences. For one, I can't emphasize how baby's bottom soft my face felt. (Brags, all the brags.) Then, there was my skin tone, which was the most even it has ever been (amazing for my rosacea), and it was just so much smoother overall. I swear, there was a super-fine line on my forehead that seems to have vanished. Seriously, they weren't joking about *new* skin... but remember, a whole new layer of skin comes at a cost.

The Takeaway

While I'm currently thrilled with the results, I'm a little nervous about UV ray damage that I might've encountered while I was less-than-responsible with applying SPF. (Curses, Week Ago Lauren, curses!) If I could do it over, I would not only have been more diligent about applying it, but I would also have done the peel during winter, when the sun isn't as strong.

Because I got a chemical peel in the spring, I have to be very careful about sun protection now and into the summer. This said, if you're struggling with acne, looking to anti-age your skin in a flash, or are just searching for a glorious glow, I say go for it—but only after you've weighed the commitments, powerful active ingredients (TCA, Retin-A, Salicylic Acid, and Phenol), and received the a-okay from your derm.

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