How to Know When It’s Time to Scrub Your Face

If you’ve never had a facial scrub, this may not seem very appropriate.peel-ing process.

Puns aside, facial peels actually offer a host of benefits for your skin, especially if you have a number of specific conditions.

Yet peels do what they say: they peel off the top layer of skin, usually with a chemical treatment.

So how do you know when it’s the right time to do a facial scrub, and how much is too much?

Read on to find the personalized peeling program that’s right for you.

A face peel is a deep exfoliating treatment that smoothes the surface of the skin.

Rather than using grainy facial scrubs to slough off dead skin cells, a facial peel typically uses a combination of chemicals to address specific issues.

In most cases, an acidic solution is applied to your face and left to sit for several minutes while it sloughs off dead skin cells on the top layer of skin.

Within days, this top layer of skin will peel away (hence its name), revealing brighter, smoother, rejuvenated skin underneath.

“Facial peels offer effective solutions for patients who want to treat skin problems like hyperpigmentation or acne,” says plastic surgeon Dr. Osman Bashir Tahir of Halcyon Aesthetics.

“They can be used to offer very light rejuvenation to the effective treatment of acne scars and pigmentation and are great for superficial irregularities,” he adds.

According to Bashir Tahir, when combined with laser treatments, facial peels can be used to treat:

  • wrinkles
  • fine lines
  • black spots
  • scars

Here are some signs that a facial peel might be a good choice.

You have noticed brown spots or discoloration

Brown spots can include:

While age spots sometimes fade over time, a facial peel can speed up the process.

“Chemical peels can help remove or improve existing pigmentation, helping to even out overall skin tone,” says Spirithoula Koukoufikis, senior medical esthetician at Skinfluencer.

Your skin looks dull or dry and rough

Is your complexion duller than usual, no matter how many radiance serums you apply? Getting rid of the buildup of dead skin cells can help.

“A peel resurfaces the skin and helps remove the built up layers of dead cells, dirt and grime that can sometimes be missed with your daily skin regimen,” says Koukoufikis.

This removes underlying congestion and helps rejuvenate the skin.

Your skin looks oily and prone to breakouts

When you have oily, acne-prone skin, it can be tempting to use exfoliating facial scrubs in an effort to remove impurities lurking beneath the skin’s surface.

However, a peel may be more effective.

“Peels go one step further than an acid-based scrub, cleanser, or toner when it comes to removing excess oil and skin cells that can clog pores,” explains Koukoufikis. “When skin is congested, blocked acne bacteria can grow, leading to red, inflamed skin and blemishes.”

Getting a chemical facial peel can stimulate cell turnover, allowing any active acne-fighting ingredients you use to penetrate deeper.

You have acne scars that won’t go away

When acne clears, it often leaves scars.

A chemical peel may be more effective than topical scrubs and cleansers in reducing the appearance of these scars.

Indeed, a chemical peel stimulates the production of collagen, which can help fill in scars.

You want your skin to appear more elastic

“Fine lines and wrinkles begin to form when the skin begins to produce less collagen, one of the structural proteins of skin,” says Koukoufikis.

She notes that peels are one of the most effective ways to stimulate the skin to produce more collagen.

This in turn helps the active ingredients in skin care products to penetrate deeper and improves the overall tone, firmness and elasticity of the skin.

You have enlarged pores

While facial peels are commonly used to treat skin issues like acne and pigmentation, smaller pores can be an added benefit to getting a peel.

“As a medium or deep chemical peel aims to stimulate collagen growth and tissue regeneration, it can also help tighten pores,” says Koukoufikis.

Wondering what type of facial peel might be right for you?

According to Koukoufikis, there are basically three levels of peels to choose from. The intensity of the treatment will determine the amount of peeling you experience.

“Each uses different chemical solutions and acidity levels to resurface the skin. The peel used depends on your skin type, condition and concerns,” she explains.

Superficial (light) facial peels

Sometimes called “midday peels” because they have little or no downtime for healing, light chemical peels typically use alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs).

These help:

  • increase cell renewal
  • improve skin turnover rates
  • exfoliate
  • reduce fine lines
  • reduce sun damage
  • reduce dry skin

Light peels “are fantastic for anyone who wants to brighten their skin and have a smoother complexion,” says Koukoufikis.

Medium face peel

Medium peels are stronger. They can help treat more stubborn skin issues such as fine lines, wrinkles, and acne scars. They usually use a chemical called trichloroacetic acid (TCA).

“Medium peels affect your skin on a deeper level, and the procedure isn’t as quick and easy as with superficial peels,” says Koukoufikis.

For starters, that means more downtime after treatment. Other sequelae include:

These effects can last anywhere from 5 to 14 days depending on your skin type and condition, Koukoufikis says.

Deep peels

Deep peels are the strongest of the three. They are made with high strength TCA.

They are only used to treat advanced issues, such as:

  • deep wrinkles
  • sun damage
  • healing

Post-treatment redness can last for months in some cases.

“As with any aesthetic treatment, there are always risks,” explains aesthetic doctor Paris Acharya. “Lasers and chemical peels are designed to stimulate reactions within the skin.”

She notes that treatments can be modified for each patient to minimize potential irritation, but these efforts can only go so far and side effects can occur.

Side effects may include:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • burning
  • healing
  • hyperpigmentation

However, Acharya says you can minimize these risks by doing your research. She recommends choosing a peel brand you trust and a practitioner with the appropriate training and experience.

Medications and lifestyle factors can also affect treatment.

Lifestyle factors include:

  • Sun exposure
  • use of sauna
  • strenuous exercise
  • smoking
  • alcohol consumption

As for medications, your clinician will need to know if you are using certain acne treatments, such as isotretinoin (Accutane) or photosensitizing agents.

Chemical peels aren’t as scary as they might seem. They can be a powerful treatment for many skin issues, including acne, pigmentation, scarring, and pro-aging support.

If you’ve tried topical treatments with little success or are looking for professional results, a chemical facial peel might be a good choice.

Acne breakouts, fine lines and age spots are a good indication that it’s time to make an appointment.


Victoria Stokes is a writer from the UK. When she’s not writing about her favorite topics, self-development and wellness, she usually has her nose stuck in a good book. Victoria lists coffee, cocktails and the color pink among some of her favorite things. Find her on Instagram.

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