Jessner Peel

Can you believe it has been 7 years since my first Jessner Peel and the resulting blog post (filled with gory photos - don't say I didn't warn you), which is still popular to this day? 

I remember being nervous prior to my first professional treatment and thought it would be helpful to share my experience with chemical peels for anyone else who is considering this beauty service.

How nervous was I? Here's what I wrote here on my site back in 2013:

I hate my skin! Hate, hate, hate!!

This week, at the age of 29, I had my first chemical peel. It was almost painless, but I'm told that my entire face is going to come sloughing off like a snakeskin, probably starting tomorrow. I'm also told that under absolutely no circumstance can I help the icky bits of dead, dried skin on their journey to the floor, where they will undoubtedly and repulsively be frantically gobbled up by Pica and Biscuit. Hands off, no matter how ridiculous and gross my face looks, or I'll risk permanent scarring and discoloration.

I hope this is worth it!

Chemical Peel Before and After
My chemical peel Before & After photos that started it all. The photos are untouched, though I am wearing makeup in the After photo. I'm makeup-free in the new After photo shared below.

I still highly recommend a Jessner peel or TCA chemical peel every 6-8 weeks, though now I save a fortune by doing my own at home. In this article, you'll find everything you need, including a helpful Jessner peel timeline, post-treatment care, and the best products to maximize your results, whether you're going the professional or DIY route.

Jessner peel before and after
Perhaps I should have arranged these Jessner peel before and after photos differently. It looks like I'm having a Microsoft Teams meeting with myself. Also, do you see the gray hair in my larger photo? OMG.

Chemical Peel Before & After

What is a Jessner peel?

It's a beauty treatment that utilizes a blend of salicylic acid, lactic acid, resorcinol, and sometimes TCA (trichloroacetic acid) to provide a medium-depth exfoliation of the skin. 

Benefits include a reduction of hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and acne scars. A successful Jessner peel results in skin that has a more youthful, vibrant appearance. A series of Jessner peels is often recommended as a treatment for acne. 

The results are much more dramatic than what you receive from The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution. (You know, the popular 10-minute face treatment that makes your skin blood-red.) I use that in-between my Jessner peels, once a week.

Why choose a Jessner peel over other chemical peel options?

Think of this as the happy medium. You achieve a more drastic result than what's possible with even the best manual exfoliating products, such as Youth To The People Yerba Mate Resurfacing Energy Facial, but don't require the downtime associated with more drastic (and more expensive and more painful) chemical peels, such as laser and phenol peels.

How much does a Jessner peel cost?

My first-ever treatment was purchased through Groupon for around $40. I went this route a few times and recommend it for Jessner peel newbies. This eventually led to finding an aesthetician who would do these peels for me for $20 per session.

When I was comfortable with the procedure, which is actually pretty simple and foolproof, I realized I could purchase the exact same Jessner peel products from Dermalure that she was using, bringing the cost for each peel down to mere dollars.

Does a Jessner peel hurt?

I do not think these hurt. Remember when you were young and you used an astringent, like Sea Breeze, for the first time and were surprised that it sort of stung? A Jessner peel feels a lot like that. There's a mild burning/tingling sensation, but it's bearable. My eyes usually get a little watery, but I think that's as much from the fumes as the discomfort. Fanning your face helps with both.

For comparison, I've been told IPL laser treatments for dark spots are not that bad. I do think those hurt. Give me a Jessner peel over an IPL any day!

What are the best products for an at-home Jessner peel?

Over the years, I've gone back and forth between the Dermalure Jessner Solution Acid Peel 14% and the Dermalure Trichloroacetic Acid - TCA Peel 30%. I'd recommend either, as the only reason I switch is that I go with whichever has the lower price (around $25) when I make my purchase. Both are professional, medical-grade products.

Prior to each treatment, I exfoliate like crazy the previous night and the day of. Cheap products, like St. Ives Apricot Scrub, are perfect for this. I also use Dermalure AHA/BHA Acne Cleanser, which is what I learned from my Jessner peel aesthetician. It contains great anti-aging ingredients that prep your skin for the treatment, including organic aloe, licorice, vitamin C, vitamin B3, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid.

After a peel, I like to just finish the day without applying anything else to my face. Jessner peels are self-neutralizing (double check this on the instructions of the one you purchase, just to be safe), meaning you don't need to wash them off or add anything to end the process. So I don't. 

My concern is that if I put on moisturizer, I might prematurely stop the solution from working its magic. That said, if you would like to use a neutralizer, my readers swear by this neutralizer, which is less than $10 and has excellent reviews. This boar brush is also a popular item with my readers, I suppose because it provides a more professional, spa-like application of your chemical peel.

Are my readers using the advice in this article to start their very own chemical peel side hustles? Perhaps.

The day following a peel, whether professional or DIY, it's important to go heavy on the moisturizer and sunscreen. Your face is going to be pretty parched, but you want to delay the peeling from starting as long as possible, so moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. I like to apply Q+A Super Food Facial Oil, which includes antioxidants and vitamins A, C, E, and F (and is a steal at $11), followed by a rich layer of Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream for Very Dry Skin. (Another $11 steal - woo hoo!) Yes, it's a body cream, but it's non-comedogenic (won't clog your pores) so why not also apply it to your face? It's one of my all-time favorite beauty products.

With regard to the importance of moisturizing after a peel, I like to think of it like a a wound that has scabbed over - keeping your skin moist and supple is the equivalent of not picking at the scab so that the wound can heal properly. Although, now that I think about it, I should probably prioritize coming up with a better analogy, as this one probably freaks people out. Your face is not going to scab over!

For post-peel sun protection, I use Roche Posay sunscreen. I like this brand because their sunscreens are broad-spectrum SPF50 multitaskers and dermatologist-recommended. Depending on which beauty checkboxes are most important to you, check out their Anthelios AOX, which is a daily antioxidant serum with sunscreen, and their Anthelios 50, which is an anti-aging primer with sunscreen.

Jessner peel rules 

For a minimum of 7 days post-treatment
  1. No chemical or manual exfoliating
  2. No harsh facial products, such as retinoids or acids
  3. No picking or pulling at any flaking skin (you'll risk leaving a discolored spot or even a scar)
  4. No sun exposure without a broad-spectrum sunscreen (this is a good rule whether you've done a peel or not)
When should you do a Jessner peel?

This is an important question, one that is surprisingly skipped on most beauty sites. With a Jessner peel, timing is everything! You might think it's a good idea to do your at-home peel when you're at home on your day off - rookie mistake.

The process takes approximately one week. Your face is going to peel and it won't be possible to hide it with makeup (I've tried), so wouldn't it be nice to time your treatment so that the most drastic peeling days are spent at home over the weekend instead of at your workplace?

Jessner Peel Timing Guide:

Day 1 (Tuesday): Performed the peel today and look mostly normal/no peeling

Day 2 (Wednesday): Still look fine/no peeling
Day 3 (Thursday): Still look fine/very minimal peeling
Day 4 (Friday): Skin is beginning to peel, but it just looks like a few patches of dry skin/not that big a deal
Day 5 (Saturday): YUCK! Skin is peeling like crazy
Day 6 (Sunday): YUCK! Skin is still peeling like crazy
Day 7 (Monday): Skin is settling down/peeling is almost done
Day 8 (Tuesday): Looks like a few patches of dry skin/not a big deal
Day 9 (Wednesday): Peeling is complete/looking good
Day 10 (Thursday): It's now safe to do a gentle exfoliation (example: with a towel)

Jessner peel
Day 3: Minimal peeling (no makeup, though I kinda wish I'd at least done something with my hair)

Jessner peel cost
Day 4: The peeling is getting ready to go wild (no makeup again and with my hair even worse this time, fresh from the shower)

Step-by-step Jessner peel instructions

How to do a Jessner peel at home
  1. Exfoliate well the night before.
  2. Exfoliate well the day of your peel.
  3. Secure your hair so that it is not in your face. (I use a hair tie and a headband.) Wear a tank top so that you can treat your neck and decolletage (chest) at the same time as your face.
  4. Apply a cleanser, such as the Dermalure AHA/BHA Acne Cleanser.
  5. Apply lip gloss or Vaseline so that you don't accidentally peel your lips.
  6. In a well-ventilated room (at my house, this means a bathroom with the window open), lightly apply Jessner peel solution, such as Dermalure Jessner Solution Acid Peel 14%, to a cotton pad. (I've used cotton rounds and cotton balls and prefer the rounds, but either is fine.)
  7. Starting at the top of your forehead, rub the cotton pad in small circles across your face, moving downward until you've done your entire face, neck, and chest. Be careful to avoid your eyes and nostrils.
  8. If this is your first Jessner peel and you're apprehensive, or if you have sensitive skin, you can stop here. Your peel will be very mild and may not even peel, which is perfectly fine. I do not have sensitive skin and have never had a bad reaction to a facial product or treatment. At this point, you may or may not have areas that are a frosted reddish/white. (This happens every time at the top of my cheeks.) I always do 3 layers and do not recommend exceeding 3 layers, as this is the limit most aestheticians use.
  9. If you are proceeding with a second or third layer of the Jessner peel solution, wait 5 minutes between each layer, then repeat step 7.
  10. Now that you're done, remember it is extremely important to be gentle with your skin for at least the next week. No chemical or manual exfoliating! No harsh products, such as retinoids or acids! No picking at any flaking skin! No sun exposure without a broad-spectrum sunscreen!
how to do a jessner peel
Day 10: Fresh skin with fine lines and dark spots diminished (no makeup)