Significantly Reduce Redness and Downtime of Chemical Peels

I've been experimenting with a new topical that I'm really excited about using in conjunction with my TCA chemical peels, and I've detailed some of what I've found. 

If you've ever done a chemical peel, you know how erythema (red, hot, and inflamed skin) affects the downtime following a peel. One of the most challenging aspects of chemical peels is the DOWNTIME! I have to hide out in my house for 3-5 days, depending upon the peel. It becomes difficult to schedule around work, family, friends, and other community obligations--especially being a teacher. So anything that reduces the downtime, as long as it also contributes to healing and a positive outcome, is great!


I'd been researching a topical to use for my rosacea. I found Azelex, which contains 20% azelaic acid. I have been using 50% TCA on on some age spots on my forehead, and had used the azelaic acid all over my face, but noticed that those treated spots were barely noticeable and healed very quickly, so I decided to it might be worth a try an an all-over treatment during a chemical peel.

After researching this ingredient, I found that it reduces post-inflammatory redness and hyperpigmentation--and it aids significantly in wound healing. Here's information on the Properties and Mode of Action.

According to the research, "Azelaic acid (AzA) has profound anti-inflammatory, antioxidative effects, and is bactericidal against a range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive microorganisms as well, including antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. In addition, AzA's antikeratinizing effects are inhibitory toward comedones."

Yes, I know that the word ACID makes you do a double-take, but remember that in chemistry, it simply refers to a molecule or other entity that can donate a proton or accept an electron pair in reactions.

I was concerned though about mixing an "acid" with a chemical peel, so I continued my research and found this study where they combined glycolic acid and AzA. They saw a significant success, so that's what led me to finally try this.

One of my concerns was that a cream to help healing would cause a bad breakout (those antibacterial ointments and some lotions do that to me), but AzA is actually used to reduce acne, and it works great for me in that regard.

Here are a couple pictures so far; I’ll post again in a few days as I move through the healing process:

BEFORE: I have always focused chemical peels around my mouth because that's my problem area. I don't have any lines on my forehead or cheeks. I'll be 52 in February. 

Wearing physical sunscreen and powder

Yikes, it hurts! I applied 25% TCA in multiple layers (3 layers) with my fan brush for applying peels and let it sit for about 1 minute. Excuse my gaping mouth, but I've learned to apply it with my mouth open so that the solution can get to those tiny lines that are hidden or closed when my mouth is closed. I rinsed with copious amounts of cold water to neutralize. Basically, I just kept rinsing until the pain stopped.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Frost of 25% TCA Chemical Peel in 3 Layers

After rinsing to neutralize the TCA, I immediately applied my copper-peptide lotion, and then I applied 20% azelaic acid that I got as an Rx from my doctor in a medication called Azelex, and that's what I applied on top of the copper-peptide lotion. I left these on overnight since I did the peel at 6pm.

If you can't get an Rx, this serum is a great alternative. It contains Azelaic Acid,  Arbutin, and Hyaluronic Acid. Be careful not to order the one with vitamin C as this can burn if the pH level is too low. You can Contact this seller, and they'll make it without vitamin C and/or add/increase other ingredients since they create each batch as you order it. I think that's a great option--it's fresh and customized.

Yesterday morning, I cleansed as usual and applied the copper-peptide lotion, Keys Solar Rx with zinc, and the 20% azeliac acid. I had to reapply the copper-peptide lotion several times during the day to keep the area moist, but I just dabbed it on top. Remember to use copper on the face ONLY when peeling and healing; this mineral is too strong for normal, healthy skin.

The pictures below are at 36 hours after the initial TCA application on Saturday evening.

You can see that the area is just starting to peel around the corners of my mouth, but what's really incredible is that the redness is so minimal. It's almost as if I didn't do a peel at all. This really seems to make the downtime tolerable. In fact, I went to the store! I never would have gone out before.

Click on the image to enlarge.

36 hours after 25% TCA peel: copper lotion + zinc sunscreen + azelaic acid

I included a whole-face picture here to show the lack of demarcation between my normal skin color and where I applied the TCA just 36 hours ago. There is so little difference that this is a game changer in downtime.

Click on the image to enlarge.
36 hours after 25% TCA application: copper lotion + zinc sunscreen + azelaic acid

There's still no significant redness, although I am starting to peel on the same schedule I usually experience. The area is a little pink, but I don't see the leathery, red or brown, irritated skin that I usually have at this point. There's no question that it would still be impossible to have an event scheduled this evening, but it's easier to not look like I've been using a blow torch on my face.

I tried to take a close-up picture to show more detail. Click on the image to enlarge.

48 hours after 25% TCA application: copper lotion + zinc sunscreen + azelaic acid

I woke up this morning and took this picture, so I'm really dry and afraid to move much before moisturizing in fear of cracking the skin. Still no significant redness or leathery look, but I'm continuing to peel. I expect much will peel today. Click on the image to enlarge.

60 hours after 25% TCA application - just woke up

66 hours after 25% TCA: copper lotion + zinc ss + AzA
This peeling should be done--or most of it--by 6pm, which is the end of day 3 or 72 hours after initial application, and I really didn't look hideous until last night/this morning. Looks like there's a 24-hour period of downtime for the peeling, which trims off at least a full day. Because there doesn't seem to be any major redness, I can still run errands and do other activities that won't require me to look presentable. I'm so excited to find a topical that makes downtime more tolerable. This truly changes the way I can perform TCA peels.

If you're interested in other ways to reduce downtime, look at this post on how to reduce swelling and inflammation

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Gabi for posting this information! I've been using the copper lotion, and it helps, but I can't get a rx, so I'm going to order that az serum. I'll let you know how it works. You look great for almost 52! I'm convinced those peels really help, so I'm committed to doing them too. Karen :)