When it comes to pressing refresh on a dull complexion, booking a resurfacing treatment—think: peels, lasers or facial treatments such as microneedling—is only half the battle. As New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD explains, properly coddling healing skin after an in-office treatment is surefire way to usher in proper results and minimal irritation.
“The skin’s barrier will be sensitive as the new skin cells form and heal, so you need to treat it gently and encourage the healing process,” she says, noting that the most common side effects after these treatments—redness, swelling and stinging—are similar to a sunburn. To quiet these side effects, the products you trust to “baby” your skin post-treatment should be chosen carefully.
“Maintaining skin’s natural moisture barrier is an important part of helping skin heal properly after in-office cosmetic procedures,” says Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. “A lack of moisture can cause irritation, even scabbing, and delay the healing process,” adds Dr. Russak.
For deeper resurfacing treatments, Dr. Russak suggests applying Aquaphor or prescription ointments “to help occlude the skin and prevent infection.” For a lighter option, the dermatologist points to SkinCeuticals Epidermal Repair, which she calls a “healing moisturizer” that’s packed with soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredients to keep skin happy.
Along with properly hydrating healing skin, plan to pare back the active ingredients until your skin has fully healed. Dr. Russak specifically warns to avoid exfoliating products such as AHAs, BHAs or retinoids until then.
Gently cleansing the skin without worry of stripping or irritating it is one of the most important steps of post-procedure care. But which sink-side formulas can you trust on fresh, healing skin?
Pasadena, CA plastic surgeon Lily Lee, MD is a big fan of the Gentle Cleanser ($45) by Alastin, a skin-loving pick Louisville, KY, dermatologist Tami Buss Cassis, MD also stands behind. Dr. Schlesinger recommends the non-foaming LovelySkin LUXE Gentle Cream Cleanser ($34), which he says is ideal for sensitive and dry skin and helps to support skin’s natural barrier.
At Dover, OH facial plastic surgeon David Hartman, MD’s office, patients receive an iS Clinical Post Procedure Kit after a facial treatment, which includes the brand’s Cleansing Complex Gel ($44) among other safe-for-sensitive-skin formulas such as the antioxidant-rich Pro-Heal Serum, soothing Hydra-Cool Serum and ever-necessary SPF 50.
“A fragrance-free cleanser like SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser ($35), Revision Skincare Gentle Cleansing Lotion ($36), CeraVe or Cetaphil are all great options while the skin is healing,” adds Dr. Russak.
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