PCA Skin Chemical Peel Review

The taut red skin. The floppy hat and dramatic veil. The screaming onlookers. Even if you haven’t watched every season of Sex and the City, someone who did probably told you about the most pivotal (and agonizing) moment of season five’s “Plus One is the Loneliest Number” episode. Even something as monumental as Carrie Bradshaw’s first-ever book release party couldn’t upstage Samantha Jones’s splotchy, beet-red face, the result of a chemical peel she got to “look fresh for the party.” The second-hand embarrassment was so bad, a lot of us swore off chemical peels before even trying one. Older and somewhat wiser, I can confirm that all of us were bamboozled.

Sex and the City is rightfully iconic, but it got a lot of stuff wrong. A newspaper columnist with a one-bedroom (and walk-in closet) on the Upper East Side, a designer wardrobe and enough cash to take cabs everywhere? The math doesn’t add up, even for the late ’90s and early aughts. And I’m still mad at myself for thinking Miranda wasn’t the coolest and most level-headed one. But I’m willing to argue that Samantha’s chemical peel disaster is one of the more offensive missteps because it’s the literal opposite of reality. Chemicals peels are, in fact, the best kind of boring—let me explain.


Understandably so, the word “chemical” isn’t the sexiest skincare term, but ironically, chemical acids are the magic sauce for a dream glow that’s bright, free of breakouts and even-toned. There is a slew of myths associated with chemical peels, like the one that says you should quarantine yourself for days after since your face will look as though it’s been sitting in a slow cooker.

On the contrary, I went to an event and dinner just minutes after getting a PCA Skin peel at Skin Spa New York. Though my skin is resilient and acclimated to AHAs and BHAs, I still go for the Sensi peel because its gentle, but effective formula includes all of the exfoliants I love minus the downtime; lactic acid, kojic acid and L-ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C), to name a few. And if I have a hormonal pimple or two, a peel helps to get rid of them faster as well.

According to Ava Lu, the SkinSpa Senior Esthetician who managed my appointment, it’s affectionately called “the gateway to chemical peels” since it’s “really great for people with a lot more sensitivity” and easy to make stronger with additional layers of the topical formula. Admittedly, I don’t get chemical peels as often as I’d like, so I am always surprised at how fast the entire process—about 20-30 minutes total—actually is. After changing into a robe, removing my necklace and putting on some very snazzy goggles to protect my eyes, Lu cleansed and sanitized, my face and neck and got right into the fun part: applying the chemical solution to my entire face a number of times; in my case, just three.

pca peel review Dont Believe Samantha Jones—Chemical Peels Arent as Scary As You Think

Courtesy of Author.

In between each layer, Lu was sure to fan my face and gage how I was feeling before moving onto the next one. So soothing.

pca chemical peel review 1 Dont Believe Samantha Jones—Chemical Peels Arent as Scary As You Think


A few minutes (and one amazing shoulder massage) later, she applied a water-based cream to wrap everything up and voila!, I was done. The next morning, I woke up to a noticeably brighter complexion and barely flaked days after. Now more than a week after my peel, my skin feels like it just got a fresh start…and I didn’t have to hide under a hat while the solution worked its magic.

pca skin chemical peel review Dont Believe Samantha Jones—Chemical Peels Arent as Scary As You Think

The morning after. Design: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

Not too bad, right? With that being said, I know you’re officially dying to schedule your own appointment, so here are the beginner tips to keep in mind according to Lu:

Pre- and Post-Care

Don’t go tanning beforehand—come with a fresh face, no makeup and make sure you’re out of the sun and/or not using retinol for at least a week before. Also no invasive procedures like Fraxel or anything else that involves a lot more intensive treatment to the skin. For post-care, use plenty of sunscreen and make sure that you use cold water or lukewarm to wash the face. Don’t use hot water because that can accelerate the heat on the skin. Don’t use hot tools in front of the face and avoid activities that induce sweating, like hot yoga or a sauna at least 72 hours after. Lastly, absolutely no retinol, tanning and invasive treatments for the next week or two.

Yes, You Will Peel—But Not Too Much

Peeling will not happen right away. It’s usually after 72 hours. The fastest a client has ever reported is after 24 hours then they start peeling, but generally, it should be from the third day and then peel to the seventh day. It’s not as intensive as [some other peels] you would get at a dermatologist’s office. I recommend not wearing makeup at all for at least 48 to 72 hours until you’re sure that you’re not peeling. You don’t want to cake makeup on top of peeling.

sam jones glowing facial Dont Believe Samantha Jones—Chemical Peels Arent as Scary As You Think


Go Once a Month If You Can

[Frequency] depends on your concern. The average human skin renewal rate is around every 28 to 35 days, so once per month is pretty normal since renewal slows down as you get older. If you come every four weeks, this helps your skin cells to remember what they do and keep them on that timeframe longer. Some people will come every two weeks, but that’s usually mainly for anti-aging or scarring treatments. Keep in mind that your skin may feel more sensitive if you get a peel during your period too.

Maintain Your Daily Routine

You still want to be consistent with your daily routine. Your skin needs to have that backing to help with any other concerns you have. Acne doesn’t stop just because you do a peel once a month, though you should continue on a monthly schedule, especially if it’s hormonal acne. And always wear sunscreen.

Don’t Neglect Your Neck

A lot more people have been concerned about their necks because a lot of us, for the last 10 years, have been looking down at our phones. When I look down, I notice more lines. They’re deeper in there. I do recommend people start looking after them because once they’re there, they’re just there. The skin there is very thin, like a thin, crisp paper. Once you bend it, you bend it, so a chemical peel in that area is good preventative treatment. But if you want something more intense, like to completely get rid of lines, that will require something more invasive at a dermatologist’s office.

This post was created by STYLECASTER for PCA Skin. 

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