Disclaimer: I’m not using maxi-peel anymore and I probably won’t use it again in the near future. I’m currently on tretinoin cream and it’s been working great. Also, I didn’t start treating my acne with maxi-peel. I initially used products a dermatologist prescribed which included a toner similar to maxi-peel (also has tretinoin and hydroquinone albeit in a stronger concentration).
If you haven’t seen my post on that toner yet, I recommend reading that first before proceeding with the rest of the post (Read: My Acne Prescription from Aesthetic Science Clinic).
If I were to use maxi-peel again, I would do this:
I would start with the lowest strength (#1), at a frequency of once or twice a week — even if it might seem too weak and even if I think my skin could tolerate everyday use. The following week, I would use it 3x, and so on.
I would also buy an opaque spray bottle and cotton pads.
Step 1: Wash Face
Lately I’ve only been using cream cleansers from VMV and non-foamy cleansers from either Physiogel or Cetaphil. I would use the same stuff if I had to get back to maxi-peel. The latter can dry the skin out and I prefer not to strip my skin of moisture when I wash it.
Step 2: Wait
I’m not sure why this is not written in the instructions, but with all other tretinoin products I tried, it’s always mentioned in the insert that you have to wait 15 – 20 minutes after cleansing before applying tretinoin. When the skin is damp, the risk of irritation is higher. I’m guessing it’s because ingredients can penetrate the skin more when it’s damp. With moisturizers and other treatment products, you might want that, but it’s not advisable with this active.
Step 3: Apply Maxi-Peel
I’m assuming you’ll take my recommendation to use an opaque spray bottle. I used this to control the dispensed amount and for the product to spread evenly on the cotton pad.
With maxi-peel, less is more. More with maxi-peel = more irritation (i.e., redness and peeling).
Do NOT soak the cotton pad with the product. A damp cotton pad is enough.
Do NOT rub the cotton pad on your face, just swipe once on each area then move on.
The thing with maxi-peel is that it comes in liquid form. With tretinoin in cream form, the active ingredient is dispensed slower onto the surface of the skin. With a liquid base carrier such as maxi-peel, tretinoin is dispensed all at once. That could cause more irritation.
Step 4: Wait
Wait 15 to 20 minutes before putting on moisturizer.
Step 5: Apply moisturizer
I would use either a basic gentle moisturizer, moisturizers with niacinamide (e.g., olay), or moisturizers with sunflower seed oil listed pretty high up the ingredients list. I’ve read studies that niacinamide and sunflower seed oil, applied topically, strengthen the skin barrier which may help lessen/ prevent irritation.
A specific study on niacinamide says it can help lessen irritation.
Step 1: Wash Face
Again, with cleansers that won’t strip moisture off the skin.
Step 2: Apply Sunblock (and stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible)
I’m currently using Kanebo Allie Longkeep UV Gel that has SPF 50++++. I tend to go high with SPF these days to compensate in case I fail to apply enough.
My philosophy on sun protection has changed over the years. Now, I use something I’m comfortable wearing (preferably a sunblock labeled broad spectrum), that way I’m more likely to use it regularly.
If your skin is extra dry, you can use moisturizer before sunblock. But most sunblocks are emollient enough for my oily skin so I usually skip putting moisturizer. Right now, I apply a niacinamide serum before sunblock.
Other Stuff + Q&A
Some of the stuff below are answers to questions I got from facebook, twitter, and the comments section.
Dealing with peeling, redness and irritation
I would stop a day or two if peeling and swelling gets really really bad.
How to tell if it’s bad:
- If your skin is so raw you can’t touch it.
- If you smile and you literally feel your skin stretch.
- If you can’t wash your face without feeling pain.
Will the peeling go bad enough that I won’t be able to go out?
It depends. Peeling can go as bad as having dandruff-y scalp for a face. Some people only experience micro-peeling.
I have a feeling that if you go really slow i.e., the routine I described above, the peeling will not go as bad.
Will maxi-peel help with acne?
This is a tricky question. There are different types of acne, so it would really depend. The common acne, the one that I know of, is caused directly by these four (all of them must exist to cause acne):
- Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium Acnes) bacteria
- Sebum, and;
- The inability of the skin to shed off dead skin effectively
I’ve written about this in the past (The Requirements for Acne to Exist), but I missed out on inflammation.
Anyway, most acne skin care routines, like the one prescribed to me, are a combination of meds that treat at least two or more of these 4.
Maxi-peel only addresses mostly just the 4th one, which may be enough for most mild to moderate acne. The tretinoin in maxi-peel helps with the shedding problem which eventually unclogs pores which pimples from forming. With the shedding problem gone, sebum (p. acne bacteria’s food) is not expected to accumulate inside pores because the latter is no longer clogged.
Maxi-peel/ Tretinoin could help with acne. But if your acne condition falls in the faaar severe end of the acne spectrum, maxi-peel might not be enough, like if you have a hormonal problem and your sebaceous glands act like faucets of oil.
How long does the “purging” phase last?
It varies from person to person. Some experience the initial break out for as short as two weeks. With some, it goes for as long as several months. That could be a problem because you can ONLY use maxi-peel for two months (because ~hydroquinone), which means you have to stop, rest, and repeat. Future Derm recommends a 4-month cycle (2 months hydroquinone, 2 months rest, then repeat). So I guess you’d have to alternate with a tretinoin product without the hydroquinone.
How long would it take before I see results?
With retinoid-containing products like maxi-peel, significant result is generally seen in 2 to 3 months.
But I watched a few youtube videos and read several forum threads and found that some people in other countries decant maxi-peel in a spray bottle, put petroleum jelly on their eyes (for protection), and spray maxi-peel straight on the face. That’s a fast, aggressive, and scary approach; but would probably be advisable only to people with high tolerance to pain and/or those who stay home most of the time. They looked like they had chemical peel done. In photos, skin was peeling off in huge sheets. Yes, sheets — not flakes. Please don’t do it.
If you don’t work from home, or if you’re customer-facing most of the time, I really suggest the slow route.
As weeks go by, you might notice your face getting significantly lighter than your body. Like this (I am not wearing foundation. My bare skin looks A LOT lighter than my body *cringe*):
If you don’t like that look, I suggest alternating maxi-peel solution with tretinoin cream (w/o hydroquinone), until your face gets used to using just tretinoin cream. If you still have a few dark marks left, you can do the 4-month cycle, as Future Derm suggested.
- 6 things to consider before using tretinoin
- Easing my way into tretinoin
- Maxi-peel exfoliant solution review