Face-Off: My Jessner Peel Adventure

The lighting is a bit different, but I hope you can see the difference.


There aren’t many pictures of me from this past holiday season. You wouldn’t have wanted to see them, anyway. Why? I made my face fall off.

After last summer, I began noticing some particularly dark spots on my face, most noticeably under my eyes, along the bridge of my nose, and above my lips (I called it my ‘Jess-stache’). I’ve always had freckles, but these were more like jagged, ugly splotches, and they were getting worse.

I began noticing the spots after Charlie was born, but I think a summer spent running in the sun with little-to-no sunscreen exacerbated the problem. Makeup wasn’t covering them anymore, and I hated looking at my face in the mirror.

Cue one of those daily deal sites, which coincidentally offered me a discounted facial at a local esthetician. I’d never had a facial; maybe it would help?

I instantly liked her and she instantly knew what I was up against: melasma, or hyper-pigmentation brought on by  crazy pregnancy/birth control hormones (check out this video of Brooke Burke revealing her melasma on “The Doctors”). And sun makes it worse. I had it in all the typical places, and I had it deep.

She recommended Jessner Peels, a type of chemical peel that somehow breaks down the melasma. I’d never heard of a chemical peel, but she was offering a 3-for-2 special and I figured I’d try it. Moreover, she used Jessners on her face and had incredible skin! Note to self: You’re the perfect, gullible customer.

I finished the third peel last week (you separate each peel by only a month). In summary, they sucked, but they worked. Or maybe I should say “work” in the present tense, because by no means did three peels turn my face into a perfect baby behind. I could probably use another round of three, but I’m happy with the results and, truthfully, don’t want to go through it again.

Dark spots getting darker. H is for Humility?

The process (in my experience):

1) Day 1, Application: The esthetician cleans your face then rubs it down several times with some type of solution that can sting like a mother f***er, depending on your sensitivity. You hold a fan to your face, because, without it, you’d be flailing around in search of a bucket of ice water. I actually did alright; it was easier than 23 hours of labor, I joked.

2) Day 1, Night: Your face continues to sting, and you’re suddenly grateful for that package of frozen peas that’s been in your freezer for six years. You go to bed hoping tomorrow will be better.

3) Day 2-3: The stinging has lessened considerably, but your now-red face (remember, you’re literally burning skin away) begins to harden and shine, and not in a good way. Facial movements prove difficult, and your lack of expression may cause your boss to ask if she’s boring you during your weekly meeting (no comment). Your only relief is applying AquaPhor, which turns your face into an oily mess that gets in your hair and all over your clothes. Your dark splotches get darker and much more splotchy and all you want to do is hide in your closet for the next week, because how can it get any worse?

Halfway peeled. I am so sad here.

4) Day 4-6, Peeling: This is when it gets worse. You don’t realize how vain you are until pieces of your skin are sloughing off your face in front of family, coworkers, and business associates. Celebrities who do this (which I’m now convinced they all must) can entomb themselves in their mansions. Us working gals don’t have that luxury. So, you hide at your desk and avoid making eye contact with anyone. You cancel meetings, especially any off site. You become obsessed with snipping the flaky bits off your face before they are too noticeable, and you may find your toddler nibbling on a piece of dead skin that he discovered on the floor.

5) Day 7-8: By now, you’ve had it. Most of the peeling is done, revealing smooth, un-itchy, gorgeous skin, but there are a few stubborn spots that won’t budge. All you want to do is PICK THE DAMN SKIN OFF, but you remember your esthetician’s warnings about scarring. You do it anyway and hope for the best.

6) Day 9-10: You are so grateful to be done, and your skin is looking good. In retrospect, it wasn’t that hard. You’d totally endure it better the next time. Beauty hurts, right?

New running hat; bringing sexy back.

So you can see why I’m in no rush to go through this again, but I’m happy I did it. My face looks a lot better, and it’s comforting to know there’s a way to battle these skin conditions. If and when we have another baby, this will probably happen again.

These days, I’m taking much better care of my face. I’m using a pigment gel and cream that helps smooth out the splotches (in theory). I’m wearing a special sunblock that contains zinc oxide, which surfers use when they’re out on the water for long periods. I also bought an incredibly sexy wide-brimmed running hat. I’m sure I look silly wearing it, but I actually like it a lot.

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21 Responses to Face-Off: My Jessner Peel Adventure

  1. Lisa says:

    Oh no, I am so afraid to go through this. I am sure I will have to eventually. I’ve noticed some darker spots…and Id heard about the BC hormones. I can see a difference though! 🙂

  2. justaddsun says:

    What sunblock? I’ve always wanted to try a barrier sunblock (instead of a chemical one) but I was worried they wouldn’t blend in to my skin and stay white.

  3. You look great! I had a Jessner peel before as well and absolutely loved the results. I haven’t had children but obviously my hormones were against me causing the same ‘stache like pigmentation. The peel definitely worked. And I agree, it’s worth the peeling/discomfort/not wanting to let people see your face for a couple days.

  4. Amisha Desai says:

    I can say one thing, the results SHOW! You look beautiful!

  5. Kelly Diazzi says:

    I am an Esthetician and I LOVE Jessner peels. I just gave myself one last night and I am in the skiny and tight skin phase. Image products are great and they make a post peel kit that helps with the peeling and healing process. They also make a great sunscreen that smells wonderful and isn’t greasy 🙂

  6. Just had my first of three yesterday. I go back to work on Day 4. Hope I don’t scare too many patients!

  7. amypoor says:

    Just did my first Jessner peel yesterday. Actually it doesn’t look too bad yet. Great post, nice to know what I can expect!

  8. Lesa says:

    Wow! Your experience sounds intense. I did my first Jessner peel on Saturday morning–my esthetician applied 3 layers of the peel (every four minutes) and then put a rentinol oil (I think it was oil) on my face and I couldn’t wash my face for 12 hours. It’s day 3 and so far so good. Just a little peeling here and there, but nothing dramatic. No redness, no darkening, no burning sensation, just a little tightness (feels like my skin is very dry). I am wondering if I will have as good of results as you! We’ll see. I go back again next month for the second treatment (out of three).

  9. martha lazo says:

    Thank you! I will go through with my Jessner peel tomorrow …:)
    I really hope, to clear my skin of those dreadful dark spots and minimize my pores. After reading your experienced with Jessner I am much more confident. Thanks again!

  10. Marie says:

    I am an untanned olive skinned women. The jessner peel done at strength “5” ( suppossedly the normal stregth ) and it severely burned my entire face. I was in burning pain for a day and a half. I was swollen and after 3 days was able to put dermablend (paste like, post surgery makeup) on my skin, but still looked scary – but we have to go to work ! One month later, after using super mild face cleaners, heavy duty moisturizers and 100 sunblock I have dark patches on my face.

  11. VWolf says:

    Thank you f or your humor-injected description of your Jessner’s peel. I had one years ago, and think i may need another.

  12. Sharon Goodman says:

    I had my first Jessner’s peel yesterday. My esthetician put 5 on me because my skin (and I) were handling it great, and I really want a deeper peel. Today my skin is tight and a little shines, but fine.

  13. Amy says:

    Just had my second Jessner peel. I’m on day 5. I can’t help it… I do pick. I’ll use my fingernails to gently scrape off loose skin or tweezers to pull off skin. I worry about doing this but there are parts of my skin that stay shiny and look like they want to peel but they’re not. My last peel was a rejuvinative peel and it didn’t all peel off. That seems to have happening with the Jessner peel, too. Does anyone else experience this?

  14. P Singh says:

    I did a chemical in Pietermaritzburg and I look 15 yrs younger. Would have done it earlier

  15. Alma says:

    Thanks for sharing your stories. I had my first treatment two days ago and I was freaking out because of the dryness and tightness. You relieved some of my fears.

  16. Hello I just came across you blog and read this entry.. turns out I’ve been doing this at home… and it is not going so well. Im afraid I’ve messed up my face worse. I bout the Jessner peel online, it is a 14%, has the prep exfoliating wash, a prep solution, the Jessner peel and then a Neutralizer solution to deactivate it when I am ready to take it off. On the instructions it says I can apply up to seven layers, waiting 1-2 minutes in between It burs so much, I’ve not been able to do that.. however, I’ve been applying it every other day since last Sunday. My face started to peel a bit today (Thursday 6/26/14). I as sitting in front of my computer at home, touching my face ( a bad habit when I felt some rough skin, so I gently tugged on it and it came right off! I was excited so I ran to the bathroom to find more dry skin… and now I have some red delicate spot.. no bleeding. But as you said on your post, some spot are stubborn and you ‘pick the damn skin off’ and hope for the best…. :- ) my concern is that it is very splotchy. I wonder if it will continue to dry out and the rest fall off or lift and even out. All the new skin (the parts that now look red) look fantastic, nice & smooth. But I want my skin to look like that all over! I know I will have to protect my vulnerable skin now also, ore than ever, but will it become even? So sad and worried.

    • Do not pick your skin! I’m an esthetician. A chemical peel is a controlled burn. The skin will come off when ready. Don’t rush it or you risk scarring.

      Also, don’t do this at home!!!

      • Lily says:

        Well I had not been able to reply here, but I just wanted everyone to know, that things got worse for me. So bad that my face began to ooze. and quite honestly not necessarily a bad thing, oozing clear is a natural thing that happens when your skins is trying to heal. However it was a lot. And I ended up having to go to urgent care. This of course happened shortly after I had made my original post comment. But since, my skins has never been the same. I now also have Rosacea and my skins is incredibly sensitive even to my own hair. I wish I could post pictures of what happened to my skin. I do admit, as in my original comment above I did do a bit of picking, but i believe the peel I used at home was very damaging, and also considering I was not an expert. The peel was available online for home use through a reputable place. But, I still don’t comprehend why they have these things available to general public. I was desperate to make my skin look better, tried to self-treat and made matters worse. Bummer for me. Lesson learned. Seek expert advise, don’t do it yourself.

  17. Street Wise says:

    I just received a jessner peel and I’m so worried because I couldn’t resist picking my skin! Did it leave any damage? x

  18. This was informative and hilarious! I’m scheduled to have one done – probably a Jessner as well, right before Thanksgiving. No worries because it will just be me, the hubs, & our kids.

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