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How To Plan Around Beauty Treatment Downtimes—From Peel To Party

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In our dream world, we’d be able to waltz into a derm’s office and leave with instantly plumped-up fine lines, lifted brows, tight jawlines, and brighter, more even complexions. But when it comes to cosmetic procedures, it’s all about timing, aftercare, and patience for getting the most bang out of your buck—which is why winter is a popular time to kickstart aesthetic treatment plans. Many in-office treatments (think chemical peels and injectables) require carefully avoiding the sun and physical activity during their set healing times, so you’ll definitely want to consult your social calendar when booking an appointment. Otherwise, you may end up explaining why half of your face is flaking off to everyone at the family holiday party. No fun, right?

Whether you’re planning to pop in for a pre-holiday party sprinkle of Botox or gift yourself a peel, we tapped board-certified dermatologist Jason Emer, MD, to give us the 101 on cosmetic procedure downtimes—from how long you’ll be in the treatment chair to rain checking on your favorite Peloton instructor—so you can get the best, glowiest results possible.


About the Expert:

With a long list of celeb clientele, Dr. Jason Emer is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon based in Los Angeles.

Laser Resurfacing

Treatment length: 30-60 minutes
Downtime: 1-7 days

If you’re looking for a treatment that targets the usual skin woes—fine lines, pigmentation, scarring, and loss of elasticity—laser resurfacing is an excellent option. For approximately 30 minutes to an hour, an ultra precise laser removes skin layers one by one, so your body can produce new skin cells for a tighter, smoother complexion. “This treatment is done every two to four months to help reduce the risk of cancer (lasers work to remove sun damage and create new healthy collagen) while decreasing wrinkles and scars,” says Dr. Emer, who adds that follow-up visits are essential to maintaining your results.

So what can you expect post-treatment? “The downtime is between one to three days for a light laser, however you can return to normal activities within reason—typically after 24 hours. For medium or stronger lasers, plan for five to seven days with potentially three days off work,” Dr. Emer tells us. Aftercare products are crucial, so Dr. Emer recommends looking for peptide-based serums to help heal, enzyme cleansers to speed up cell turnover, and SPF to protect—while steering clear of scrubby, gritty exfoliators.

Chemical Peels

Treatment length: 10-30 minutes
Downtime: 24-48 hours

Performed in-office, this topical treatment does exactly what its name describes. A chemical solution is applied to the surface of the skin, causing top layers to blister and peel off over the course of a few days to two weeks—depending on the strength of the formula. Plan for redness and peeling for one to three days with a light peel, three to five days with a moderate peel, and seven to 14 days with a more aggressive peel.

For the first 24-48 hours, sunlight, saunas, and gyms are a big no-no. “Avoiding the sun, using SPF, and wearing a hat is very important during the healing process,” Dr. Emer stresses. Afterwards, he says you can go about life as usual while you peel—just avoid the temptation to rub or pull the skin while it flakes. “Let it fall naturally, otherwise you can scar the skin, damage the texture, or cause pigmentation and prolonged redness.”

Botox

Treatment length: 5-20 minutes
Downtime: None

Yep, you can totally squeeze in that Botox appointment between meetings. With no numbing beforehand and about five to 20 minutes of injection time, neuromodulators (known as Botox, Dysport, or Xeomin) are considered the holy grail for wrinkle release, jaw clenching, excess underarm sweating, and even chronic migraines. Plus, there’s zero downtime. “Some doctors claim you cannot exercise, do yoga, or get a massage, but I’ve never seen an issue in my patients, who immediately go on with their everyday life,” says Dr. Emer.

Though the treatment itself is easy breezy, results won’t be fully visible for at least two weeks—meaning you’ll want to book your appointment with plenty of time prior to any events where you’ll need to be camera-ready.

Filler

Treatment length: 15-30 minutes
Downtime: 24-72 hours

Similar to Botox, dermal fillers (injectables used to add volume and fullness) are relatively quick treatments with minimal downtimes depending on the type of filler used, number of syringes, location, and skill of the injector. “I can do full facial sculpting with eight to 10 syringes in around 15 minutes! I know it sounds fast but that’s because I’ve been doing it for 15 years,” says Dr. Emer.

Afterwards, ice packs, arnica pills or creams, and red light therapy can help curb bruises and swelling (which are more common with dermal fillers) and you’ll want to pause your workout schedule for 24 to 72 hours. And don’t panic if your just-filled lips appear a little too full—Dr. Emer advises his patients not to judge the immediate effects too harshly. “It can take around two weeks for the fillers to fully settle and swelling to go down for hyaluronic acid fillers and Radiesse. Other fillers like Sculptra and BellaFill build collagen over time, so the full results aren’t seen for two to three months.”

Microneedling

Treatment length: 45-60 minutes
Downtime: None

This glow-boosting cosmetic procedure involves pricking the surface of your skin with tiny sterilized needles, which cues your body to produce more collagen-rich tissue within a few days. Sound a little gnarly? Don’t worry! A topical numbing cream is applied for at least 30 minutes prior to minimize any uncomfiness during the 10 to 15 minute treatment. While you’ll be able to continue with your day-to-day, Dr. Emer notes that patients may experience mild redness or swelling day-of unless it's done in tandem with other treatments. “We often combine [microneedling] with lasers, peels, and facials to get more impactful results. Alone, it has minimal downtime which is why it’s a really great maintenance treatment,” he explains.

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About the author
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Hannah Cassidy
Hannah is a beauty editor at IPSY and has been creating content for fashion, beauty, and wellness in Los Angeles for over five years. Outside of the beauty world, she’s an avid vintage collector and dog mom to Pumpkin and Turtle.
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Article Last Updated November 2, 2021 12:00 AM