The term chemical peel is really a misnomer because not all “peels” cause your skin to peel. A better term would be “chemical exfoliation.” There are two methods of exfoliating (sloughing off dead skin cells), physical and chemical. Examples of physical exfoliation would be scrubs, gommages and microdermabrasion. Examples of chemical exfoliation would be enzymes and acid peels.
There are many different types of acids used for exfoliating the skin and they all have different properties and uses but what they all have in common is that they remove dead skin cells giving the skin a brighter more youthful look.
Salicylic acid and mandelic acid are fabulous for clearing up and controlling acne while glycolic and lactic are wonderful for softening and reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
Most acids fall under the category of AHA’s or Alpha Hydroxy Acids, sometimes referred to as fruit acids. The truth is that most acid peels aren’t derived from fruit anymore but that’s another story.
In later posts I’ll break down individual acids so you’ll have a good understanding of how they work and why your esthetician may choose one over another to get you the results you want for your particular skin.
Some acids work from the inside out and rarely cause any actual peeling. Glycolic, mandelic and lactic acids are good examples. When describing the actions of these peels I like to use the analogy of a house being remodeled. You drive by this house and from the outside it doesn’t look like anything is happening. The façade hasn’t been touched, the windows are still in place, landscaping is beautiful, etc. But inside there’s A LOT going on! The kitchen has been gutted, crown molding has been hung and all new bathroom fixtures have been installed. When using these types of acids, you shouldn’t have any downtime, possibly a little bit of flaking, but you WILL notice a brighter glow and after several of these peels, your brown spots will fade and fine lines will diminish.
Other acids such as TCA and resorcinol are applied in layers, left on the skin and will provide much more dramatic results. Your skin will flake and/or peel anywhere from 2 to 14 days depending on the acids, strength and number of layers.
Not everyone needs a peel like this but for those of you who want faster results and don’t mind shedding like a snake, then I highly recommend them.
I’m a big proponent of peels as I’ve used them on my own skin for many years and still get that WOW look when I tell people my age. Thanks to my once or twice a year “strong” peels and more frequent “light” maintenance peels, I can still generally pass for 15 years younger than I am.
I consider chemical peels an art and before anyone gets any sort of peel, ask your esthetician about their experience working with them and find out exactly what acids they will be using and what you can expect. A good esthetician will require that your skin be “prepped” before any sort of peel to make sure that you don’t burn or end up with bigger problems than you came in with.
And for crying out loud, do NOT purchase professional peels on the internet. They are not to be played around with as you can really screw up your skin. Leave the professional peels to the professionals.
Done by the right esthetician, chemical peels are a fantastic and safe way to look younger and have clear, blemish free skin.