In my past few updates I’ve covered some intimidating topics. So if blades and needles don’t scare you, maybe you’re nervous about another array of popular treatments in the world of advanced skincare — chemical peels. This term sounds scary but it’s basically just a way to categorize or classify a form of exfoliation that doesn’t involve ANY risk of skin tearing.
I’d like to go over some important and often times mis-communicated and/or all together missed information regarding; different peels, what they are, contraindications, and what to expect during and after. My goal is to put your mind (and face) at ease if you're considering this absolutely stellar and magical anti-aging, sun-damage-reversing, collagen stimulating, professional exfoliation treatment.
[ WHAT ARE CHEMICAL PEELS? ]
A chemical peel is a minimally invasive procedure used to exfoliate the skin using a liquid solution that is applied by a skincare professional, dermatologist or plastic surgeon. There are several varieties and strengths of chemicals that work on different issues in the skin. Once the liquid is applied via sponge or brush, it will remain on the face/neck/décolletage/hands for a prescribed amount of time before your aesthetician, nurse, or doctor neutralizes it. Dependent on the variety and issue, a series of treatments is normally recommended.
[ CLASSES AND DEPTHS… ]
Popular chemicals in peeling solutions include alpha-hydroxy acids (lactic acid and glycolic acid), beta-hydroxy acids (salicylic acid), trichloroacetic acid, and phenol (carbolic acid).
^ Gibberish, right? Ok, here’s the english version:
Alpha-Hydoxy Acid (fruit, milk sugars, lactic and glycolic) —
*gentle peel but sometimes causes sensitivity
*best for lighter skin types
AHAs work by reacting with the upper layer of your skin where water content is the highest, weakening the binding properties or glue-like substance that hold dead skin cells together. This allows the outer layer to “dissolve,” revealing the underlying skin. Best used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, roughness and blotchy pigmentation/sun damage. It’s VERY important to be diligent with SPF after an AHA treatment as the “new” skin cells are delicate and exposed.
Beta-Hydroxy Acid (salicylic acid) —
*gentle peel with very little downtime
*best for oily/acneic skin
Salicylic acid is derived from aspirin and composed of lipid (oil) soluble molecules. This characteristic allows it to penetrate the pores that contain sebum (oil), get into the blackheads/acne and really help to exfoliate on a deeper layer. This makes BHA particularly useful in oily, acneic skin prone to breakouts.
Trichloroacetic Acid (acetic acid) —
*moderate and stronger than AHAs/BHAs, much gentler than Phenol
*effective for darker skin types without causing hypopigmentation issues
*best for deep wrinkles and sun damage
When TCAs are applied to the skin, it causes the top layer of cells to dry up and peel off over a period of several days to one week. The skin will be white and “frosty”. When the old skin is peeled off, it exposes a new layer of undamaged skin, which has a smoother texture and more even color. Deeper TCA peels should be performed only by board-certified dermatologists or plastic surgeons who are experienced in this procedure. Downtime is usually 1-2 weeks.
Phenol (carbolic acid) —
*not suitable for darker skin types
*deeper than TCA peel
*1-2 MONTHS downtime
The Samantha (from Sex and The City) Peel! Phenol acid is extracted from petroleum and is powerful enough to strip away many layers of skin upon application, for this reason numbing creams and anesthesia is usually provided. As a result, new collagen is produced at a much greater rate when compared with other peels. While this does have a profound effect on wrinkles, even those that are deep, a phenol chemical peel can also cause permanent damage to your skin. Before choosing this type of peel, you should carefully consider your own individual skin type and ask yourself (and your doctor) if the treatment of your current problems is truly worth the risk of potential skin damage.
[ MY ADVICE ]
I like to keep it light! I prefer regular treatments of both Salicylic and Lactic Acid Treatments in combination of other treatments and good products for most of my clientele. If you are considering a deeper peel or want to get on a healthy long term regimen of lighter peels, I would urge you not to smoke for a few weeks before and after the treatments (oh, and always, yeah — just don’t smoke,... ever). The best outcomes will be achieved in those who are not taking the acne medication Accutane®, have not taken it for the previous year and a half, and who are free of active skin infections including cold sores as they can easily spread during peel treatments (eeek!). Also, if you have large or unusual scar formations, such as keloids, it’s best to consult with your dermatologist first.