Peeling Back Time: the value of chemical peels
Being beautiful isn’t necessarily a simple process. Over years many have subjected themselves to an array of treatments to look younger and more appealing such as waxing, plucking, face masks, electrolysis, and more recently the process of chemical peels. In essence, a chemical peel is basically an accelerated form of exfoliation.
This process has been developed and modified to be as safe as possible. It is less about sloughing off dead skin than the improvement and strengthening of the skin.
“Our goal now isn’t so much to cause visible peeling as it is to infuse the skin with ingredients that diminish lines, build collagen, and improve tone.” ~ Jennifer Linder, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology, University of California .
The value of chemical peels
- Beneficial acids peel away the top layer of dead cells and motivate new, fresher underlying cells to move up, thus increasing collagen production. Skin becomes younger looking and smoother and more receptive to moisture and good skin care products. “There are no dead cells impeding penetration.” ~ Neal Schultz, Dermatologist.
- They are safe to use on all skin colours without the risk of causing patchy pigmentation.
- The right peel mix can alleviate acne, as well as softening the scars it often causes. Salicylic acid peels will work to unclog pores, remove blackheads and fade those stubborn post-pimple marks. Because it remains in the pores for some time after, it will continue to keep them clear over time.
- While there isn’t a permanent cure for dark patches caused by the mix of sun and hormonal changes (like those caused by pregnancy and the contraceptive pill) chemical peels in tandem with high sunscreen and strict sun avoidance, offer a good chance of real improvement.
- Those hereditary dark shadows around the eye area can also benefit from a chemical peel. Even though it is a delicate area, the correct acid combination applied in a non-drip gel dispensed via a pen applicator, will deliver profound improvement.
Myths about chemical peels
- Healthy skin doesn’t need peeling. Chemical peels are not purely reserved for those with problem skins. They’re beneficial for most skin types, even sensitive skin. This is because peels can actually work to renew the skin, reducing damage and strengthening the skin by stimulating healthy cell growth while exfoliating dead cells. Sun protection after treatment is always vital and part of the treatment regime.
- Out of the public eye. Some believe a chemical peel means you will have to spend time out of circulation for about two weeks. This is usually only the result of a very deep chemical peel performed by a physician. However, there are several different types of peel available. Some are very mild with no visible exfoliation or ‘time out’ at all. There are deeper, stronger peels that may leave visible peeling and slight redness. For this latter treatment, it is recommended that a patient rather undergo a series of peels to avoid these effects or any ‘time out’ from general circulation.
- Once is forever. There’s the idea that one peel is a cure-all and will last forever. Not true. Whilst peels can help to repair visible damage on the surface of the skin, they cannot repair irreversible damage caused by the sun or aging. Peels can be performed to reduce the appearance of fine lines, even-out skin tone and treat acne. The first treatment will undoubtedly give satisfactory visible results – however, depending on the underlying problems of the skin, it needs to be done more consistently to achieve the best outcome.
- At home peels. There are those who believe that ‘do-it-yourself’ will save money. But the money you might spend afterwards to fix any potential damage could be considerable. Chemical peels should not be performed at home by untrained individuals. Some peels bought over the counter may prove dangerous if used incorrectly, and will rarely give the results obtained from a professional peel.
- Perceptions of chemicals. Some people will shy away, thinking chemicals must be bad for the skin. This is not the case. The active acids in most chemical peels are natural. Glycolic acid comes from sugar cane, lactic acid from sour milk and salicylic acid from wintergreen. These products are safe to use as long as you consult a professional and all risks and possible contra-indications are properly assessed before the treatment.
When you need to be careful
- Always educate yourself thoroughly before you begin. Aging skin may present a problem. When you get older your cell turnover slows down, so it takes longer for the skin to regenerate. However, when you regenerate new skin, your skin looks healthier. Make sure you get the right treatment for the type and age of your skin.
- Don’t use exfoliating products or products containing retinoids in the week leading up to a peel, or for a few weeks afterwards as they will aggravate healing and may even damage the skin.
- After a peel your skin will be more sensitive, particularly to UV exposure. Avoid exposing your face to the sun, and apply lashings of sunscreen.
- Choose a peel that will suit your skin type and will have the effect you’re looking for. Certain ingredients work best for treating acne, others for minimising sun damage and fine lines.
- Sensitive skin will also require a more gentle peel than other skin types. While salicylic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid work for most skin types, they can be used at various strengths according to your needs.
- Do several gentle peels rather than one intensive peel if you feel your skin is sensitive. Most peels will produce flaking skin but if you use a gentler approach, this can be much reduced. If you chose or need a deeper peel, you will definitely have a more reddened skin to begin with afterwards. The flaking will be more obvious – but it is after all, the healing process. It’s vital that you don’t pick off the flakes before the skin beneath has had time to heal naturally.