Most of us have seen Sex and the City and are familiar with the gnarly, painful experience Samantha had with her chemical peel.
Now if that is what you are going for, there are peels that will do that for you; generally those are done by a doctor and sometimes require anesthesia. They are pretty intense.
If you want to stay a little more low key, it’s absolutely possible. There are a lot of types and strengths of chemical peels; they are usually described as light, medium, and deep chemical peels.
So what is the difference? How do you know what do you need?
Let’s break down some of the differences, and some things you may or may not have known about chemical peels.
Time to get nerdy for just a minute. Chemical peels are made from an acid, or usually a combination of acids. That in itself seems crazy or unnecessary; putting acid on your face? It’s not like it sounds, I’ll talk really quickly about what the acids are and where they come from.
The basics and most common are Alpha hydroxy Acid (AHA), Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), and Trichloroacetic acid (TCA).
AHA acids are found in natural sources, like fruit (lemons, pineapple, oranges=citric acid, apples=malic acid) or milk (lactic acid). This does not mean you can do a crazy Pinterest inspired DIY chemical peel with lemons, or yogurt and expect amazing things to happen. There are a lot of things that factor into these acids and the effect they have on your skin; in order for it to work, and not damage your skin, the pH level has to be just right, the quality of the ingredient is very specific, and the combination of things being applied matters too. AHA’s are great for brightening or refreshing the top layers of the skin. These are usually used in a light peel.
An example of a BHA is salicylic acid; so again, don’t crush up an bunch of Aspirin and make your own home peel. Please. ? Salicylic acid as awesome to break up oils in the skin and pores, so it’s great for acne. BHA’s can be light or medium depth peels.
TCA is a little more aggressive, and goes a little deeper into the skin. This especially changes with the strength or percentage of TCA, and it’s usually meant to cause more peeling and targets wrinkles and fine lines. It is considered a medium depth, or even deep peel.
Most chemical peels available today are a combination of different acids, they like most of us in our busy lives are multi-taskers, which is awesome! This means you don’t have to do one peel for acne, one for sun spots, one for fine lines; you can do a peel that is going to target all of those concerns! This is usually where the difference is in the chemical peels you can buy at the mall and do at home, vs the peels that a professional will do for you. Hopefully said professional is a medical aesthetician, nurse, doctor, or someone with training and a medical background. This is your skin after all, it’s pretty important, and we want it to look amazing, not do more damage than good. RIGHT??
So those are the types of acids and peels. So what is the point of doing chemical peels?
Chemical peels are not just for those of us concerned with fine lines and signs of aging. Remember salicylic acid? GREAT for acne, so it’s a perfect treatment for teens or those who want help controlling their acne.
Sun spots, or hyper-pigmentation. Chemical peels are also awesome for this. It helps to bring those dark spots to the surface and slough off, brightening the skin.
What do they do for your skin?
Chemical peels do different things in the different layers of your skin. On the surface they dissolve what is binding the cells together; this is where peeling comings from. It allows the skin cells that are dead to separate themselves and slough off. Deeper down is where the real magic is happening. Collagen production is getting kicked into high gear. This helps our skin look and behave like younger skin. Probably the reason most of us want to hop on board this train, right??
The turnover of our skin cells also speeds up from the chemical peel. This gets rid of the dull skin on top and helps the fresh new skin cells come to the surface. That in turn will minimize the appearance of pores, helps get rid of fine lines, and helps get rid of sun spots, or hyper-pigmentation, and give the skin a healthy young glow.
Things you should expect after your peel:
First of all, to prep for your peel, if you use products that have Retinol or Vit A in them you should stop using them at least 5 days before. Plan on waiting about 5-7 days after your peel before you start back on the retinols or potent Vit C products. The magic is already happening; applying more intense products is going to potentially damage the skin, and it will burn like crazy! Make sure you use sunscreen that blocks UVA AND UVB rays afterward. You have all of these fresh little baby skin cells surfacing; they are susceptible to damage from the sun.
AND…. no picking!!!! It will be super tempting to pick at the skin as it starts to peel. DON’T DO IT!! Picking is going to lead to damaging the skin more, and will most likely lead to more dark spots. Let your skin do it’s thing; put on mild moisturizers and sunscreen, and watch the magic happen.
One more thing; it’s not tragic if your skin doesn’t peel. In fact, if you have had chemical peels before, or if you use a lot of products containing Retinol or Vit C then your skin may already be very well exfoliated and the surface peeling might not happen. If you don’t peel it does not mean you got ripped off, or that the chemical peel isn’t going to do anything for you.
Despite the name, peeling is not the goal.
Peeling is like a reaction, or a side effect, to the chemical peel. There is a lot of action going on at a cellular level. You will still have the turn over of the skin cells and boost in collagen. You just didn’t have to experience the side effect of peeling!
Chemical peels stimulate collagen, making skin behave like younger skin, smoothing fine lines. They increase turnover of skin cells, which refreshes the skin, minimizing the appearance of pores, lines, and helping with dark spots, or hyper-pigmentation. Changes deep down in the skin are the goal. Then the surface changes and improves as a result. This is why major benefits won’t happen until about 4-5 weeks after your peel; so don’t be sad if you didn’t achieve what you were hoping after a week or two; give it a little longer. Immediate changes are nice, but peeling and immediate results are not the purpose.
If you think you’re interested but still aren’t convinced, the best thing to do is talk to your fave skin guru. They are the pro; let them know what your goals are and ask them what you would benefit from.
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