We all remember that scene from Sex and the City when Samantha attended Carrie’s book launch as red as a tomato and with one less layer of skin on her face: the result of a chemical peel gone wrong. While this instilled in us a healthy fear of DIY-treatments, it’s consequently given chemical peels a bit of a bad rep.
As it turns out, chemical peels might actually be the MVP our skincare routine needs! As with any dermatological procedure, there are a lot of things to consider first. To help you make the most informed decision regarding peels, we caught up with the team at Westside Dermatology – one of Brisbane’s leading dermatology clinics – to learn everything there is to know about the buzziest treatment in the world of skincare.
Read on to discover what we learned!
What is a chemical peel?
As we age, our skin doesn’t renew itself the way it once did. Peels are an effective and safe way to regenerate the skin. Peels remove the top layer of damaged skin in order to promote the growth of healthy, new skin which in turn aids in skin cell turnover, increased collagen production, and improved efficacy of your skincare routine. Plus, different types of peels can even be used to target different skin concerns, such as acne, rosacea and fine lines.
While there is a wide range of peels varying in strength the process is always the same. A chemical solution is applied to your face (sometimes resulting in a tingling on stinging sensation) before being washed away.
What should I know if it’s my first time?
As all dermatological treatments, you want to make sure you see a professional that you trust. While there are many salons and spas offering peels, it’s important to meet with a specialist who has experience with medical treatments and who can answer all your questions during a thorough consultation. Not all peels are created equal, and the last thing you want is to undergo a peel that doesn’t suit the needs of your skin!
What types of peels are there?
There is an immeasurable number of peels out there to choose from, but most of them fall under one of the below categories.
Glycolic or lactic acid peels
This is the most common peel and is often referred to as the “lunchtime peel”. With minimal downtime, it can be easily squeezed into your lunch break! Concentration strength can vary between 20% and 70% and treatments are recommended 2-3 weeks apart. It’s ideal for acne, pigmentation, photodamage and uneven skin tone.
Salicylic acid peels
Thanks to their anti-inflammatory component, salicylic acid peels are ideal as an acne treatment, particularly for blackheads and whiteheads. Another important thing about salicylic acid is that it’s oil soluble, meaning it’s perfect for oily, acne-prone skin. Recovery is quick and results can be seen in as little as 2 days. For optimal results, your dermatologist may also recommend a topical retinoid.
Retinoic acid peels
Retinoic acid peels help increase the turnover rate of skin cells and can help skin appear younger and clearer. It stimulates collagen production, improving circulation, inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, restoring the immune system, and sealing in moisture deep within the skin. Retinoic acid peels are similar to over-the-counter retinol you might already have in your bathroom vanity, except it has higher concentrations of the active ingredients. You’ll see results from a retinoic acid peel quicker than from an over-the-counter retinol.
What results can I expect?
This is always what everyone is most curious about. The results you see depend on how many treatments you undergo as well as the strength.
If you do a light, superficial peel your skin will instantly look brighter and clearer and you won't notice any visible peeling or flaking. Over the next few days, you should also notice a brighter complexion and better texture. If you undergo a stronger peel, you may experience a bit of redness and swelling but it’s typically nothing too bad.
After a few days, you might have some flaking but you’ll also begin to notice that your skin appears clearer. It’s not as bad as Samantha made it look in Sex and the City – our technology has come so far now that the downtime is minimal. Even if you do experience redness, flakiness or dryness, it won’t last long.
If you’re undergoing a series of peels, you won’t notice the effects of collagen stimulation overnight. Over time you’ll begin to notice improved texture and tone as you undergo each peel, usually over 3 to 6 months.
How do I care for my skin post-peel?
This is the easiest part because your dermatologist or medical esthetician will explain every step of post-peel care for you! In saying that, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Use gentle cleansers, lotions and serums following your treatment.
- Don’t use products that have retinol, vitamin C or alpha hydroxyl acids in them – it’s important not to use products with active ingredients. Just keep your skincare simple in the week before and the week following your treatment.
- Wear sunscreen! All day, every day. Following a peel, the superficial top layer of your skin has been removed so it’s important to protect it from the sun. This is the biggest thing people forget so make sure you pick up a good quality face sunscreen and wear it always for long-lasting results.
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