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What is a chemical peel?

What is a chemical peel?

You remember the episode of Sex and the City- Samantha has a chemical peel done by her dermatologist the day before Carrie’s book launch and spends the entire party covering her red-raw face with a black veil. Well, you may have heard more about chemical peels since this slightly tongue-in-cheek portrayal but, like many of us, still have Samantha’s bright red face in the back of your mind when you think of chemical peels then you’ll be pleased to hear that there is much more to chemical peels than this portrayal; in fact, the majority of chemical peels we perform at our Hertfordshire-based Clinic leave your skin looking flushed at most.

There is lots to know about what chemical peels are, so I’ll walk you through the different types of peels so you can decide what sounds best for you. As there are lots of different peels and chemical peel brands I’ll talk to you about the main peel ingredients and the type of skin concerns and problems they treat, for simplicity; our skincare clinic uses largely uses EnerPeel, for example, which uses all of the below ingredients.

Glycolic Acid Peel (GA)

The glycolic peel is one of the most frequently used chemical peels at The Skin to Love Clinic; this is because it leaves your skin refreshed, glowy and has very mild or no recovery time after you’ve had the peel; you will just look fresher than when you came in, perhaps mildly flushed (which is transient). This is a great all-rounder peel.

Who would benefit from a glycolic peel?

Almost everybody! With all peels, we would avoid treatment if you’re currently pregnant (as with almost every procedure).

What is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid sits in the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family of natural acids. It’s typically derived from sugar cane but, as with most peeling ingredients, it’s now commonly made in a lab for use in skincare products.

It’s quite small in its chemical makeup (the smallest molecular weight of all the AHAs) which means it very easily penetrates the skin.

How will glycolic acid help my skin?

Exfoliate: Glycolic acid is a brilliant exfoliator, in fact, exfoliation is probably one of the things it does best; it does this by breaking down the ‘glue’ that binds the dead skin cells from the uppermost layer of your skin so they can shed. The result of this exfoliation is brighter skin and to unclog any blockages of oil and dead skin cells which means it can help with breakouts.

Anti-ageing: As the Glycolic Acid molecules are so tiny, they can get deep down into your skin to trigger cell activity and regeneration. This means smoother, brighter, toned and hydrated skin.

Trichloroacetic Acid Peel (TCA)

TCA peels tend to go deeper into the skin than some of the other types of skin peels which mean it’s an ideal peel for those with slightly deeper wrinkles and some types of pigmentation. As with some other peels, TCA comes in different strengths so you can do lighter or deeper treatments. As it is a strong peel, it’s not usually recommended for those with particularly sensitive skin; alternative treatment may be suggested.

Who would benefit from a TCA peel?

Those with pigmentation, some types of scarring, fine lines and dull, leathery, sun-damaged skin types can improve their skin with TCA peels.

What are TCA peels?

A relative of vinegar (acetic acid), Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and is a light to deep-depth skin peel depending on your skin’s requirements.

How will TCA peels help my skin?

TCA can improve the freshness, texture, tone and discolouration of your skin. It creates a deep exfoliation of your skin layers to help remove imperfections such as scars, wrinkles or sun spots and then the skin regenerates itself once this old, damaged skin is removed.

Mandelic Acid Peel (MA)

This peel is absolutely ideal for rosacea as it’s gentle on sensitive skin whilst being anti-inflammatory.

Who would benefit from a mandelic peel?

Although mandelic is suitable for those with rosacea, there are so many skin concerns that Mandelic acid is great for. It’s an excellent exfoliator for those with sensitive skin, as it’s usually less irritating than some of the other AHAs with very mild side effects.

Mandelic is good for treating inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea and inflammatory acne (those with pustules and papules) due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Mandelic can also be helpful with certain Hyperpigmentation issues; we find it to be a good treatment when used alongside the Obagi Nu-Derm treatment for melasma.

*Deep breath* I’m not quite finished… Mandelic acid peels can also help with poor texture, fine lines and wrinkles. Phew! It sounds like most of us could benefit from mandelic.

What is mandelic acid?

Mandelic acid is another member of the AHA family and is originally derived from bitter almonds.

How will mandelic acid help my skin?

Rosacea: Mandelic acid has an exfoliation effect that doesn’t trigger erythema (redness) so this is a brilliant start when looking for a peel for a skin condition, such as rosacea, which is prone to flushing and redness.

This ingredient also helps to suppress chemical reactions in your skin which causes reddening, as well as having a vasoconstrictive effect; this means that damaged blood vessels, ever so frequently seen in Rosacea skins, contract and function better making them less visible.

Ageing skin: As with all of the AHA peels, mandelic exfoliates away the dead skin cells on the top layers of your skin; dead skin cells will leave your complexion looking dull, tired and often make fine lines and wrinkles look more obvious.

Acne: Mandelic acid peels help to regulate your sebum production, exfoliate away debris such as dead skin cells which can block your pores and reduce inflammation which may reduce the number of acne breakouts you have excellent news!

Inflammatory pigmentation: This peel helps to remove the inflammation which can stimulate melanin production in your skin, regulating it and helping to normalise. We would recommend using this peel alongside the Obagi Nu-Derm system.

Salicylic Acid Peel (SA)

Salicylic acid is ideal for acne. You may have noticed that there is more than one peeling ingredient that can help acne sufferers, so if you’re unsure which would be best for you, a professional will be able to give you some guidance.

Who would benefit from a salicylic peel?

Some types of acne often find regular salicylic peels beneficial in helping to control the skin condition.

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is part of the beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) family and is originally derived from willow bark.

An interesting fact-the active ingredient in willow bark, salicin, is a pain reliever and formed the basis of the discovery of aspirin.

How will salicylic acid help my skin?

This ingredient is really good at zapping oil in the skin, which is a common problem for acne sufferers. Much like the other peeling ingredients discussed earlier, it is a wonderful exfoliator. It’s also comedolytic, which is a rather technical-sounding term for unplugging built-up oil and dead skin cells (which often contributes to acne).

Salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties which can be especially helpful with treating acne.

Pyruvic Acid Peel (PA)

This is a pigment-busting, skin refreshing peel that is good for those who want to start to get on top of sun damage and a generally uneven skin tone as well as improving those early signs of ageing such as fine lines.

Who would benefit from a pyruvic peel?

Those who want a more even skin tone; soften signs of ageing and improve mild pigmentation, such as sun damage.

PA is also effective in treating acne; it has an anti-inflammatory effect and is antibacterial against acne bacteria.

What is pyruvic acid?

Another member of the AHA family and has the ability to stimulate the formation of elastin and collagen fibres, slow down sebum (similar to Salicylic) and deeply penetrate the skin to target sun damage and wrinkles.

How will pyruvic acid help my skin?

This particular peel is often used for ageing skin as it improves your skin’s cell turn over, helping you battle both wrinkles and mild pigmentation (similar to retinol, which is an at-home staple product used to prevent and correct signs of ageing-including age spots).

Do you think your skin would benefit from a peel?

If you are wondering if your skin could benefit from a skin peel and you’d like to discuss this with one of our skincare specialists, please do contact us.

Disclaimer: This blog is not to be used for diagnostic purposes. We are all unique which means that our results, recovery and suitability for any type of treatment will vary. Always seek the advice of a professional should you have any health or cosmetic concerns or to discuss treatments specifically for you.

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