What is a facial peel? Everything you need to know
Peels have made a massive comeback in the skincare arena which means there are lots of new ways to experience their skin-transforming powers.
What is a peel?
Lately, the term ‘chemical peel’ seems to have been replaced with the far less scary sounding ‘resurfacing, retexturising or renewing treatment’, or a ‘lunchtime peel’. But they all refer to the application of one or more chemicals to the skin to exfoliate or peel away the top layer of dulling cells.
The strength of the chemicals, however, is what separates a light peel − which would be applied in a clinic by a skin therapist and to a lesser degree by yourself at home − from a medium or deep peel, which would need to be carried out in a medical clinic.
Light peels work on a superficial level using well-tolerated ingredients like glycolic, lactic or mandelic acids, also known as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).
With these, you notice an instant improvement in radiance, but consistency is key to seeing the best results. That’s why beauticians will recommend a course of treatments and also why the new generation of peels coming out for use at home are designed to be used over a few weeks.
With at-home peels, dermatologist Dr Dendy Engelman explains that while you may not have the same dramatic and immediate benefits as an in-office (medium to deep) peel, results tend to come over time, are painless and don’t require any downtime.
Often referred to as lunchtime peels, light peels that are carried out by a skin therapist at a beauty clinic will use professional concentrations of the ingredients you might use at home. You may experience a little more of a tingle and temporary pinking of the skin, however they are designed to have you back at work or normal activities straight away, so again, no downtime.
Medium and deep peels
A lot more intense, medium and deep peels use strong concentrations of acids such as Trichloracetic acid (TC) and must be carried out by a medical practitioner. This type of peel can be painful, and involves uncomfortable redness, swelling and crusting that can take a week or more to improve.
The upside is that results will be more impressive, particularly on lines and skin texture.
After a peel
“Since a peel works by resurfacing the skin, it’s revealing brand-new skin cells that are more susceptible to damage from environmental aggressors such as sun, pollution and smoke, all of which can accelerate signs of ageing,” says Dr Engelman.
That’s why it’s helpful to include antioxidants in your regime and be vigilant with sunblock.
bh loves: Elizabeth Arden Prevage Progressive Renewal Treatment, $299 (for a 4x7-day supply ampoules). In this four-week course, AHAs as well as PHAs (a gentler version of acids) get ramped up in concentration as each week progresses so your skin becomes accustomed to them. Antioxidant Idebenone is in there as well, to protect fresh new skin. Each ampoule is activated by pushing a button on top to freshly mix the ingredients for maximum potency.
bh loves: Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel, $159 (for 10 x 3ml peels). With this system, AHAs and plant enzymes actively exfoliate the skin and there are a couple of ways you can use it. Give your skin a real kick-start by using one tube of peel every evening for three days, then one tube a week. Or apply one tube, once a week for 10 weeks for a more gentle plan or to maintain the effect of a professional peel.
At a beauty clinic…
bh loves: Ultraceuticals Mandelic Peel, expect to pay from $125. We road-tested this new peel at Auckland’s Skin Boutique and can report an instant glow. Mandelic acid is an AHA particularly good at clarifying congested skin and controlling oil, but it also helps to strengthen the collagen around pores to make them look less visible.
What face peels have you tried?