Chemical peels: the basics

     In my never-ending quest for clearer skin, I stumbled on chemical peels. After I had stopped having major breakouts, I was left with post-acne spots and scars. I have done two 6-week cycles of 20% salicylic acid peels and one 6-week cycle using 35% glycolic acid this year and I have seen a dramatic improvement in my skin tone and clarity!
     If you’ve tried several basic regimens or treatments and they haven’t worked for you, you might have to step up your regimen by trying a peel. Whether you’re suffering from mild/moderate acne, hyperpigmentation, enlarged pores or post-acne scarring,you will see a huge difference in the condition of your skin! (If you have severe acne, I advise you see a dermatologist though!) Chemical peels can also help to reverse and decelerate the signs of ageing.
     A chemical peel is done by using chemicals to remove the oldest dead skin cells on the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). It can also be described as chemical exfoliation.

    The major kinds of chemicals used are:
  1. Beta-Hydroxy acids e.g Salicylic acid
  2. Alpha-Hydroxy acids e.g Glycolic acidLactic acidMalic acidMandelic acid, etc. They are usually derived from fruits.
  3. Others e.g Trichloroacetic acid (TCA), Phenols.
     These acids are found in an array of over-the-counter (OTC) skin products but are usually in small percentages. For example, the highest percentage of salicylic aid in OTC products is 2 %. Glycolic acid percentages range from 5 – 15 %.
     Sometimes, these acids can be mixed:
  1. Salicylic acid, lactic acid and resorcinol are combined to form Jessner’s peel.
  2. Glycolic acid and lactic acid also can be combined.
     Peels can also be classified based on how deeply the acid penetrates the skin:
  1. Superficial peels. Beta and alpha-hydroxy acids are used.
  2. Medium peels. TCA is usually used
  3. Deep peels. Phenols are usually used.
     If you want a very drastic effect, get a medium or deep peel but please don’t do this at home! Let a professional do it because you could damage your skin!! For our purposes, I’ll dwell on superficial peels which you can do at home.
    What to use if your have:
  1. Mild to moderate acne; oily skin: Use 20% salicylic acid, 30 % salicylic acid or Jessner’s peel.
  2. Scarring and post-acne spots (with or without mild acne): Use 35% – 70 % glycolic acid.
  3. Signs of ageing: If you have age spots or fine lines, glycolic acid can help to stimulate collagen production. It is the smallest of all the alpha-hydroxy acids and penetrates the skin most easily.
  4. Hyperpigmentation: 35 – 85 % Lactic acid, Glycolic acid or a glycolic acid-lactic acid combo. It is argued that lactic acid is safer for ethnic skin.
  5. Enlarged pores: Glycolic acid and salicylic acid can help to temporarily reduce appearance of enlarged pores. If you have regular peels, the effect is more cumulative.
  6. Dry skin: Lactic acid.
    Important information you must know before you proceed
  1. As much as possible, only use the lowest percentages of peels available because you may end up with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is so important if you have non-Caucasian skin.
  2. Before you commence, you should do a 2 week pre-peel treatment with a salicylic or glycolic acid toner. In addition, use a sunscreen and lightening agent (e.g hydroquinone ) in the morning followed by retinol cream at night. Stop the retinol 48 hours before the peel. This regimen is especially helpful for preventing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in persons with ethnic skin.
  3. After the peel, use a mild lotion for 24 hours and don’t forget to use sunscreen if you can’t avoid sunlight.
  4. After 48 hours, continue your sunscreen-hydroquinone-retinol regimen. Sunscreen is very important to prevent further sun damage and darkening.
  5. Always start with the lowest possible percentage available. In addition, your first peel should not last longer than 2 minutes. For example, if you want to do a salicylic acid peel, start out with 20 %.
  6. It is advisable to do one peel treatment weekly for 6 weeks. If you want to repeat the cycle, rest your skin for a month and do another cycle.
  7. Don’t leave the product on for longer than directed.
  8. You can use a baking soda mix to neutralize the peel.
  9. Use little or no makeup in the immediate 48 hours after the peel.
  10. There are many sites selling these peels. The company I use is Skin laboratory and I usually buy these products from Amazon. Another well-trusted company is Makeupartistschoice.
    I’ll stop here: there is so much information on chemical peels I’m sure I could write a book! If you need more info or clarification, feel free to contact me. In the mean time, check out these related articles:

Dr Fomsky

About the author
Dr Fomsky

Nigerian-born Dr Fomsky is a God-lover, a wife, a mom of three and a medical doctor by day. She is very passionate about hair, skin and weight management. Since she had babies, she's been struggling to keep her weight and her tummy down!
At night, she likes to read books, write blog posts and leave comments on other blogs. She lives in Paris, France and is also the author of Solving your relaxed hair breakage book
HAIR TYPE: 'Texlaxed' hair, High porosity, Fine hair strands, low to moderate density
CURRENT LENGTH: Between shoulder and armpit length
LOVING: Argan oil for sealing, Brown Butter Beauty Love Deep conditioner, Shescentit Blueberry Co-wash conditioner and Hairveda Red Tea Satin Moisturizer
LONG-TERM PLAN: Trim off bone-straight ends (6 inches left) over time

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3 Comments to Chemical peels: the basics

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  3. […] I did salicylic acid peelS. For more about peels, click HERE. […]

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