What are chemical peels? Chemical peels are one of the most misunderstood skin care treatments. Many people immediately think of red, flaking and painful looking skin. While it's true, a chemical peel is a chemical exfoliation that removes dead skin cells through the use of acid, not all peels actually peel! There are different options that can suit different people. Peels can address a wide range of skin concerns and conditions, and can dramatically reduce lines, wrinkles, acne scars, dark spots, and roughness caused by everyday sun exposure which affects skin quality. A chemical peel gives you the chance to start all over and take better care of your skin, and almost anyone can benefit from a chemical peel, as they improve skin’s colour and texture and increase collagen and elastin.
During the chemical peel procedure, an acid solution is applied to the face for a maximum of two minutes to remove the outermost layer or layers of skin. In some cases, when stronger peels are used, the skin crusts, scales, and peels over several days. The new skin that grows in its place is softer, smoother, and has fewer imperfections.
Did you know..? Women have been using peels for over 2,000 years! Cleopatra soaked in milk baths to smooth her skin. The active ingredient in milk is lactic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA which is water-soluble) and these acids (along with beta-hydroxy acids, or BHAs which are oil soluble) are still among the most commonly used types in modern peels.
What strengths of chemical peel are there? Chemical peels come in different strengths. The stronger the solution, the deeper the skin de-surfacing but the longer the recovery time.
Deep peels can only be performed by a physician as they remove several layers of skin. The strongest Phenol peels - also known as carbolic acid - often require sedation or general anesthesia. You can only have one deep peel in your life. After deep peels, the face is bandaged and takes up to 3 weeks to heal. Deep peels can cost anywhere from $1000 to $5000.
Doctors or other health care providers in doctors' offices can perform medium peels. Medium-depth peels can remedy hyperpigmentation and moderate wrinkles. After a medium peel, skin will be red and swollen for several days. The skin will then turn brownish and peel off in 7 to 14 days. A medium peel can cost upwards of $500 per treatment.
Estheticians in spas are permitted to offer light AHA and BHA peels (such as lactic acid peels, 20-30% glycolic acid peels or combination peels that include salicylic acid) as they remove only the surface layer of skin, and require little downtime for recovery. The skin heals in 3 to 7 days, after some redness and flaking. A series of mild peels is often needed for optimal results. Depending on the strength of light peels you can expect to pay around $50 per treatment.
You can also get a superficial peel, such as a 10% glycolic peel. These peels are a good place to start as there is minimal risk, and virtually no downtime. With the weaker AHA peels, there is a very short-term pinkish glow to the skin but the before-and-after difference is pronounced. You will look brighter right away and with ongoing treatments you will see gradual improvement in fine lines, texture, and pigmentation. Superficial peels with up to 10% glycolic acid can be purchased for home use and can be used several times a week.
Different types of peels Many chemical peels contain acidic substances. Different strengths of peel results from the use of different types of acid.
Alpha hydroxy acid peels (AHA)
The lightest peels are Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels, and are usually derived from citric (citrus fruits), glycolic (sugar cane), lactic (fermented milk), malic (apples) and tartaric (grapes). They work by breaking down the "glue" that holds the cells of the skin together, allowing the skin's old, dead cells to shed. Lactic acid peels are the gentler of the AHA peels.
Beta hydroxy acid peels (BHA)
Salicylic acid is the most widely used acid in a BHA peel. It is oil soluble and can penetrate the skin via the sebaceous gland, making it a great treatment for oily, breakout prone skin, and on acne prone and congested skin. For these types of skin they often perform better than AHAs due to their ability to penetrate deeper with their lipid base capabilities attaching to our own natural skin oils. Salicylic acid has anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce redness and irritation from breakouts. Clients with sensitivity to aspirin are not to use salicylic acid.
Jessner's peels are typically a combination of lactic acid, salicylic acid and resorcinol (which breaks down rough, scaly, or hardened skin) in an ethanol base. The purpose of the resorcinol is to drive the other acids deeper into the skin layers. Jessner's peels vary by strength and percentages of acid used.. Jessner's Peels are often followed by a layer of retinoic acid, aiding in deeper peel penetration and enhanced results, allowing the acid to effectively break the "glue" between the skin cells known as keratinocytes.
Trichloroacetic acid peels (TCA)
TCA is the most frequently used acid for a medium depth peel. It is available in a range of strengths and combinations. Many times it is used at lower percentages in conjunction with other acids such as salicylic acid but should only be administered by a physician when used as a stand alone agent with percentages above 20%. TCA peels can penetrate deeper layers of skin, allowing newer, smoother skin cells to surface.
Phenol peels - also known as carbolic acid - are the strongest chemical peel solutions and result in a deep skin peel. They are very powerful and can provide dramatic facial rejuvenation with long lasting results.
Are chemical peels safe? Yes, as long as the right peel and the right percentage of active ingredients are used. Peels will cause a slight burning or tingling sensation which means it is working. It is very unlikely that this treatment will cause permanent damage to the skin.
How are professional peels different to at-home peels? There are many great brands of at-home peels however, you simply won't get as good results because at-home peels are generally milder than professional grade peels, but they do contain many of the same ingredients. While at-home peels contain 1-5% active ingredients, professional peels generally contain anywhere from 10%-20%. It's not possible to purchase professional grade peels without a certification in chemical peels. This doesn’t mean that it’s time to say goodbye to your home-care routine; using an at-home peel twice a week is an excellent way to extend and enhance the benefits of a professional peel.
How often can I safely have a chemical peel? It depends on your skin and the strength of peel being used, however, we recommend at once a month for sensitive skin. If you're treating pigmentation or skin breakouts, you can come more regularly, once every 7-10 days for a series of 4-6 treatments for maximum results.
Which light peels does Kelowna Esthetics Studio offer? At Kelowna Esthetics Studio, we use both AHA and BHA peels in order to be able to treat sensitive skin, normal/dry skin, and oily/acne prone skin.
The Rejuvenating Facial uses a Lactic Acid Peel (AHA) to add more moisture to the skin - for sensitive or particularly dry skin.
The Resurfacing Facial uses a Glycolic Peel (AHA) for a deeper skin penetration - for normal, dry skin.
The Renewing Mini-Facial uses a Salicylic Acid Peel (BHA) for deeper penetration of oily and acne prone skin.
Lactic acid comes from sour milk and also occurs naturally in the skin. It is the lightest of the AHA peels. Larger molecular size of lactic acid means it does not penetrate the skin, therefore exfoliates cells on the surface of the skin. As such, it is more gentle, and less irritating than a glycolic peel. Lactic acid on the skin can also pull moisture from the air and hold it in the skin, so it works well on drier, more mature skin. A lactic acid peel:
Can be used on sensitive skin
Is very hydrating as it has excellent skin softening ability
Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
Improves skin tone and texture
Helps with pigmentation
Improves product absorption
Best for: Dry and sensitive skin.
Glycolic acid is derived from the sugar cane, and is the most effective of the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) as it can penetrate through the cell walls due to its tiny molecular size. Once inside the cell it will create new collagen thicken the skin to reduce wrinkles on the skins surface. A glycolic peel:
Evens out skin texture
Helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles
Hydrates and brightens skin
Promotes the growth of collagen
Removes dead skin cells and helps to remove black-heads
Reveals younger, healthier cells on the surface of the skin
Helps with acne
Best for: Sun-damaged skin
Salicylic acid is a BHA that is either naturally derived or biosynthesized from bark of the willow tree. Salicylic is oil-soluble, therefore it is able penetrate deeper into your pores. BHAs lightly exfoliate your skin’s top layers on their way deeper into your skin where they exfoliate excess oil and dead skin in your pores. A salicylic acid peel:
Can treat all types of acne, from surface whiteheads or blackheads to deeper cystic acne
Dissolves dead skin and the keratinized top layer of skin