I recently bumped into a friend who had the most glowy, flawless skin with not a blemish or mark in sight. She confessed to getting monthly chemical peels with an aestethician that literally transformed her blotchy and troubled complexion (she had a bad case of melasma and sun damage) to that of a young child. I was shocked, but not surprised. Exfolating is the key to renewing skin, and peels can offer a slew amazing benefits such as brighten complexions, clear clogged pores, help fade hyperpigmentation, smooth fine lines and boost hydration.
HOW THEY WORK
“Peels are a procedure that use a chemical solution, such as an alpha hydroxy acid or trichloracetic acid, to resurface the skin by removing the top damaged layers,” says Kerry Benjamin, LA-based esthetician and founder of StackedSkincare. “More specifically the chemical solution peels away the top dead layers of skin so that it regenerates and reveals a smoother healthier, younger looking complexion.”
Peels are available at many different strengths and contain a variety of acids—glycolic, lactic, salicylic, trichloroacetic—depending on skin concern. You can get a chemical peel at a derms office, which uses a more acidic solution to penetrate the deeper layers of the epidermis, or with an aesthetician at a spa. The latter option will give you less downtime, but you may need more treatments. “I always tell my clients, slow and steady wins the race,” says Benjamin. “The medium depth peels work amazingly well and are safe, so while it may take a little longer to see the results, you’ll do it safely without any concern of permanent damage.”
WHY CHOOSE A PEEL
There are two types of exfoliants: one is chemical with the use of acids to reach the deeper layers of skin, and the other is physical, aka scrubs, that contain an abrasive to slough away cells on top of the skin. “With the right multi-acid peel, your skin will benefit so much more than a scrub,” says Benjamin. “Peels exfoliate far deeper than a scrub and are not abrasive, so it works well on super-sensitive skin like those with rosacea and eczema as well as for acne.” They speed up cell turn over, fade pigmentation, boost hydration, smooth out fine lines and help clear up breakouts. Benjamin explains that you don’t have to peel to see results—the peeling is happening at a cellular level so you are still getting a deeper exfoliation than a scrub and it will smooth skin and lift hyper-pigmentation.
THEY WORK FOR JUST ABOUT ANYONE
Peels are great any age and skin type. “If you are suffering from acne, peels are going to be the number one thing that will quickly clear that up,” says Benjamin. “Peels gently remove the outer layer of skin while killing the bacteria without risk of spreading bacteria.” They are also great for aging skin to speed up cell turnover revealing a healthy, smooth and hydrated complexion, and work well for those with sensitive skin.
Most at-home peels come in pre-soaked pads, which are great as the dosage is already in it, or ones that you apply to the skin and leave on or wash off. Some you can use a few times a week and some should only be used once a month, depending on the strength and ingredients. Be sure to stop using Retin-A or retinols before a peel as they can make skin more sensitive and always wear sunscreen after a treatment. The at-home options below can be done in little time and give great results:
Brighter Skin: Erno Lazlo’s Luminous Dual Phase Vitamin C Peel
This two-step peel contains a superfine gentle scrub to clean the skin, vitamin C to boost collagen and fight discoloration, and lactic acid to speed up cell turnover. I like to use it on the neck and décolleté, and it always leave skin smooth and glowing. Plus, its gentle and only takes a few minutes to see results.
Anti-Aging Boost: Dr. Dennis Gross ferulic + retinol wrinkle recovery peel
I’ve been using these pre-soaked pads one to two times a week and my skin is noticeably smoother, more even, and it stopped blemishes from forming in its tracks. Not only does it feature a good dose of anti-aging powerhouse retinol to help smooth fine lines and wrinkles, but it features lactic acid to help boost cell turnover and antioxidant rich ferulic acid to protect skin.
Texture Booster: Ole Henriksen Power Peel Pro-Strenth Microdermabrasion/AHA Peel
This three-step peel takes a bit more time than the others, but it’s a nice beauty treatment to do in the evening once or twice a month. It contains an almond polish facial scrub (which smells amazing) to help loosen dead skin cells and prep the skin, followed by a mix of glycolic, lactic and multi-fruit AHAs to help clean and reduce pore size, lift pigmentation and brighten skin. I like to use it on my face and décolleté, and noticed brighter skin immediately.
Natural Option: Eminence Firm Skin Acai Exfoliating Peel
A natural option, this peel is chock full of antioxidants such as acai, grapefruit and goji, as well as glycolic and lactic acids to boost cell renewal and build collagen for firmer more hydrated skin. After I swipe the pads on my face, I then apply more solution to my neck, chest and to the top of my hands to help fade pigmentation and add hydration.