Question: After several sun holidays over the years, I’m starting to notice a few more fine lines and uneven skin tone, despite wearing a high factor sunscreen and being sun safe. So, my skin makes me look a bit older, even though I’m 35. A friend suggested I get a chemical peel for my mild to medium sun damaged skin. I would do it but the ones I’ve seen on TV shows and heard about look and sound painful. My friend said those are the extreme ones and that I need to find one that’s right for my skin type. Can you give me any advice on chemical face peels? -Chantel, London
Answer: Your friend is right: only a few peels will actually cause those visible-from-afar, vicious-looking post-peel results, like the ones you see on TV shows. Those, in fact, are the extreme chemical face peels, such as Phenol or a strong TCA peel, which cause two weeks of both peeling, healing, redness, etc. But these are not always necessary. Most chemical face peels boost your skin’s rejuvenation and radiance with just three to four days of peeling and without any dreadful downtime filled with scorching redness, etc.
Chemical face peels work their smoothing wonders by slowly and safely softening the outermost layers of dead listless skin cells so your body sloughs them off quicker. And the amount of peeling you can expect depends on the strength, type or how deep it works in the skin. For example, a vitamin C peel can cause very light sloughing of the skin, if any at all. But a glycolic acid (naturally found in sugar cane) or salicylic acid peel (produced from willow tree), which is recommended for oily skins and for treating acne, causes mild irritation with light peeling. So, the deeper the peel, the more days your skin will spend peeling and healing. Remember, it varies from person to person.
But be careful about deeper peels. Though they can boost skin-tautening collagen production, the deeper chemical skin peels can increase the risk of hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin) on darker skin types. So it’s about you and your practitioner picking a chemical skin peel that’s right for you. And usually a course of 3 to 4 treatments, with time in between, is recommended.
For your sun damage, Vicki Smith, director and aesthetic practitioner of Absolute Aesthetics, recommends the Obagi Blue Peel Radiance. Suitable for many skin types, this chemical face peel sits between a TCA peel and the much gentler enzyme peels. Plus, it also has a skin-smoothing blend of salicylic, lactic (which comes from milk) and glycolic acids, along with some skin-soothing ingredients.
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