What are chemical peels and how do they work?
The chemical peel is one of the most honest skincare treatments around. It doesn’t hide behind fancy name. It is what it says: a chemical solution that harnesses your body’s natural processes of renewal, which can largely be summed up as “discard old skin cells to make space for new ones.” In other words it causes the skin to peel so that the new skin can grow in its place.
The idea of peeling away small amounts of skin might sound scary initially, but chemical peels are one of the most common treatments for correcting skin and achieving visible results – especially in winter, when skin needs a bit of a lift – simply because they have proven so very effective in rectifying damage and renewing skin.
How do chemical peels work?
To understand the science behind peels, what conditions they can help alleviate and to be able to make informed decision, it’s best to start at the beginning: how renewal naturally happens in the skin. Different chemical types have their own properties, but generally, chemical peel acids penetrate the skin and break the bonds between the layers of skin, so the top layers will start peeling off. The type of peel, its concentration and the exact chemical composition will determine how deep it penetrates (and thus how deep the peel is). Always, but always have a peel done by your expertly trained and trusted skincare therapist. You’ll go for assessment first, as one specific peel or combination peels and concentrations might be best for your individual skin. Your therapist will know just what’s right for you.
Life cycles are very important in nature, and our bodies are no different. It is just as important for skin cells to drop off and make space for new cells as it is to live healthily. In fact, our bodies rely on it (cancer is a prime example of what happens when cells don’t “die” when they are supposed to).
We shed a lot skin, constantly. In fact, your skin seems to completely renew itself every 30 days or so (ideally). Why? Because you skin there to protect the rest of your body – it is designed to grow quickly from the deepest layers through to the uppermost, so that it can shed. This process allows your skin to keep impurities out of your body. And there are a lot of impurities to go around.
Nearly every minute of every day, your skin has to fend off a barrage of attacks from pollutants, chemical, ultra violet rays, changes in temperature and climate, bacteria and a host of potential infections. These all pose a threat to you, and your skin is there to save the day. And, naturally, fending off these elements has an impact on your skin in the long run, especially as we get older and the natural renewal process slows down a little. This “impact” (damage) can show up in a few ways, from wrinkles, lines and sagging to hyper-pigmentation and even acne – all of which you’ll recognise as conditions you’ll want to have corrected timeously and effectively.
If, at this point, you were thinking along the lines of, “Hey, why not use the body’s natural regenerative processes to correct this type of damage?” then you are right on the money. Because that is exactly what chemical peels do.
How much skin do we shed?
It’s estimated that we have around 1,6 trillion skin cells on our bodies (estimated by how much of your body weight skin accounts for, because no one has managed to sit down and count them all yet). And we shed around 30 000 to 40 000 of them every hour – that’s around a million a day, or 3,6 kg per year.
The purpose of chemical Peels
- Erase imperfections
- Remove damaged skin
- Improve skin tone and texture
- Allow new skin to grow
What conditions are treated with chemical peels?
Chemical Peels are used to treat:
But they are also great for:
- Firming and tightening
- Resurfacing of skin
- Improving complexion
- Stimulating healthy new tissue growth
Peels and Concentrations
You might have heard or seen certain percentages used in conduction with peels: Glycolic Acid 20% or 30%, for example. These denote the concentration of the key ingredient (Alpha-Hydroxy in the case of this example) in the peel’s chemical make-up. We might assume that the concentration is an indication of a peel’s strength, but this is not entirely correct, according to Dr Bradley Wagemaker, Lamelle’s Medical Director. “The actual chemicals used and the way the entire chemical cocktail is combined in the product plays a huge part in the strength and effectiveness of the peel,” he says. “So you’ll find that a 15% concentration in the same type of peel from two different sources might not be equally effective.”
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a treatment take?
The peel itself is usually no longer than five minutes. But there is usually prepping and care involved, so bank on at least 15 minutes.
What does it feel like?
It depends on the product used. Alpha and Beta peels cause only some tingling, while a TCA peel is slightly more intense. Any discomfort subsides after a minute or two, though.
What about after the treatment?
On average, with Alpha and Beta peels, your skin will look youthful and glowing. It may be a little red, but that will subside very quickly. With a TCA peel, some recovery time will be needed.
How long do the results last?
With proper home care, months or even years.
What to expect when considering a skin peel?
Now that we have wrapped our heads around what chemical peels are and what they are used for, it’s important to note that, if you want to give your skin a bit of a pick-me-up, your first port of call should be your trusted skincare therapist.
- Your therapist will do an assessment beforehand, and make recommendations based on your skin and your requirements.
- More than one type of peel may be required to achieve results.
- A home-care and post-treatment regimen will be recommended for optimal results.
- Note that a chemical peel is not a once-off fix: several treatments over an extended period of time may be needed to achieve results safely.
- The peel is only part of the treatment: the entire treatment includes a whole array of products to prep and boost your skin.
Find out more about these treatments here.
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