The Down Low On Chemical Peels
If you have ever seen someone recovering from a medical grade chemical peel or laser treatment, it probably ruined you from ever choosing to have your own chemical peel done. Chemical peels can leave people looking like a sunburned, leper monster for days, sometimes even weeks. This is NOT the norm; however, if this is the type of peel you are looking for, more power to you! You will need to visit your local Medi-Spa to have this treatment done by a Nurse Practitioner or Doctor.
If you visit a day spa in Salt Lake City (or really anywhere in Utah) you most likely will not have the sort of recovery process that we just dicussed. Here at Beaute Marque Studio we have three Master Estheticians who are licensed to do chemical peels. We use Image and Glymed skin care in our spa allowing us a wide array of peels to choose from.
Chemical peels are considered a “baby step” process. The skin needs to slowly be prepared for a strong chemical peel. Your skin care professional will help you map out a treatment plan based around your skin care concerns. Chemical peels can treat most skin concerns ranging from acne, pigmentation, pore size, texture, tone, firmness and fine lines and wrinkles.
For best results it is recommended that you are on a professional skin care program that includes Alpha Hydroxy acids and a skin lightener such as Hydroquinone. This isn’t a pushy up-sell when your skincare professional recommends products, it is truly in your best interest. There is honestly no point in spending your hard earned money on these professional treatments (not to mention the irritation of feeling like a snake shedding it’s skin for a week) if you are going to continue using over-the-counter skincare products. This is for a couple of reasons; first, if you don’t prep the skin properly you are at a higher risk for skin damage. Secondly, using the alpha hydroxyl acid for at least two weeks prior loosens up the dead skin and gives you better results from your chemical peel and the skin lightening product helps prevent any hyperpigmentation (dark spots). Thirdly, some over the counter acids can actually counteract the chemical peels process rendering it ineffective.
Now for what to expect the day of your chemical peel. Depending on the peel you are having done you may feel no pain at all, all the way up to feeling like you feel asleep on a Cuban beach for 10 hours. With the more mild ones your skin will usually feel completely normal by the time you leave your appointment. For the medium to strong chemical peels you may feel like you have a mild sunburn for a few hours to days after.
Some peels cause what we call “frosting” this is where the proteins in the skin holding the dead tissue to the live tissue have died. They will leave behind a white color to the skin that cannot be washed or wiped away. “Frosting” is a good thing and some peels, especially medical grade ones, have the goal of making your entire face white. This skin “frosting” will gradually turn a purple-brown and peel off leaving behind fresh, radiant new skin. DO NOT PICK OR GET SUN EXPOSURE DURING THIS PROCESS!
The first day after your peel your response may vary depending on your skin, the peel chosen and the amount of time or layers done. For mild peels you may feel a bit dry and your skin will sometimes darken for a few days. This is because the peel is working at a microscopic level. You will shed skin but it happens slowly so you don’t see it as much, if at all. Keep in mind the name chemical peel can be misleading, it doesn’t have to peel to give you results. For the medium to strong peels the timeline is generally the same, you just see more skin come off with the stronger peels.
- Day one your skin usually feels tight and maybe dry. This is most people’s favorite day because everything is firm and tight. Usually day two you will notice some darkening of the skin and what I lovingly call “elephant skin” this is when the skin is so tight that you have wrinkles that go horizontally and vertically. It’s a lot of fun!
- Day 2-3 you will notice flaking around the mouth. It will move out from there. You will usually notice it more here than everywhere else, this is because this is the area we move the most from talking and if your like me, eating. Opening your mouth to take a bite out of a big burrito on day three will usually make your skin around your mouth look and feel like the Sahara desert, again so much fun! The peeling will usually continue for 4-7 more days.
- If you’re a picker do your best to avoid the amusement park of dead skin on your face. Picking at skin may force tissue that is still attached to come off and can result in more dark spots on the face.
After one peel you can expect healthier, smoother skin. If you are doing a peel for acne you can expect a purging process where any trapped bacteria will come to the surface. It isn’t the peel itself causing this, these blemishes would have eventually came to the surface on their own over time anyway but with the peel we speed up the process. The good news is that the peel kills the bacteria and removes the dead skin so you heal much faster than normal from these breakouts. In my experience acne gets worse before it gets better with peels. I have had very aggressive acne since I was 13. I tried everything under the sun aside from Accutane, which scared the crap out of me, and it wasn’t until I started doing chemical peels that I was able to get it under control. It Isn’t gone though because if I miss a night of washing my face I wake up looking like a pepperoni pizza. In my experience my skin didn’t improve till about the third peel.
The same can be said with those who are doing peels to get rid of sun damage. As it pulls the damage cells to the surface it will get darker. Keep it up, as long as you are being diligent with keeping the UV off your skin and using an at home skin lightener it will begin to fade. Most of our sun damage was cause before the age of eight. If you have ever looked at your skin under a skin scanner you can attest to this. So sometimes you will see dark spots coming up where you didn’t have spots before the treatments began. It isn’t causing them but it is bringing them to the surface years before they would have been visible. This is why most people call them”age spots” it isn’t age that causes them but because they usually don’t surface till we are older so we think of them as coming with old age.
There is another type of skin darkening that happens called melasma or “pregnancy mask” this pigmentation isn’t due to UV radiation, hormones are the main culprit, however, UV exposure can exacerbate the discoloration. Chemical peels can help treat this but if your hormones are still causing the pigment change it will continue to come back. Luckily for most women this happens to, it’s caused by pregnancy and may continue during breastfeeding, but it usually fades after you quit breastfeeding without the use of products, laser or a peel. If you have any questions about a reaction you are having after a chemical peel don’t hesitate to contact your skin care professional at Beaute Marque Studio.
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