What’s not to love about fall? The air is crisp, the colors are brilliant, the lawn is littered with dead leaves…
Okay maybe we don’t all love that last one.
Now what if I told you, that’s what your FACE is like after months (or years) of exposure to sun and pollution, changes in climate, and just the natural slowing down of cell-turnover?
Old, dead, crunchy skin cells cover the surface of your body, choking the fresh new life beneath.
Enter the leaf-blower of the face: a chemical peel.
Now, I know that chemical peels are trendy and ubiquitous these days. You can’t be on Groupon or swing a cat without bumping into someone wanting to peel the skin off your face.
That’s kinda scary, but a peel shouldn’t be.
Some of the questions I hear most often are:
“Why should I get a peel?”
“How often should I get a peel?”
“Will I look like Samantha from Sex and the City if I get a peel??”
“Chemicals are evil! Keep them away from your body!”
Let’s tackle the last two first…
“Will I look like Samantha (i.e., red, shiny, scaly, sort of like a flayed corpse)??”
Good gracious, NO. An esthetician’s scope of practice is the very top layer of your epidermis, the stratum corneum. No estie should EVER be going deeper than that; save those treatments for the docs. Yes, there is a time and place for extreme (medium-to-deep peels), but only ever in a doctor’s office. Your skin care specialist works in ‘superficial’ peels that lift the topmost dead skin cells off, with the added benefit of stimulating new growth from below. (Some spas will talk about offering ‘medium depth’ peels, but that’s actually a misnomer. Anything that penetrates 0.02-0.1 millimeters is technically considered superficial to light superficial.) The result should be some redness and flaking or sheet peeling (rather like after a sunburn) starting within a couple days and lasting about a week or two.
“Chemicals are evil! Acid is bad! They’re toxic!”
This one drives me nuts. You know what else is a chemical? That baking soda you put in your gluten-free, local-organic blueberry scones.
What else is an acid? The apple cider vinegar you use in your salad and on your face and hair.
And you know what’s toxic to the human body? Water. (Every hear of overhydration, water intoxication, and hyponatremia?)
Toxicity depends entirely upon dosage. Chemicals are the fabric of life and science. And your skin itself is acidic. Let’s not toss around words that make scary-sounding but ill-founded arguments.
So now that we’ve established our language and scope of practice, let’s talk about the ‘why’ and ‘how often’.
Why do we get chemical peels?
One of the wonderful things about growing older is that life can slow down a bit. One of the less wonderful things about growing older is that our skin regeneration slows down a lot.
When we’re adolescent, our skin replaces itself every 28 days or so, meaning everything that was at the bottom is now at the top. Those little dermal cells have pushed up through the five layers of the epidermis and emerged on the surface.
When we hit about 30 years old, that cycle slows down to about 28-45 days, and that deceleration continues as we age till we’re only turning over new skin every 60-90 days at around 50 to 60 years old.
What that means cosmetically is that as fewer new cells pushing up towards the surface and sloughing off the old, dead skin, what you see are layers of dry, dull skin and/or congestion, as oil, pollutants, and dirt get caught under the surface.
At that point our skin is pretty much like that un-raked lawn in the fall – coated with dead cells choking out new growth.
A peel comes in and saves the day. It loosens those uppermost layers of dead skin through a process called desquamation, allowing the dead skin to fall away while simultaneously penetrating into the lower layers of the skin to stimulate new growth. (Especially if your peel comes with something like a retinol booster, which is amazing at increasing the growth of collagen and elastin, the proteins that create fullness and elasticity, respectively, in the skin.)
So how often should we / can we get chemical peels?
Let’s think of it like a nutritional cleanse. Our bodies need consistent and moderate nutrition and exercise for optimal health, right? But the occasional fruit ‘n’ veggie cleanse or extreme sporting event can go a long way to ramp up vitality, energy, and health, ya? Go too far – think excessive fasting or running a marathon every week – and you start to break down muscle tissue, bone density, and organ health.
Same with peels. Regular cleansing, exfoliating, and hydrating are essential to skin health. Mega-dosing on those once in a while will boost your radiance. Overdoing it will be counterproductive.
When starting a peel regimen, it’s essential to begin with at least two to four weeks of good home skin hygiene. (Kind of like you need a regular gym routine before competing in the Cross Fit Games.)
Then, if you’re working on a specific skin condition, your esthetician may recommend a regimen of treatments every four to six weeks until that issue is resolved.
After that, the optimal interval seems to be about quarterly, depending on the strength of the peel. (Gentle enzyme peels or lighter chemical peels can be performed monthly.) Your esthetician should know her products and be able to say not only what’s the minimum for safety, but what’s best for the long-term health of your skin.
Always, it’s imperative to maintain a good skin care routine at home. (You can’t meet your trainer once a week, be a couch potato the rest of the time, and expect to PR your next race.)
So what do I offer at Glow?
Well first of all, like any estie worth her salt, I offer an in-depth consultation before any advanced peel regimen is started. We’ll examine your medical and cosmetic history, your skin goals, and your home care routine. Then we can begin.
I like to begin my clients on an organic fruit enzyme peel. This is a gentle enzymatic peel that can be tailored to each client’s needs with five different levels of enzyme strength, as well as lactic, glycolic, salicylic, and/or kojic acid additives, depending on our goals.
To ramp things up a bit, I am also double certified in Jessner and TCA peels, as well as other protocols that combat hyper-pigmentation and brighten skin tone.
And of course, I offer a full array of home-care products in my studio, and also have a pretty extensive knowledge of other lines and products out there. (I’m not afraid to send you to the drugstore if I think that’s your best option.)
I’d love to answer any other questions you might have – feel free to comment or call – and I wish you all a happy fall and good health to your skin.