Alpha hydroxy acids, also known as AHA’S are a naturally occurring group of acids, derived from food products such as citrus fruits, apples, grapes, papaya, sugar cane and milk. Their function is to exfoliate the skin, shedding dead skin cells to improve skin texture. As a result the skin is left feeling softer, more supple with an even tone and younger looking. These skin care ingredients have been used by the cosmetic industry for decades and are widely used as a skin care ingredient in facial peelings. In skin care products the concentration of AHA’S varies from 5 to 15% but research shows this is a low concentration to make a great improvement to the skin. Higher concentrations of up to 70% – like the ones used by Estheticians and Dermatologists will give better results, but the skin will be more sensitive to sunlight and may cause irritations. Sensitive skin should not use these products.
Chemical peels are sometimes applied to other sites such as the hands. They may be used to treat damage caused by exposure to the sun (photoageing), to remove pigmentation such as freckles and melasma and fine lines and wrinkles.
A peel removes several layers of sun damaged skin cells, leaving fresh skin which has a more even surface and colour. It may stimulate new collagen to be formed improving skin texture. Peels may result in superficial, moderate depth or deep skin injury. A nurse or aesthetician (beauty therapist) may perform superficial peels. A dermatologist or plastic surgeon usually performs deeper peels. Peels can be repeated as necessary; some people have superficial peels every few weeks. It is wise to wait 3 to 6 months before repeating a moderate depth peel.
Glycolic Acid, Salicylic and Lactic Acid result in superficial skin injury and are well tolerated – the ‘lunchtime’ peel. They remove thin lesions on the skin surface, reducing pigment and surface dryness. The result of the first peel may be disappointing, but after repeated peels, significant improvement is usually evident.
Normally we do between 8-10 treatments once a week.
Superficial peels result in mild facial redness and occasional swelling which usually resolve within 48 hours. The peeling is similar to sunburn. Most people can continue their normal activities. Make-up can be applied a few hours after the procedure. Moderate depth peels result in intense inflammation and swelling, which resolve within a week. The peeling is more marked. Mild redness can persist for several weeks. Most people take a week off from work after a moderate depth peel.
Looking after the skin after the peel
Keep treated areas cool (use a water spray).
Do not pick! Picking delays healing and causes scarring
Moisturise – use light preparations after a superficial peel, thicker moisturisers after a deeper peel
Protect from the sun – especially for the first 6 months
If advised to do so, continue to use tretinoin, glycolic acid and/or hydroquinone at night long term