All about skin peels; what’s best for you?


Several decades ago pioneering Estheticians began experimenting with topical solutions that would cause the surface of the skin to peel away with the benefit of creating a new complexion. Not unheard of, dermatologists had been providing strong chemical peels for many years prior to that but these new “paramedical” peels were less invasive and more consumer friendly. Thus became America’s love affair with Peels.

With continuing interest, today, the word “peel” is marketed to include simply over-the-counter scrubs as well as general exfoliation in the facial room. So if we have an interest how do we know what is best for is best for ourselves?

Although we are in an enlightened era of self-empowerment aided by the accessibility of instant products and information, only a professional can truly tell you what is best for your skin. The likes of “Olay micro-peels” are simply dumbed-down exfoliants geared towards the masses; yes they do something but a real “peel” released to the general public would have too much liability associated with it. Peels that create lasting change can only be administered by a trained professional.

Here is how I like to describe the various levels of peels:

Level one: OTC exfoliation. Removal of the already dead skin cells by manual means at home; over-the-counter scrubs or fruit enzyme masques, wash cloths, ultra-sonic & rotary brushes.
PROs: Cleans up the skin, gives a shine to the complexion, helps new skin to form more easily, helps moisturizers to work better. No visible peeling.
CONS: Dry or thin skin can be irritated if moisturizing is not associated with the exfoliation.

Level two: Aesthetic exfoliation. Disturbs the skin cells that are still attached during the natural shedding process causing them to release earlier and faster with product at home; cosmeceutical enzyme peels or scrubs usually with added glycollic, lactic or salicylic acids purchased through a licensed salon or spa.
PROS: speeds up the cell renewal process, helps to keep mutant skin cells from malforming (like keratosis), gives a shine and smoothness to the complexion. No visible peeling.
CONS: can irritate the skin or, with over-use, can create burns or rashes if product is not specifically suited to your skin type.

Level three: Micro-resurfacing. Disturbs still attached shedding skin cells plus disturbs live skin cells causing them to prematurely die then to release, thinning the skin to remove surface imperfections and diminish fine lining; acid, vitamin, retinol and pancreatic enzyme peels, micro-dermabrasion. Administered in a medical spa or private esthetics studio. Usually not in a resort or day spa.
PROS: can remove superficial scarring and keratosis, helps reduce hyper-pigmentation, plumps tissue, stimulates elastin and collagen production for a more firm complexion, encourages more healthy skin renewal.
CONS: If administered improperly can cause permanent hyper-pigmentation.

Level four: Paramedical peels. Kills all surface skin cells causing skin to possibly darken then shed off; Jesner, TCA, various blends of acids, vitamins and retinols. Administered in medical spas, dermatology practices and some private paramedical esthetic practices.
PROS: Can remove deep scarring and deep lining, remove hyper-pigmentation and remove many years of skin damage due to environmental aging.
CONS: Uncomfortable to painful, can cause hypo-pigmentation (complete loss of pigment in skin) if not administered properly and resulting esthetic can look “odd” if adjoining areas of skin still look aged.

Level five: Medical peels. Removes all epidermal skin cells plus touches into the underlying dermis; laser, deeper TCA, phenol.
PROS: Once skin grows back, it looks entirely new.
CONS: Extremely painful, allergic immune responses are triggered and resulting new skin looks somewhat artificial.

From a holistic perspective, I am concerned that the body’s immune system and wound healing process is gently stimulated and not over-whelmed when a Peel is administered. Over whelming these systems with toxic solutions or aggressive procedures can trigger the skin’s emergency responses resulting in rashes, painful swelling, clustering of too much melanin and improper healing. And timing is everything; if the skin is exfoliated too often within a 30 day cycle and not allowed to rest in-between, the new freshness that is desired will be illusive replaced instead with a rough or burned appearance.

So take it easy with your peels. Exfoliate manually at home no more than twice a week, use moderation with your serum exfoliants and trust your esthetician to give you the best advice for your skin.