Facial Peels 101: A Dermatologist Explains

Posted by July 30, 2013 4:30 pm

face peel

Chemical peels sound downright scary. After all, peeling skin is generally a bummer and the chemical part of the equation makes us think of a lab experiment gone wrong. But, they might be the key to scoring the dewy, smooth, glowing skin of your dreams. These skin perfecters are associated with just about every beauty benefit in the book: Evening out your skin tone (buh-bye, dark spots!), improving its texture, banishing acne, and even fighting wrinkles. Think of them as a way to give your skin a fresh, more radiant start.

So what’s the catch? Getting a peel requires a trip to the dermatologist, who will also be able to help you decide if an intense chemical peel is right for you. Although you can go the DIY route with an at-home peel, the more potent, professional versions will show you more noticeable and immediate results.

To get the scoop on the procedure, we chatted with Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, a New York City-based dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine. Here’s what you need to know before you hightail it to your derm’s office in search of skin nirvana.

Beauty High: How do peels work? What do they do?

Dr. Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas: They exfoliate the dead skin layer and allow the skin to “breathe.” This exposure to air kills the bacteria that causes acne and opens up clogged pores. In addition, deeper peeling agents rekindle skin turnover creating a clean palette and a fresh look. Over time, they also stimulate collagen, reducing wrinkles.

Who are they best for? What kinds of skin concerns do they help correct?

All ages. The young set benefit from the anti-acne effects and as we age, we all benefit from the anti-wrinkles and anti-pigment benefits.

Who should avoid them?

People with uncontrolled sensitive skin.

What are the side effects?

You will be pink immediately afterwards, and after about four or five days, you may see some flaking. You will be more sun sensitive during the week to 10 days afterwards.

How do you care for your skin after getting a professional peel?

I always take advantage of the removal of the dead skin layer, as it allows for increased penetration of ingredients; to boost collagen levels, I and my patients apply 37 Extreme Actives, which contains 50 anti-aging molecules. This further maximizes the skin-building effects of the peel.

Are at-home versions as effective as professional procedures?

Simply put, no.

What should we look for if we want to buy an at-home version?

Ideally, go to your dermatologist. At home versions are very weak and need to be reapplied too frequently to see an effect. It is best to get one excellent MD strength peel per month than to use a light peel at home twice weekly.

Image via Istock

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