Ask An Expert: Should You Neutralize A Chemical Peel?
Anna K. Fryxell
Chemical peels can work wonders for your skin. They can clear up acne, lessen the appearance of scars and dark spots, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. But they can also do some serious damage if not performed in the right hands. That's why we asked San Francisco, CA, dermatologist Marie Jhin, MD, and New York, NY, dermatologist Gervaise Gerstner, MD, for their expert opinions on whether it's important to neutralize a chemical peel and how to get the best results from the treatment.
“A chemical peel is an acid,” says Dr. Jhin. “Acids have a very low pH level, so you want to neutralize it by making it alkaline and not acidic. The longer you wait to neutralize it, the deeper the chemicals will go, and that can do more damage than good.”
To get the best results, she recommends seeing a dermatologist so he or she can assess your skin and make these important decisions. She says dermatologists will have the highest type of peel that is allowed in the state that they practice in. Plus, they are highly qualified to pick the chemical peel that's best for your skin type.
While Dr. Gerstner recommends going the dermatologist route as well, she is also a big believer in home peels. “I send my patients home with 20 percent glycolic pads for them to use three times a week. I recommend that they apply this to a clean face, leave it on for five minutes, and then splash it off with water to neutralize it.
There are many different types of peels out there, but the most popular are glycolic acid peels, salicylic acid peels, and TCA (or trichloroacetic acid) peels. Here's what each does:
• Glycolic acid peels are the most common and have been around the longest. This type of peel needs to be neutralized, typically after about two minutes, says Dr. Gerstner. According to Dr. Jhin, they are good for exfoliating skin, treating signs of aging like fine lines, and can even be used for keratosis pylaris, a skin condition.
• Salicylic peels don't need to be neutralized, and they're good for acne prone skin or for people who have never had a peel before. Dr. Gerstner recommends leaving this type on for about five minutes before removing.
• TCA peels are good for people who have blemishes or discoloration. TCA can also be used for deep wrinkles and is often used to treat pre-skin cancers, according to Dr. Jhin. Dr. Gerstner also uses TCA peels for spot treating warts or dark spots. They don't need to be neutralized, but typically are removed after about two minutes.
Remember to always explain your situation with your doctor before using a peel. You should discuss any past experience with Accutane or Retin A before going forward. Some doctors require a waiting period after different treatments, while others do not.
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For more information on chemical peels, make sure to check out the Spring-Summer 2012 issue of NewBeauty magazine, on newsstands March 27th.