Glycolic Acid Peels

Glycolic acid peels (formulated from sugar cane) are virtually downtime-free skin treatments, which come with mild redness or irritation as the only likely after-effect. Glycolic acid chemical peels are ideal for people who suffer from excess sebum, and these treatments may rejuvenate the skin without much downtime. Glycolic acid peels, in particular, contain alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) that gently exfoliate the skin to unclog oil-filled sebaceous glands. Peels that utilize AHAs penetrate the skin and help remove layers of dull, dry skin. The skin renewal cycle is roughly 28 to 32 days without any exfoliation assistance, but AHA peels can speed up the process. A series of five in-office peels (spaced three weeks apart) can be effective for alleviating minor skin spots and blemishing.

Alphahydroxy acids (AHAs) in concentrations of 30 percent or more are applied for two to five minutes (or more) to slough away the upper layer of dead skin cells as well as penetrate into the upper layers of the dermis to soften fine lines, promote a rosy glow, encourage better penetration of other skin-care products or even dry an acne flare up.

Chemical exfoliation can also help improve the appearance of excess pigment by exfoliating the upper layers of the skin where some pigment resides. Your dermatologist or plastic surgeon can recommend the best course of treatment based on your skin tone and specific pigment problem, but St. Louis, MO, dermatologist, Roberta Sengelmann finds that a series of two to six, 30 percent to 70 percent glycolic acid peel treatments coupled with Jessner’s solution is especially beneficial for minimizing melasma.

For optimal results, Dr. Roberta Sengelmann also prescribes a retinoid (or another peeling agent) for at-home use between peels. While using these high-strength treatments, diligent sun protection with an SPF of at least 30 every day is necessary for two reasons: First, sun exposure can trigger production of the pigment you are trying to eliminate, and second, chemical peels and topicals such as retinoids increase sun sensitivity. Dr. Roberta Sengelmann stresses that anyone with a darker skin tone may have a higher complication rate with these peels.

In addition to glycolic acid and AHAs, other acids used as agents in light chemical peels known for mild exfoliating are citric acid, (from lemons, oranges, limes and pineapples), lactic acid (from milk or bilberries), malic acid (from apples) and tartaric acid (from grapes).

“Lactic acid peels have similar effects to glycolic peels, although lactic acid is generally milder,” explains Barrington, IL, dermatologist David Van Dam, MD. Plus, lactic acid peels, which are derived from sour milk, offer up a subtle lightening effect. If your skin is sensitive or if you suffer from a condition like rosacea, talk to your aesthetician about a lactic acid peel.

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