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“Honey, I had a little something done and it’s not as bad as yesterday, but… I’ve looked better” – those famous words from Samantha Jones in SATC explaining a peel treatment are forever engrained in our minds. That scene gave peels a bad rap for awhile, but now they seem to be having a rebirth.
Chemical peels are really just a form of mild to deep exfoliation, a minimally-invasive and essential component of facial rejuvenation. Peels are beneficial for all skin types, even sensitive skin, and can help many conditions from acne to melasma. They are also not only reserved for your face; peels can be done on any area, including hands, chest, and legs.
“Peels correct and reduce conditions of weakened skin such as damaged skin surface, pigmentation, uneven texture, lines and wrinkles. Not only will peels reverse these conditions, but they will increase the overall health of the skin,” says Beverly Hills Dermatologist Zein Obagi.
For starters, a peel is not a peel is not a peel. Peels come in all forms and sizes, and the more sun damage, discoloration or scars your skin has, the deeper the peel or the more peels you may need. Peels help remove damaged outer layers allowing a fresh, new layer of skin cells to naturally emerge. This results in stimulating a renewal process that reverses damage and makes skin look, feel, and even act younger.
Chemical peels have dual cosmetic and medical benefits. Cosmetically, skin renewal by peeling improves pore size, mild pigmentation, texture and fine lines. Medically, a peel can improve acne and actinic keratoses. “I recommend peels to those who want a more rapid improvement than a topical product could provide, but who don’t have time for laser treatments,” says Bonnie Marting ARNP at Anushka Spa, West Palm Beach, FL.
Chemical peels offer various benefits depending on skin type and desired result. Light peeling agents such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)—glycolic, lactic, or fruit acids—beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) and salicylic acid are milder acids that induce a faster sloughing of the cells in the epidermis. Deeper peels are achieved with tricholoroacetic acid (TCA) and stimulate renewal in the dermis. The epidermis heals in a few days giving the skin an renewed appearance, a more even color, smoother texture, and a healthier glow.
- Decrease fine lines, especially under the eyes and mouth
- Improve mild scarring and some types of acne
- Reduce discoloration, such as sun spots, age spots, freckles and blotchiness, melasma and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation
- Help topical products to penetrate better by removing the top layer of dead cells
In addition to professional peels, skin peeling can be achieved by using retinoids—a class of compounds derived from vitamin A. At-home peels have also become a mainstay in bathrooms everywhere. The concept of sloughing dead cells in the privacy of your own home appeals to many, and the choices are expansive.
The new ZO Invisapeel™ Intensive Resurfacing Peel ($70) from ZO Medical is formulated for both facial and non-facial skin such as hands, arms, and legs—any place that can use some smoothing, firming, and brightening. “This peel is suitable for a wide range of skin types and ages. It addresses a broad spectrum of skin concerns ranging from acne and sun damage to flaky skin and roughness,” says Dr. Obagi. Invisapeel™ targets the accelerated repair of problems like acne, discoloration, flaky skin, and roughness with a specialized enzyme blend. The enzymes papain and bromelain, plus glycolic acid, enhance and accelerate repair while diglycerin restores moisture to prevent irritation. Usage is simple: apply after cleansing and leave Invisapeel™ on for one to three hours.
Another good one to try is the Neostrata Skin Active Perfecting Peel, which comes as a two-step kit that is simple to use. Just open the foil packet and apply, leave on for ten minutes, then open the second foil packet to neutralize the peel and you’re done. It is formulated with a 20% blend of alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid, and citric acid. With regular weekly use, the Perfecting Peel has been clinically proven to improve skin clarity and brightness and diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Ole Henriksen Lemon Strip Flash Peel ($48) is a lovely little jar of lactic, glycolic, and fruit acids, which exfoliate, and algae extract to calm skin down. It comes with its own brush to apply; leave on for 10 minutes or so, and wipe away. The fresh lemony scent is a nice touch.
After laser resurfacing and peels, layering on acids and purging pores, your skin may be in need of some serious TLC. But because the outer layer has been disturbed to allow room for healthy, new cells to rise to the top, even something you may have used for years may cause a reaction. So if you are not careful, you can end up with little red bumps (dermatitis) or little white cysts (milia) from using the wrong aftercare product on your delicate post resurfaced skin. Using the wrong products or even too much of the right products can also cause serious complications and delay the healing process.
As a general rule, after most forms of laser resurfacing, you need to keep your skin moist until it heals sufficiently. Keeping skin moist encourages healing far better than letting it dry out, crack and peel. Look for products that are free of fragrances and preservatives, hypoallergenic as well as non-comedogenic, meaning they won’t clog your pores. Gentle formulas that are safe to use around the eyes and suitable for extremely sensitive skin are a must. You will be warned not to use abrasive exfoliating scrubs, toners, or any products containing acids such as alpha hydroxy, glycolic, or Retin-A for at least a few weeks.
According to Palm Beach Dermatologist Dr. Gary L. Marder: “If you have had an IPL treatment, there is nothing special other than sunscreen necessary. But if you have had a chemical peel or Ablative CO2 laser and are fully reepithelialized but are not 100% healed, as in still red or itchy, a very mild topical hydrocortisone cream can do wonders to stop itching, redness, swelling, and residual scarring. The cream is to be used for a short time, no more than a week, but helps heal and lets you return back to normal activities much faster than ordinary moisturizers can. In fact most moisturizers can plug up the pores of newly reepithiliazed skin, creating annoying little whiteheads (milia) that later need to be removed or treated.”
BITB polled a group of laser gurus for their top picks on what to use after the burn.
Waxelene ($80) – All natural Waxelene boasts organic ingredients for the relief of dry skin and diaper rash. This petroleum jelly alternative can be used to address common summer skin issues. Its ingredients include vitamin E oil, beeswax, organic rosemary oil, and organic soy oil to be gentle on your skin.
Avene Thermal Spring Water Soothing Serum ($34) – Featuring Avene thermal water, this light serum soothes and softens compromised skin and delivers hydration. Calming and anti-inflammatory, it helps reduce redness and irritation.
Aquaphor ($17) – Many physicians apply Aquaphor on patients immediately after a laser treatment, and before they leave the office. This multipurpose ointment helps soothe raw and tender skin, provides protection during the healing process, and creates a safe barrier that lets your skin breath. Key ingredients include glycerin, bisbolol (chamomile essence), and provitamin B5.
PCA Skin Post-Procedure Kit ($20) – Formulated by Arizona Dermatologist Jennifer Linder, MD, for skin that needs extra care in order to heal quickly, this five-product kit has everything you need to restore skin health, protect, speed healing and provide comfort. Kit includes trial sizes of Facial Wash (1 fl. oz.), ReBalance (0.25 oz.), Apres Peel Hydrating Balm (0.25 oz.), Perfecting Protection SPF 30 (0.25 oz.), and Silkcoat Balm (0.25 oz.).
Elta MD Laser Post Procedure Balm ($22) – This healing moisturizer was developed especially for use after laser procedures to keep skin moist and comfortable. “Elta MD products are ideal for post Fraxel. They calm irritation and feel great on the skin,” says New York Plastic Surgeon Bryan G. Forley.
Renee Rouleau Bio Calm Repair Masque ($49.50) - A soothing gel mask that reduces redness and relieves irritated skin from master facialist Renee Rouleau, it combines oat kernel extract, bisabolol, chamomilla recutita flower oil for anti-inflammatory, anti-redness relief, and calming effects.
JPAK Systems ($50 for a 14 day supply) – Created by Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon and AAFPRS member, Dr. Andrew Jacono, JPAK SystemsTM offers two homeopathic remedies to help minimize swelling and bruising after surgery and injectable treatments, containing arnica, bromelain, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, vitamin C and zinc.
When Your Skin Screams for Sunscreen
Frequent application of sunscreen is mandatory as post lasered skin is extra fragile and ultra sensitive. Broad protection (UVA and UVB) with SPF 30 or more is the general rule. You should apply sunscreen 20-minutes before going outside, and if you will be in direct sunlight, wear a hat and protective clothing for extra benefits.
SkinCeuticals UV Defense SPF 30 ($40) – SkinCeuticals recommends this sunscreen specifically for post-procedure protection. It’s broad spectrum and contains 7% transparent zinc oxide to protect against the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays. Chances of irritation are greatly reduced thanks to encapsulation of key ingredients.
Aveeno Natural Protection Lotion Sunscreen SPF 50 ($10) – Offering broad spectrum protection, this sunscreen is formulated with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which form a protective barrier against UVA/UVB rays, and soothes sensitive skin.
Beauty drinks are all the rage in Asia and in Europe, and now they are even popping up here in the US.
Instead of undergoing laser resurfacing to help replenish your body’s natural collagen stores, you can gulp some collagen-enriched beverages. Products include Black Fungus Collagen Drink, Red Collagen Youth Drink, and Glowelle’s line of beauty drinks. Even Coca Cola is getting in on the game with the Beautific Oenobiol brand.
But before you drink to that. Do these products really deliver on their promises? And more importantly, how do they taste?
Many U.S. beauty and nutrition experts say the science is sketchy, and that there are far better ways to improve skin health than doing shots of hyalurionic acid or collagen.
“Current evidence does not show that special products provide any greater benefit than any food or beverage,” says Connie Diekman, RD, the director of University Nutrition at Washington University in St Louis and a past president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “When products go through the gastrointestinal tract, they are subject to digestion just like any food so ‘special’ ingredients, vitamins or amino acids are subject to digestion.”
Still, drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated is important for skin health. This means water and other fluids. “Caffeine is acceptable if consumed in moderate amounts,” she says. “As an RD, I’d encourage people to rely on proper nutrition, adequate hydration and activity for a healthy body, including the skin.”
Don’t go drinking your favorite moisturizer or other beauty products, warns Ron M. Shelton, MD, a New York City dermatologist. “It is not a simple matter to replenish the skin by consuming the end product,” he says. “If someone can benefit by more hyaluronic acid in their dermis, consuming it would not deliver this mucopolysaccharide (sugar water with amino acids) to the skin’s dermis.”
Put another way: The molecules would be broken down and reassembled, but not delivered to the area below the wrinkle that Juvederm would fill up, he says. “So drinking a bottle of hyaluronic acid will not give one a result of lifting and filling that the hyaluronic acid injections accomplish.”
Sorry, eating or drinking collagen won’t replace that which is lost in our skin. Yes, eating more protein can help boost your collagen supply, but not if you have sun damage, he says. “The destroyed collagen from ultraviolet A, does not get replaced by dietary protein.”
If you are deficient in vitamin C, your collagen supply is at risk. Vitamin C supplements can help, but when it comes to skin, topical administration of antioxidants may help the agents reach the dermis better than consumption by mouth.
The bottom line about beauty drinks? If you like the taste, there is probably no risk, but if you are expecting that they come from the fountain of youth, you may be setting yourself up for a big disappointment. Instead, see your dermatologist or plastic surgeon to find out what you can do to boost your collagen supply and get rid of fine lines and wrinkles.