What is a chemical peel?

A chemical peel is an acid solution that is applied to the skin. It dissolves the outermost layer of skin cells, which then peels off over the following days to reveal the fresher, younger layer below. Peels are very effective in treating a large range of skin concerns such as aging, sun damage, acne, mild scarring, improving skin brightness, and evening skin tone.

Peels can be light, moderate or deep. Light peels require no down time from work and your normal activities. Moderate peels may require a day or two, and deep peels can require a week or more of down time to allow the skin to fully heal. Estheticians who are not working in a medical setting perform light to moderate peels only. Deep peels can only be performed by a physician, or under a physician’s supervision, for your safety.

Most skin colors and types can benefit from chemical peels, though it is best to check with your esthetician about which peel might be right for you. If you’re taking acne medication, Retin-A or Accutane, talk to your esthetician and/or doctor about stopping the medication before and during treatment to avoid complications. Your esthetician can review any other contraindications with you prior to your treatment to determine if a chemical peel is right for you. Be sure to answer all questions honestly and completely on your consultation form prior to your peel.

After most peels, the skin will be pink to red, and look shiny and tight. It is vital to apply sunscreen of SFP 30 or greater to the skin for the next 48 hours, minimum. You must also stay out of the sun, as your skin will be very sensitive to UV rays and could be damaged by sun exposure. The skin will begin to flake or peel within 2–3 days after the treatment, unless you had a lactic acid peel—these encourage moisture retention and may not produce any actual peeling. Sun-damaged areas of your skin will appear darker at first, then will lighten. This is normal. Deeper peels can produce peeling for a week or more. To assist in removing the flaking skin, an enzyme peel or light microdermabrasion treatment is sometimes scheduled a week or so after the initial peel. For maximum results, a series of peels is usually recommended, and may be necessary for treating challenging issues such as hyperpigmentation.

The skin is cleansed and a prep solution will be applied to remove surface oils and allow the peel to penetrate the skin evenly. Any sensitive areas that cannot be treated will be protected with a thin film of petroleum jelly. Your eyes will be covered to protect them. One or more chemical mixtures will be applied, such as glycolic acid (from sugar cane), trichloroacetic acid (similar to bleach), salicylic acid (wintergreen—good for acne), lactic acid (from milk), or a combination peel called a Jessners peel. The peel will be applied in 1–3 layers, depending on the depth of penetration intended. The acids react with the skin to produce a “controlled wound,” allowing fresh skin to regenerate and emerge. A tingling, burning or hot sensation is normal. Most peels remain on the skin only a few minutes, and are closely watched by the esthetician. A fan may help you stay more comfortable. After some peels, a neutralizing solution is applied to stop the peel. Other peels are self-timed and stop on their own.

Your esthetician will recommend healing products to use for the week or two following your peel. These will soothe and nourish your skin, and aid in its recovery. Usually it is best to avoid makeup during this time, to allow the skin to heal and function without interference. However, if you must wear makeup, mineral makeup will not adversely affect the skin.

What is microdermabrasion, and how will I benefit from it?

Microdermabrasion is a method of exfoliation that uses a machine to remove dead surface skin cells and initiate cellular turnover. It was first adopted in Europe in the 1980s and was introduced to the United States in the late 1990s. Its introduction led the revolution of device-driven, noninvasive cosmetic procedures. Today, microdermabrasion remains one of the most popular services employed in both medical and day spas.

The two most common methods are crystal and diamond. In my practice I use the diamond tip microdermabrasion with LED light therapy.

The crystal method uses a wand which sprays fine crystals onto the skin, loosening and removing dead skin cells, while simultaneously using vacuum suction to remove the used crystals and dead skin. It has been compared to a mild “sandblasting” of the skin. The diamond method uses a diamond-tipped wand to sand and resurface the skin, combined with suction to remove the dead skin cells. Both methods stimulate blood circulation and revitalize collagen production, which promotes younger-looking skin. The degree of exfoliation depends on the number of passes, level of crystal spray or coarseness of the diamond wand, the pressure and suction used, and the frequency of treatment.
I chose the diamond tip method because the crystals used in the crystal method contain aluminum and is a harsher treatment for your skin.

Microdermabrasion can be helpful to treat aging and sun-damaged skin, altered pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, stretch marks, and some types of acne and acne scarring. It is especially effective in treating the under-eye area and crow’s feet. Results may include improved skin tone, reduced visual appearance of aging, fewer breakouts, diminished appearance of scars, refined skin pores, renewed elasticity, and a healthy glow. Microdermabrasion may be recommended for those with chemical sensitivities and can be used on most skin colors and types, although there are some contraindications. Ask me if microdermabrasion is right for you.

The procedure is noninvasive and requires little preparation. You may remove your makeup and come to the treatment room with a clean face, or allow your skin care professional to remove your makeup for you.

Most clients do not find the procedure to be painful, and it requires no anesthetic. The esthetician will instruct you to relax as she applies the wand to your face in a slow, methodical way. One microdermabrasion treatment should take 30 minutes to an hour. There are no side effects, and your skin will look glowing and fresh almost immediately after the treatment. Some more aggressive treatments may cause the skin to look slightly pink and tender for a few hours afterward. You can resume normal activities and apply makeup and moisturizer directly after your microdermabrasion session.

Your esthetician can provide the best guidance on caring for your skin after a treatment. For 24 hours following a Brazilian waxing, you should not sunbathe, use a tanning bed, use a hot tub, be sexually intimate, or perform exercise that will cause significant sweating. Loose clothing worn after the appointment is the most comfortable.

Keep the area clean and gently exfoliate the area to prevent ingrown hairs. Special products can be purchased for this. Your esthetician will recommend which products will be best for you.

If you decide you want to continue sporting your Brazilian style, waxing at approximately four-week intervals is recommended to reduce discomfort on follow-up visits. In time, less hair will grow back, and it will become finer and lighter in color.

What are antiaging treatments?

Thanks to the wonders of science, and innovation by skin care professionals, you can choose from a wide range of antiaging treatments. You need not have wrinkles or discoloration to actively participate in an antiaging regime—many smart consumers begin caring for and protecting their skin at a young age.

Consumers today are opting for minimally invasive procedures to avoid downtime and the unmistakable appearance of having had surgery. People may notice after treatments with your skin care professional you simply seem healthier, happier, less tired, and more confident.

Some antiaging treatments your skin care professional may be able to provide are a wide variety of facials, microdermabrasion, chemical exfoliation, galvanic treatment, and phototherapy (exposure to light-emitting diodes or intense pulsed light). He or she may be trained in a host of other treatments that, while not strictly antiaging, go a long way toward making you feel more attractive, such as hair removal, makeup application, and sunless tanning.

Anyone who is smart enough to use sunscreen is already participating in an antiaging regimen, and there is so much more you can do. Treatment recommendations will vary according to skin type and condition, chronological age and skin maturity, level of sun damage (everyone has some), and the goals you have for your skin. Your esthetician can outline your options and make recommendations.

Be ready to fill out a medical questionnaire and describe what medications and skin care products you are using. Your therapist will do an analysis of your skin, look for any interactions between products and medications, and devise a treatment plan that’s suitable for your skin type and condition. If possible, come to your appointment without anything on your skin; otherwise your skin care professional will cleanse your skin. Start your care when you are ready to commit to a series of treatments and a home care regimen.

The results of your treatment may be obvious right away or may take some time to achieve. This depends entirely on your program and the methods used. Your skin care professional should be able to outline realistic goals for you. In some cases, skin is in poor condition and needs to be strengthened and conditioned before antiaging treatments can be performed. If you are suffering from acne, dermatitis, or rosacea, you may have to set your antiaging goals aside until you’ve cleared those symptoms. The good news is you may gain younger-looking skin as a side benefit of clearing and treating these conditions.

Your esthetician can provide the best guidance on caring for your skin after a treatment. He or she may have products available for your use. It’s key to commit to a home care regimen in order to maximize your investment in the treatments your esthetician provides.