Incredibly, Queen Cleopatra was one of the first advocates of chemical peels and used goat’s milk (lactic acid) to achieve softer skin. Since then chemical peels have become one of the top 10 most commonly performed aesthetic procedures in the world, thanks to their versatility and ability to enhance the results of skincare regimens, as well as tackling more significant skincare concerns such as balancing pigmentation, treating photodamage, acne scarring, wrinkles and dullness.
Chemical peels are a passion topic for Dr Uliana Gout – a cosmetic doctor and one of the UK’s leading experts on this area of aesthetic medicine. Dr Gout is a Board Member of the International Peeling Society and here, she gives an in-depth summary of two key professional peel treatments from the SkinCeuticals portfolio.
Considerations before peeling
As with any professional aesthetic treatment, the first step should always be a full consultation with a qualified practitioner to ensure that the chemical peel is appropriate for your skin needs and that are no contra-indications, which could result in a negative treatment experience.
Common contra-indications for chemical peels include (but are not limited to) pregnancy, breast feeding, sunburnt, irritated or broken skin, herpes virus, laser hair removal photosensitizing medications and oral isotretinoin to name a few etc.
Gel Peel GL
According to Dr Gout, this is the ideal ‘entry-level’ peel in the SkinCeuticals professional treatment range – it includes 20% Glycolic Acid, 10% Lactic Acid and has a pH of 3.2. It is ideal as an initial peel for sensitive skin and helps to prepare the skin for extractions. In essence, if you haven’t had a professional chemical peel treatment before, Gel Peel GL is a lovely introduction.
The lactic acid ingredient has an exfoliating action in peels, but also a moisturising function, which makes this peel good for menopausal women, frequent travellers – anyone with drier skin, as it reveals newer epidermal layers and helps moisturise the skin.
Gel Peel GL can be used for any gender, any age group and any Fitzpatrick skin type and is used to treat problematic skin (with or without breakouts), photodamage and to improve skin elasticity and wrinkles.
For optimal results, Dr Gout recommends booking a course of 4-6 Gel Peel GL treatments, each spaced 10-14 days apart. In general, once the skin has returned to ‘normal’, it is possible to repeat the peel.
Here’s what to expect. Before your skincare professional applies the peel, they will first degrease the skin – this ensures the peel will work effectively. Sensitive areas such as lips, nostrils and around the eyes are protected with a barrier cream, then Gel Peel GL is applied to the face using a fan brush and left for 3-5 minutes, or until erythema (redness) is seen. The peel is then neutralised with water and any redness can be treated by applying a cooling, hydrating product such as Phyto Corrective Masque.
Post-treatment care is pivotal to a good peel, and Dr Gout recommends using an antioxidant serum (such as C E Ferulic) to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and to stimulate collagen production. Sun protection is also essential for medical skincare and peels to prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Skin is more sensitive to sun exposure following a peel treatment and unless it is protected with a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen, it can result in more pigmentation, particularly in darker skin types.
Finally, Dr Gout recommends following a tailored homecare regimen with an effective cleanser, antioxidant product and broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen to maximise and maintain results.
Pigment Balancing Peel
This peel is at the other end of the SkinCeuticals professional treatment portfolio spectrum: deeper penetrating peel, which combines brightening and anti-inflammatory agents with a peeling solution to target hyperpigmentation, improve photodamaged skin and treat melasma and acne.
For concerns around pigmentation, the simple 'stretch test' can be used as an initial indicator of pigmentation depth - using the fingers to stretch a small area of skin. If the pigmentation goes lighter, the pigment is located at the epidermal skin layer, or if there is no change, the pigmentation is located more deeply in the dermal skin layer. This helps determine what level of peel is required to treat effectively.
Pigment Balancing Peel contains 40% Glycolic Acid, 10% Citric Acid, 27% Vitamin C and 4% Emblica and with a pH of 1.6 will penetrate the skin more deeply. Again, Dr Gout recommends booking a series of six treatments, spaced 10-14 days apart for maximal results.
Your skincare professional will first prepare the skin (cleansing, degreasing and protecting sensitive areas) before applying the Pigment Balancing Peel with a fan brush and leaving for 2-4 minutes or until erythema (redness) becomes visible, at which point the peel is neutralised with sodium bicarbonate solution (SkinCeuticals Peel Neutralizer).
Post peel, an antioxidant treatment (such as C E Ferulic) followed by a lipid barrier repair cream to replace lost ceramides and cholesterol (such as Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2) are recommended for regular use. Once again, a high quality, broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen is essential to protect the skin and Dr Gout recommends leaving it a few days until full skin recovery before resuming the use of active exfoliant skincare (e.g. containing salicylic acid, glycolic acid or retinoids etc.).