Are chemical peels chemicals?

Skin Care Matters

With Michelle Vernon

Saturday, April 09, 2016

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To the contrary, chemical peels are not made of harmful chemicals like the name would suggest, but more commonly made from fruit and milk acids

For centuries, both men and women have been looking for ways to keep their skin clear and youthful. For example, Cleopatra bathed in sour milk to soften her skin and the ladies of the French Court applied a potion made of fermented wine to keep the skin smooth and free from blemishes unknown to them. The positive effect which they obtained from these remedies were due to the alpha hydroxy acid better known as “chemical peels”.

Types of Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from fruit and milk sugars. The most commonly used alpha hydroxy acids are glycolic acid and lactic acid because they have a special ability to penetrate the skin. The following are the five major types of alpha hydroxy acids found in skincare products and their sources:

glycolic acid — sugar cane

lactic acid — milk

malic acid — apples and pears

citric acid — oranges and lemons

tartaric acid — grapes

How Alpha hydroxy acids work

Alpha hydroxy acids work mainly as an exfoliant. They cause the cells of the epidermis to become separated, allowing the dead skin cells to slough off, making room for regrowth of new skin. This process stimulates the production of collagen and elastin.

Alpha hydroxy acids are reported to improve wrinkling, roughness and hyperpigmentation of the skin after repeated treatments.

Side Effects of Alpha Hydroxy Acids

The two major side effects of alpha hydroxy acids are irritation and sun sensitivity. Symptoms of irritation include redness, burning, itching, pain and possibly scarring. People with darker colored skin are at a higher risk of scarring pigment changes with alpha hydroxy acids if not administered by a professional. It is clear that anyone using alpha hydroxy acids must use a good sunscreen that contains UVA and UVB protection

Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Chemical Peels

Alpha hydroxy acids in various concentrations are used in chemical peels. These chemical peels give results that are similar to microdermabrasion — erasing fine lines and giving the skin a smoother appearance with one to three applications.

However, these treatments must be repeated every three to six months to maintain this skin appearance (given that this is just for maintenance). For corrective treatments a chemical peel is given every six weeks until the desired goal is achieved. The higher the alpha hydroxy acid concentration used in a chemical peel, the more skin irritation occurs. A person could expect to have severe redness, flaking and oozing skin that can last for one to four weeks.

Benefits of AHAs

Remove dead skin

Hyperkeratinisation refers to the manner in which dead skin builds up abnormally as with a callous or dry, aged thickened skin. The skin looks and feels rough and its ability to retain water becomes impaired. The gentle and continuous exfoliation by AHAs of dead skin cells from the surface layers of the stratum corneum allows the epidermis to become smoother and softer, and reduces the appearance of fines lines and wrinkles while encouraging the cell renewal process


Sun exposure is considered one of the major factors in premature aging of the skin and can be seen as wrinkles, rough and leathery appearance, and hyperpigmentation. Scientists tell us that 85% of the sun damage that manifests as we get older occurred before we were age of 18. With consistent use of AHAs one is able to reverse the damage done to the skin by photoaging


Similarly, one of the major causes of acne is hyperkeratinization (abnormal corneocyte build-up). When the dead skin cells clump together, a blockage occurs which inhibits the flow of oxygen allowing acne bacteria to flourish, resulting in acne. AHAs loosen the skin cells, allowing dislodgement of the comedonal plugs. Also through reduction of the corneocytes, follicle are prevented from being clogged, which greatly inhibits acne production.

Dead cells can build up around the follicle openings (pores) making them appear more prominent or dilated. By acting as a follicular cleanser AHAs can clear the pore openings making them smaller and more refined


Sun damage, scars and other health problems can lead to hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration.

Alpha hydroxy acids can help to “inhibit melanin formation” and remove discolorations that leave your skin tone dark.

Ingrown Hairs

AHA can loosen the dead skin cells and free trapped hairs


AHA are superb moisturisers due to their water-binding ability.

Delivery Agent

By thinning the dead cell layer, AHA enhances the penetration of other ingredients used in conjunction with them

What can a client expect after using AHAs

•Smoother, softer, more supple texture

•skin that’s less dry and rough to the touch Pores smaller and more refined

•An even tone and healthy appearance

•Complexion has a radiant glow

•Reduces the incidences of acne

•Diminishes fine lines and wrinkles

•Improvement in pigmented areas

Michelle Vernon is a Licensed Esthetician and Proprietor of Body Studio Skincare located at 23 Central Plaza, Kingston 10 Tel: 9080438 Watsapp :2779800 Email: bodystudioskincare@ IG: @bodystudioskincare Web: www.



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