The truth about chemical peels

Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from fruit and milk sugars

with Michelle vernon

Saturday, April 01, 2017

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To the contrary, chemical peels are not made of harmful chemicals like the name might suggest, but are 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 effects which they obtained from these remedies were due to the alpha hydroxy acid which is better known as ‘chemical peels’.


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:

1. Glycolic acid — sugar cane

2. Lactic acid — milk

3. Malic acid — apples and pears

4. Citric acid — oranges and lemons

5. Tartaric acid — grapes


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, and 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.


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-coloured skin are at a higher risk of scarring pigment changes with alpha hydroxy acid, 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, 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 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.


1. 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 alpha hydroxy acids 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.

2. Photoaging

Sun exposure is considered one of the major factors in premature ageing of the skin and can be seen as wrinkles, rough and leathery appearance, and hyperpigmentation.

Scientists tell us that 85 per cent of the sun damage that manifest as we get older occurred before we were the age of 18. With consistent use of alpha hydroxy acid, one is able to reverse the damage done to the skin by photoaging.

3. Acne

Similarly, one of the major causes of acne is hyperkeratinisation (abnormal corneocyte build-up ).

When the dead skin cells clump together, a blockage occurs which inhibits the flow of oxygen, allowing bacteria to flourish, resulting in acne. Alpha hydroxy acids loosen the skin cells, allowing dislodgement of the comedonal plugs. Also, through reduction of the corneocytes, follicles are prevented from being clogged, which greatly inhibits acne production.

4. Large pores

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

5. Hyperpigmentation

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.

6. Ingrown hairs

Alpha hydroxy acids can loosen the dead skin cells and free trapped hairs.

7. Moisturizers

Alpha hydroxy acids are superb moisturisers due to the water-binding ability .

8. Delivery agent

By thinning the dead cell layer, alpha hydroxy acids enhance the penetration of other ingredients used in conjunction with them.


• Smoother softer more supple texture.

• Skin that is less dry and rough to the touch.

• Smaller and more refined pores.

• An even tone and healthy appearance.

• Complexion has a radiant glow.

• Reductionin the incidence of acne.

• Diminished fine lines and wrinkles.

• Improvement in pigmented areas.

Have your skin evaluated by a skin expert.

At Body Studio Skincare, our team of experts are trained to evaluate your skin type and condition and recommend the most effective chemical peel suited to your skin. We keep you informed of what to expect every step of the way. Before your skin peel, we will discuss your skin goals, the benefits, post-treatment care for your skin, and answer any questions you have about the treatment.

Michelle Vernon is a licensed aesthetician who operates the Body Studio Skincare located at 23 Central Plaza, Kingston 10, and Fairview Shopping Centre, Montego Bay. She may be reached at telephone 908-0438 or 684-9800; IG@bodystudioskincare; E-mail:; Website:


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