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What is a skin peel?

Superficial skin peels involve the application of a chemical peeling agent to the skin in order to remove the damaged outer layers, resulting in the appearance of new, regenerated skin which is smooth-textured, even-toned and less wrinkled. These controlled peels range in strength from superficial peels, which can be performed by doctors and aesthetic therapists, to much deeper peels which are only conducted by medical professionals.


Superficial chemical peels are generally safe because they only affect the epidermis and can have beneficial effects on an array of skin concerns, including acne, pigmentation, melasma, sun damage and ageing. Even though penetration is superficial, positive changes can also be seen in the deeper layer of the skin, with the stimulation of collagen production in the dermis. Collagen is important for anti-ageing and skin repair.

There are a number of ingredients that can be used to peel the skin, but the most commonly used are alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), eg. glycolic, lactic, citric and malic acids, and Beta Hydroxy acids (BHA), eg. Salicylic acid.

AHAs occur naturally in sugar cane, milk, and a variety of fruits, and have been used on the skin for thousands of years, beginning with the Ancient Egyptian women who would bathe in sour milk to smooth their skin.

Patients usually tolerate the peel well, and will experience a tingling or itching sensation, or a feeling of warmth. The degree of tingling or itching is usually indicative of the overall condition of the skin, ie if the client is using good homecare products and the skin is well-hydrated, she may not feel the peel as intensely as a patient that has not looked after her skin well. Once the peel has been ‘neutralised’ the skin will once again feel comfortable, and only perhaps a little warm. This is due to increased blood circulation.

When the acids are applied to the skin, they break down the bonds between dead skin cells and the skin then sloughs off these cells over the next 2-3 days. As a result, the patient may experience a sand-papery texture, mild flaking or a tight feeling of the skin.  It is important at this time to keep the skin well-hydrated and to apply a good quality sunscreen.

Following this short period of dryness or flaking, a more youthful, healthier looking skin becomes visible. So the skin typically looks it’s best 3-4 days post treatment, with a beautiful radiant glow!

Post peel care is vitally important. The skin has been sensitized by the peel, so excessive sun exposure must be avoided for the next 48 hours. Heavy cardiovascular exercise should be avoided for 48 hours as perspiration will burn the skin, and will make the skin more vulnerable to bacterial infection. Do not use products containing active ingredients, like Vitamin A for 3 days pre- and post-peel.

It is always advisable to do a series of skin peels in order to achieve best results on specific skin concerns, and consult with your therapist regarding other aesthetic procedures like laser, microneedling and microdermabrasion, and how to structure good in-clinic routine treatments for optimal results.

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