Antiaging chemical peels achieve a noticeable improvement in skin tone and texture to provide more youthful, radiant skin. They have ingredients that can remove the top superficial layer of skin (exfoliate) and affect the growth of new epidermal cells to improve fine lines, smooth, and soften skin. Chemical peels damage the skin in a controlled manner, producing a superficial wound. The injury caused by these peeling agents stimulates new collagen. Treatments should be done at least once a month for best results to encourage cellular turnover. Clients who suffer from photodamage due to ultraviolet sunlight respond best to chemical peels. The skin’s natural healing process repairs the damage. But how many times can a skin care professional perform a peel before a client’s skin becomes worse than when the treatment started?


How many times have you heard, “I want a more flawless, fresher, younger, brighter complexion – I want that ‘natural glow’ look!” But, are clients doing too much of a good thing? Are they combining strong at-home peels (where the dosage and application are not controlled by an aesthetician) with other aggressive exfoliating spa treatments like microdermabrasion or dermaplaning? If they are, then hands-down they are addicted. Long-term side effects like skin sensitization and dark spots occur if they are exposed to ultraviolet rays without sun protection. When it comes to chemical peels, knowing the types of peeling agents being used is crucial. It is important to understand which ones are water-soluble or oil-soluble and the pH level.


Alpha hydroxy acids are water-soluble and are naturally occurring, non-toxic, and organic. Alpha hydroxy acids are the mildest of peels and also the only ones that can be purchased over- the-counter in bottles or on pre-moistened pads. They include glycolic (sugar cane), lactic (milk), malic (apple), tartaric (grapes), mandelic (sweet almonds), and citric (citrus) acid. The FDA has warned consumers that overuse can cause sensitivity to sun exposure and minor irritation. Beta hydroxy acids are oil-soluble. Salicylic acid is extracted from wintergreen and birch. Beta hydroxy acids are relatively safe, low risk, are self-neutralizing, and produce a drying lifting effect. They are frequently used to improve oily and acne skins. Trichloracetic acid will penetrate only if used in aqueous base. It is non-toxic, self-neutralizing, and keratolytic. It is very effective in low strengths and can be used alone or with other acids. Jessner and red wine vinegar acid (acetic acid) also fall into this category. Jessner is a combination of lowerstrength acids that produce an efficient exfoliating agent with less risk. Red wine vinegar is an all-natural acid with high antioxidant content. The theory is that it produces less free-radical damage, causing less injury to the skin.


Can a client peel too much? The telltale signs include a waxy appearance to the skin that looks like stretched shrink wrap. The result of over exfoliation is increased irritation, redness, and sensitivity. People with darker complexions suffer the most complications. Many will experience an unusual darkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation) that is permanent when exposed to sun. Moderation is the key to healthy, glowing, and radiant skin.


Proper post-peel skin care can minimize any visible side effects of a peel. Remind clients to wash their face with cool water for a few days and to stay out of saunas and steam rooms. Strenuous exercise that involves heavy sweating increases blood circulation to the face, which can intensify any itching and redness. Be sure to have clients moisturize and hydrate skin with nourishing ingredients, such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Avoid using any alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, retinoids, or vitamin C products. Always instruct the client to wear a broad-spectrum sun protectant factor when outside. Skin is more delicate and vulnerable after a peel and without proper sun protection, there is a tremendous risk of damaging the rejuvenated skin that could cause even more visible signs of aging. With the countless benefits of chemical peels, it is easy for a client to want too much of a good thing. Keep clients educated and aware of over-peeling practices. Long-term side effects are not worth the instant glow that comes from a quick peel. The first step to overcoming a peel addiction is admittance. As skin care professionals, keep a close eye on client’s skin in the spa, their homecare products, and monitor how their skin is affected by peels. Safe peeling practices are the only way to ensure clients achieve a true, healthy glow without the chance of destroying their skin barrier and more.