Sunday, July 19, 2020

SKIN PEELS—should I or shouldn’t I?

The term peel is thrown around a lot these days. What it usually refers to is an acid or other caustic substance that is applied to the skin of the face. Acids decompose cells, so having a peel helps to remove several layers of dead cells on the surface of the skin. How many layers depends on the strength of the peel. This strength also determines how much of a benefit or detriment the effects of the peel will have on your skin.

I am not fond of strong acid peels. Most glycolic peels given in facials are 20%-40% or even higher. The stronger the peel, the more dilation of the capillaries. So the stronger the peel, the more potential harm can befall the capillaries. When it comes to caring for the skin, moderation will usually bring about the best results.

Are chemical peels good?

It’s not a matter of whether a chemical peel is good or not, but whether you need a chemical peel. And more importantly, are you a good candidate for this type of procedure? The strong phenol peels of the past are still used today, but there are many other ways to either reduce wrinkles or lighten pigmentation that are far less traumatizing to the face than chemical peels. Chemical peels, unlike glycolic peels, have long-term effects, whether for the good of your skin or not.

I would exercise extreme caution if you are about to embark on a chemical peel. You may be trading one thing for another. You may be ridding yourself of some of the life experience you have accumulated on your face, which we call wrinkles, but in the process you may gain permanent sensitivity, problems with hyperpigmentation, or something else that is irreversible.

A TCA peel (using trichloracetic acid) is just another name for a type of commonly used chemical peel. I have a client who decided to do a full-on change to her aging skin. She got a TCA peel, liposuction on her cheeks, and fat implants in her lips. Doing so much at once can be overwhelming to say the least, and perhaps even dangerous at the worst. Infections can arise with any procedure, and you certainly don’t want to develop an infection within the delicate tissues of your facial skin. She got through the procedures without incident, but she did regret doing so much at one time.

Obagi® is an entire product line that also has a strong TCA peel as part of a skin care program. Here is an email from a client of mine who went on Obagi, had the peel, and had some good results along with some sensitivities from the products.

I had great success with Obagi. It really helped my hyperpigmentation. I can’t say that it helped my breakouts, partly because of my skin care habits (I sometimes pick at the pimples) and partly because my eating habits go from good to bad. I also know my sugar intake has something to do with the skin problems I still experience.

I am rarely in the sun anymore, where I was prior to using these products. Not being in the sun makes a big difference with my pigmentation. The sun makes my brown spots come out quickly, even with limited exposure.

Keeping your skin out of the sun will always keep hyperpigmentation away. It will keep all pigmentation from presenting itself. For most of us, staying indoors and out of the sun is simply not practical. But if you have pigmentation issues and it really bothers you, staying out of the sun may be your only option. Then again, perhaps you can just relax into the hyperpigmentation and enjoy life outside—still protected, but knowing the sun will continue to cause pigmentation issues for you.

Here are comments from another client: 

I think Obagi is very helpful, but I don’t know how long I can keep using the treatments. I am on the maintenance program, so I use Retin-A and a product called Blender (a bleaching cream) and Exfoderm [these are both Obagi products] two times a week. The other days I am trying to use a more natural product line.

I don’t want to use Obagi every day anymore. My opinion is that it is great for temporary use. Long-term, your skin can become very sensitive, and I don’t think that is a good thing. 

After having a TCA peel, there are no guarantees on how sensitive your skin will be. This client is also using Retin-A, which in and of itself can be irritating to many people, along with a bleaching cream that has chemicals in it that may irritate, and an exfoliation product that may add to her sensitivities.

Remember, you can’t solve internal problems with external changes. Seeing fewer wrinkles when you look in the mirror may be the surface objective when you get a procedure. Just make sure that how you feel about yourself—as a person, not a body—is not the motivation for these external changes.

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