What is the main beauty secret? Women have been trying to find the answer for this question during many centuries; however, the answer is very simple: beautiful skin!
The state of the skin can reveal a lot of information about people’s age and health: certain skin conditions such as dull skin, acne, age spots, wrinkles and others can be as informative as one’s medical records.
Fortunately, the epidermis is able to recover quickly and change for the better. This ability is the basic principle of the most popular cosmetic procedures: peelings, or simply peels.
Peelings can be called a universal remedy for skin imperfections. The word “peel” comes from the English language and means “peel off” or “scrubbing”. In cosmetics, the word “exfoliation” or “peel” is often used. It can involve the use of various means and ingredients, but the main aim of any peeling procedure is to stimulate the skin recovery and to restore a youthful appearance.
Skin peeling types
Peelings differ depending on the depth of the impact as well as the technique used for the procedure. All skin exfoliation types to a greater or lesser extent affect the horny layer of epidermis and stimulate the process of production of new cells; often peelings are a preparatory stage before subsequent procedures.
Superficial, or light peelings, are the gentlest type of exfoliation which affect the horny layer of the epidermis only.
Medium depth peelings penetrate deeper into the skin.
Deep peelings are the most traumatic procedures which cause severe burns, partly or completely damaging the basement membrane.
Peeling procedures are also divided into several groups depending on the used technique. The most popular ones are mechanical peelings (with the use of abrasive particles), chemical peels (also activate the microcirculation which is induced by chemical stimulation) and enzymatic peelings, or enzyme peels (based on the use of enzymes of vegetable or animal origin).
Most types of peeling procedures are recommended in the period of least solar activity (for residents of Europe, it is the period from October to March). The reason is that new layers of the skin are very sensitive, and ultraviolet light can cause the appearance of age spots. For the same reason during and some time after the course of peeling, it is recommended to use cosmetic products with the SPF protection, and avoid tanning and trips to the sea.
Mechanical peeling procedures are carried out with the use of abrasives; it can be done manually or with special machines. The rule “the more natural, the better’ cannot be applied in this situation since the best abrasives are actually synthetic: they have a perfectly round shape which helps to clean the skin without scratching (i.e. damaging) it.
The main contraindications for mechanical peelings are the same as for other types of exfoliation: skin inflammation, open wounds, burns, dermatosis, etc.
Scrubs are gentle remedies for superficial peeling; normally it is a gel or creamy substance with abrasive particles. Not only do scrubs renew the skin – they can also have a soothing, moisturizing and nourishing effect. Scrubs as cosmetic products are designed for regular use and are often included in home care procedures. It is recommended to use scrubs once every two weeks for dry and sensitive skin, and once a week in the case of normal and/or oily skin.
Gommage is a cosmetic product that is used for removing dead skin cells; it is a gentler form of exfoliation which combines a chemical exfoliation through the use of enzymes with mechanical exfoliation through the action of rubbing. The name “gommage” comes from the French word which means “to erase”. First of all, a cream or paste with vegetable enzymes is applied to the skin and the enzymes soften the top layer of the epidermis. A few minutes later, when the gommage dries, it rolls up off the skin when being rubbed, picking up the outermost dead skin cells as well as pieces of dirt. Gommage is not recommended for thin, sensitive and mature skin; however, in the case of dry, oily and normal skin it can be used on a regular basis once a week.
Microdermabrasion is a type of skin exfoliation that involves the use of small crystals (e.g. diamond, aluminum, salt) with the help of special equipment. By adjusting the pressure, it is possible to carry out the superficial, medium or deep peeling procedures. It is necessary to have a course of procedures that can be performed only in beauty salons, not at home. Microdermabrasion is recommended for people with dull or sallow skin, mild acne, acne discoloration, pick marks, wrinkles, and very superficial acne scars. Depending on the severity of the problem, 5 to 10 procedures might be required.
Chemical peels are carried out with the use of various acids. In fact, they are strictly controlled chemical burns of the facial skin. The necessary effect is caused by exfoliants, substances that remove dead cells from the surface of the skin.
There are indications for each type of chemical peels; with regards to contraindications, chemical peels are not recommended in the following cases: periods of pregnancy and lactation, the presence of inflammation and open wounds on the skin, colds and infectious diseases, and hypersensitivity to chemicals and drugs.
Chemical peels with fruit acids
Superficial and medium depth chemical peels with the use of fruit acids (AHA acids) are considered to be one of safest yet the most effective treatment. These procedures are mainly recommended for women of a certain age (20 – 35 years old) with skin problems such as acne or first signs of aging.
In addition to the main purpose of peeling (i.e. cleansing the skin and stimulating the process of new cells production), acids help to solve other problems. For example, mandelic acid has anti-inflammatory, bacteriostatic, antioxidant, and whitening effect. Lactic acid has a strong moisturizing and lightening effect; it helps to rejuvenate the skin and stimulates collagen synthesis. Glycolic acid has anti-aging and firming effect; it also eliminates dark spots.
A course of several treatments is usually recommended to achieve good results; such procedures can serve as a preparatory stage before other treatments.
Salicylic peels and peels with TCA
Salicylic and trichloroacetic acids are often used for medium depth peelings. This procedure cannot be used as a home care treatment as it is considered to be more medical rather than aesthetic. Indications for these types of peels are acne, post-acne, fine wrinkles, freckles and age spots, as well as a dull complexion. It is recommended to start preparing the skin and the organism as a whole approximately one month before the course of procedures:
-Stop using scrubs and facial brushes
-Include a day cream with SPF 50 in home care treatments
-Two weeks before the first procedure: start using cosmetic products with fruit acids or have a course of superficial peeling procedures (if recommended by a beautician)
-A few days before the first procedure: start taking antiviral medications
-A couple of days before:stop sunbathing (including solarium), going to the sauna, having hot baths, and plucking eyebrows.
Immediately after the medium depth peeling procedure redness and swelling might occur, but these symptoms usually disappear within days. The recovery period is about one month; during this time, the skin peels off and is actively renewed. After one month, the final result is noticeable; if necessary, the procedure can be repeated in order to achieve the best results.
Phenol chemical peel
A deep peeling based on the use of phenol acid is the strongest type of peelings and is recommended for aging skin. The procedure helps to get rid of pronounced wrinkles as well as scars. This type of peeling is considered very aggressive and can only be carried out in a clinic, usually under general anesthesia. The recovery period normally takes about 6 months, but the rejuvenation effect lasts for 10 years or more.
One can undergo the procedure of a deep chemical peel only once in a lifetime. It is important to know that the phenol peeling completely destroys the cells that produce melanin. Such treatment is not recommended for women with dark skin, because as a result the facial skin may appear much lighter than the skin on the neck.
It is also essential to remember that after a deep peeling procedure the skin will remain very sensitive, and for the rest of one’s life it will be necessary to protect it from exposure to direct sunlight using cosmetic products with high SPF every day.
Enzyme peels are safer for all the skin types as they do not wound the skin and are not as harsh as chemical peels; at the same time they are very effective. The active elements are enzymes – organic substances of animal or vegetable origin that act like catalysts (accelerators) during chemical reactions in the organism.
Enzyme peels can be used for all skin types, including sensitive skin and skin with rosacea. As a result of the course, tissue turgor improves, fine wrinkles disappear, pores shrink, post-acne and age spots fade, and the activity of the sebaceous glands decreases. Another advantage of enzyme peels is that they can be carried out at any time of the year, and are not prohibited during pregnancy and lactation.
A course of enzyme peels is carried out with the following frequency of procedures: once or twice a week for normal or oily skin, and once every 7-10 days for sensitive or dry skin. The treatment requires no recovery period; it does not cause hyperemia or skin flaking.
As any cosmetic procedure, enzyme peels have contraindications: skin diseases during the period of exacerbation, skin inflammation, open wounds, herpes, diabetes, colds and infections.
We have classified the most popular treatments for skin renewal used nowadays. Knowing the purpose and characteristics of each of them, it is easy to predict the outcome and achieve the desired effect. It is important to remember that skin imperfections are nothing more than a task that can be solved; all that remains to be done is to select the optimal strategy for achieving the target.