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chemical peels, how to choose which ingredients and the benefits for a healthier skin

Chemical Peels

Chemical peeling, or chemical exfoliation, is an accelerated exfoliation induced by chemical agents that cause a controlled damage resulting in thickening and strengthening of the epidermis, the deposition of healthy collagen and therefore increases in dermal volume. The result is an improved appearance of the skin, with fewer signs of ageing. They are also used to balance sebum, improve the appearance of scarring and for pigmentation issues The best part of using chemical peels is that they function by taking advantage of a natural biological process that is constantly at work in our skin, desquamation. It literally removes or stimulates faster exfoliation of the layers of skin so that newer, healthier skin cells can surface. In that process, blemishes, scars, pigmentation and other imperfections are peeled away. Depending on the extent of the damage and peel type chosen, one treatment might not completely eliminate imperfections, but it can help to make them much less obvious. Our aesthetic peels light to medium, they are AHA and BHA, allowing for a general mild to moderate skin improvement without risk of creating issues that can occur with deeper peels such as Phenol, or TCA

There are three types of peel: light (superficial) medium and deep.

Light peels- Light peels are safe when administered correctly. - Suitable for every kind of skin type - Regular treatments at correct intervals ensures healthy skin and maintain positive benefits. - Treating the very top layer of skin (outer epidermis) - Fast treatment time - Little to no discomfort during treatment and little downtime; slight redness and tightness that subsides very quickly.

Medium peels- Medium peels are safe when administered correctly - Suitable for most skin types - Treating the the top and middle layers of skin - Slightly longer treatment time - A slight burning or prickling stinging sensation may be felt during application - Skin may remain red for longer (1-2 days) - Treatment is required at longer intervals

Deep Peels- Not suitable for darker skin types - Treat deeper layers of skin - Local anaesthetic required - A cold sensation may be felt when the peel is applied - Downtime is much longer (weeks to months) there will be redness, skin will turn brown, exfoliation can be significant and in some cases they cause swelling - Results in skin lightening

Types of aesthetic peels


Biological enzymes such as Papain and Bromelain stimulate exfoliation by digesting inter corneocyte cohesion. These proteolytic enzymes decompose proteins into smaller fragments, causing a softening effect to the skin and a sloughing of corneocytes. Unlike AHAs, their activity is not pH dependent but is activated by water and limited in the amount of exfoliation that can be achieved.

Hydroxy There are two types of hydroxy acids- alpha and beta. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are naturally occurring carboxylic acids found in many foods, including glycolic acid (sugar cane), lactic acid (milk), citric acid (citrus fruits), and malic acid (apples) mandelic acid (almonds) AHAs are moisturizing, therefore the best choice for dehydrated or ageing skin.

Glycolic acid The glycolic acid is a carboxylic acid and structurally is the smallest belonging to the class of αlpha-hydroxy acids. It is extracted from sugar cane, beet and grapes. The peeling molecule "queen" for its cosmetic efficacy placed to various imperfections: discoloration, hyperpigmentation, atonia, dehydration, wrinkles, devitalized skin, hyperkeratosis, scarring, stretch marks and blemished skin. Its activity is linked to the ability of reducing the forces of cohesion between the corneocytes through a chemical mechanism. The exfoliation of the upper layer of the epidermis and the consequent increase the rate of cell turnover produce an increase in the activity of fibroblasts. It is an important ally for the treatment of acne by favoring the superficial exfoliation and it helps to eliminate hyperpigmentated cells from sun damage. Its powerful action stimulates in the dermis the synthesis of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid producing a moisturising effect for improved compactness and elasticity of the skin. So it works on two levels: on the surface with its regenerative action, stimulating the desquamation process and cellular renewal determining brightness, smoothness and uniformity of tone, while the deeper layers of the skin acquire hydration and better density.

Mandelic acid Mandelic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid, created by heating bitter almond extract. The name "mandelic" comes from the word "mandel" which in German means almond. It works with delicate chemical exfoliation, breaking the weak bonds that bind the corneocytes. It plays an important keratolytic action, removes the damaged cells and stimulates the natural cellular turnover. It increases the activity of fibroblasts and collagen and elastin production for a regenerated, smoother and brighter skin. Its action against discoloration, hyperpigmentation and scarring gives the skin a more even uniform color. Its natural antibacterial properties also make it an ingredient of choice to treat acneic and asphyxiated skins as it helps to fight bacteria and promotes a dermopurifying action. It is also called "summer peeling" for its possibility to be used during the months of higher sun exposure given its lack of photo sensitising action. Compared with glycolic acid, it performs its task with a more delicate and moderate action, so the use of this larger molecule acid may also be recommended in facial treatments where a more gentle action is needed. Mandelic acid constitutes the new generation of soft-peeling, since it allows to achieve excellent results due to its larger molecular structure while reducing side effects such as burning sensation, redness, which are common with other chemical exfoliants.

Lactic acid

Lactic acid is derived from sour milk, known as the soft alpha hydroxy, it is particularly suited to more sensitive skins, it great for hydration. Alpha-hydroxy acids are water soluble so can be neutralized using water and help separate dead skin from healthy skin. Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs) are oil soluble. BHAs are able to penetrate deeper into pores, which contains sebum and helps to control exfoliation of the dead skin cells that build up inside the pore. Salicylic Acid is the only BHA known for the treatment of acne and acne-prone skin types, it is also anti inflammatory and anti bacterial.

Beta Hydroxy Acid

Salicylic acid is the beta-hydroxy acid peel chemical peel. it has a larger molecule and is extremely effective for the treatment of mixed skin types with impurities and acne. It naturally occurs in willow bark (Salix Alba) and in the leaves of wintergreen (Gaultheria Procumbens). Its powerful keratolytic and exfoliating action is selective, since it acts solely on keratins and corneocytes. Its targeted action has no effect on other proteins therefore only destroys the cells of the stratum corneum (surface action). At the same time, however it causes an intense proliferative reaction of the germinative layer of the epidermis hence the removal of the surface stratum corneum, it stimulates the regeneration of the deeper cell layers. This action makes it an excellent peel choice for the renewal of the epidermal layers when the skin appears dull, thickened, and uneven. Salicylic acid is predominantly used for its sebum-regulating properties, it is perfect for treating acneic and seborrheic skin. Specifically, it is able to act on comedones, blackheads by freeing them from keratin plugs that cause inflammation and dilation of the pores. It penetrates quickly into acne lesions exerting an excellent bacteriostatic and soothing action. Dermogenera uses the esterified form which is made active at the time of the application for enhanced and immediate action.

Alpha Keto Acid

Pyruvic acid the smallest molecule alpha-keto acid, is an organic carboxylic acid, a ketone. It has similar properties as salicylic acid but is less lipophilic. Due to it being partly hydrophilic it offers benefits of both salicylic and glycolic acid making it effective for the treatment of acne and excessive sebum production and also for photo ageing and ageing concerns. Whilst not as effective as salicylic acid for congested skins as salicylic has greater lipophilic properties and can penetrate deeper within through the lipid barrier.

Choosing a Chemical Peel

Choosing Between peel types and ingredients depending on the skin type, age, condition, thickness and ethnicity.

Dermogenera uses AHAs and BHAs, our products can be used used together to great effect either within the same treatment for different concerns or in a program or alternating treatments. Overuse of any chemical peel can exacerbate any condition so a slower approach will often gain better results long term. Recognising the characterics of ingredients helps determine suitability for skin type or phototype.

pH Levels Knowing the pH level of a product enables us to establish how a certain skin may react. pH is a simply a method of measuring the acidity or alkalinity of measurable substances. When the skin's proteins react with an acid of low pH, the acidic environment destroys the existing tissues, and the body's repair system works to replace the destroyed tissue with new structures. The lower the pH, the stronger the chemical peel. pH is not acid percentage; they are completely different. Because pH levels in say a 20% glycolic peel can be altered, this is called buffering, the percentage indicates the level of active ingredients within the product.

When it comes to peel products so often people concentrate solely on percentage, automatically it is assumed that a 50% peel product is 'better' or 'stronger' than a 20 or 30% So we know that a peel product does not simply rely on the percentage of active but also its ph value.So what does this mean?

The ph value in few words will increase or decrease the activity of the percentage of active ingredients and therefore the speed of its delivery or its effectiveness, however it is important to remember that the ph value cannot increase the percentage of a peel ingredient.

Lowering the ph will simply mean for example that 20% of glycolic behaves at around 99%+ of its added 5%/10%/20%/30% (or whatever % it is added in a formulation) capacity at a value of ph 1.5, 95% of its added capacity at a ph of 2.5 and just under 70% of its added capacity of activity at a ph of 3.5.

By not adding lots of bulking ingredients peels are able to function at more or less their exact percentage.

Why don't we add lots of other ingredients to our liquid peels? Firstly to limit reaction and because the acid ingredient is able to function to its maximum.

Also in keeping the ph value low, this means shorter treatment times and no additional ingredients whose values may adjust over time and circumstances.

'Buffering' what does it mean? it means to adjust the ph value and no peel product can be without any buffering, the levels and methods of buffering depend on the formulation, we choose to keep it simple.

I will try to explain using glycolic acid as an example. Glycolic acid at 10% has a natural ph value of 1.71, so to include it in a formula (0.5% of glycolic acid would equal a 2.5 value naturally) at 2.5 ph value at only 0.5% ingredient, a 20% formulation would certainly require adjusting to a higher ph (buffering).

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