Skin peels sound drastic, but they are now a much gentler kind of treatment than they used to be. A skin peel or chemical peel is a deep exfoliation which is done using ingredients such as glycolic acid or lactic acid (rather than, say, a physical scrub type of exfoliator).
How does a skin peel work?
How a skin peel works is that the peel solution is painted on to the face, where it helps to loosen the chemical bonds that are holding old, dead skin cells onto the skin’s surface, so those old cells can be swept away, revealing fresher skin beneath. The new skin will be smoother and less wrinkled than the old skin, the overall complexion will be brighter and clearer.
Chemical peels used to be one of the standard procedures offered by dermatologists in the 1990s, but they have had something of an image problem since the 2002 episode of Sex and the City where Samantha turns up at Carrie’s book launch with a face like a skinned tomato after having ‘a little something’ done.
why are skin peels popular?
It’s true that old-fashioned peels were hardcore; rather than just freshening up the surface of the skin, the acids that were used made most of the top layer of your face peel off and meant you needed to spend a week or so in hiding while new, fresh skin frantically grew itself fast enough to repair the damage. Why were they popular? Because this new, fresh skin grew through without the wrinkles and pigmentation spots that had besmirched the old skin, and with a lovely softer, smoother texture.
But what goes around comes around, and the past five years has seen a huge resurgence in peels on offer in cosmetic clinics. Today, peels are back in a new format — as super-swift treatments that pack a proper rejuvenating punch but without the pain and the downtime of their predecessors. Rather than being done in one big old dose, they are often offered as a course of gentle peelings, which will give great results that will improve skin texture no end — and which at the same time will brighten the skin, soften pigmentation and wrinkles, and improve hydration, but without the need to take time off and hide from the world.
Treatment review: the NeoStrata Retinol Peel
The NeoStrata Retinol peel is a quick and painless smoothing and brightening peel with hardly any down-time.
What is the neostrata retinol peel?
Unlike most light peels (which use glycolic acid, which stings a bit and gives a gentle exfoliation), this peel deploys retinol, one of the genuine wonder-ingredients in skincare. Retinol speeds up the turnover of skin cells to improve texture and minimise fine lines and dark spots. It also makes skin more even in tone… but it has a reputation for irritating the skin, especially if used in a concentrated form.
This peel involves 3% retinol — that’s quite strong: if you were using a retinol serum at night, it would at most be 1% — plus a ‘retinol-boosting complex’. It also has an ingredient called ‘Aminofil’, derived from amino acids which help ‘enhance collagen and hyaluronic acid’, so it’s extra helpful for improving skin texture.
What It’s Like to try a retinol peel?
After a consultation to make sure I understand what I am letting myself in for and how to look after my skin afterwards (be gentle; use lots of sunscreen), Kristin, the ‘medical aesthetician’ (aka highly trained skin specialist), cleans my face, solemnly cracks open the tiny 3ml treatment vial of Neostrata peeling potion, pours it into a small tray, and carefully paints it onto my face with a feathery fan brush. And that’s it. There’s no tingling, no stinging, no redness, and it takes all of two minutes.
But even if it feels as gentle as a moisturiser, it is strong stuff. The protocol is to leave it on for eight hours while it goes to work — or, if you’re gung-ho and want to get the maximum result, you can leave it on overnight, so I do.
What are the results of the Neostrata Retinol Peel?
For 72 hours my face looks and feels normal; then, quite suddenly, it begins peeling. Not a dramatic, sloughing-off-of-snakeskin sort of peeling, but a network of fine cracks appears all over my face and soft, fine scuffs of skin begin to lift away. It isn’t that obvious as long as I pat it down with moisturiser, but it takes a superhuman effort not to pick at the edges to help things along. Which is fine, except that on day seven, I have to give a talk to beauty-industry colleagues and really don’t fancy doing it with my face free from make-up and adorned only with wisps of shedding skin. I nearly cry with relief when, on the morning of day seven, I wipe my cleanser off carefully with a clean flannel and find all shreds of dead skin are gone and my skin looks fantastic — clearer, fresher, and with a healthy sheen to it.