The best skin treatment you should be doing

It works in minutes and is heralded by pros for its plumping power. Find out why the facial peel should be in your future.

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It works in minutes and is heralded by pros for its plumping power. Find out why the facial peel should be in your future.


Regular peels are the secret to achieving bright, smooth and clear skin.You probably don’t often think about cell renewal, but it’s an issue at the top of every derm’s mind because this behind-the-scenes process is what’s determining the quality of your skin. Ignore it at the peril of your complexion, experts warn. “The reason skin looks so amazing in your teens is that it doesn’t have mounds of dead cells on its surface,” says Dr Neal Schultz, a dermatologist in the US. “At that age, dead skin cells fall off every 28 days.

By adulthood, some cells hold on for 40, 50, 60 days.” Not only does skin look duller from those old cells, but slower cell renewal also triggers less collagen production, which results in a loss of firmness and more wrinkles. If you’re going to add new purpose to your skincare regimen this year, make it this: Pump up cell renewal. Your best bet is with the new facial peels.

However, if even the thought of one makes your face burn, then you’ll be thrilled to know that the latest are less irritating and more effective than peels of the past – and don’t require a derm visit. While many women in the US still head to experts’ offices for deeper peels, where procedures have jumped 36 per cent in the past two years, according to one survey of dermatologists, the new home treatments are truly impressive. Read on.

How a peel reveals

In the few minutes that a peel is on your face, it’s ungluing the bonds that connect the dead cells to your skin’s surface so they can fall away. “When these come off , your skin senses that it has lost some of its volume and starts to make new skin cells,” Dr Schultz explains. This also sends a signal to special cells called fibroblasts, which are located deep in your skin, to begin collagen production and increase the skin’s level of hyaluronic acid, which makes it thicker and less crepey.

“This is why, with regular use, peels can reduce fine lines and increase firmness,” says Dr Dennis Gross, another dermatologist in the US. And regular use is essential. “Getting a monthly peel at the office certainly helps,” Dr Gross says. “But we now know that in order to see a real change in your skin, it’s ideal to use a milder version every day.” Consider this: A monthly peel kick-starts cell renewal 12 times a year, but a daily one increases it to 365 days a year. That’s where the new, more refined formulas come in.

A better breed

“People tend to hear the word peel and picture red, oozing skin,” says Dr Jennifer Linder, a dermatologist and the chief scientific officer for PCA Skin in the US, which formulates peels for doctors. “Aggressive peels like that still exist for in-office procedures. They’re called medium or deep peels and specifically target wrinkles.”

But the trend has shifted to a gentler approach. Like those in a doctor’s office, the next-generation at-home peels are packed with a blend of alpha hydroxy acids, only in lower doses. For instance, a peel at your derm’s might contain 40 per cent glycolic acid, whereas an over-the-counter version tends to have less than 15 per cent.

They include lactic acid from milk, glycolic from sugar, citric from citrus fruit, malic from apples, and mandelic acid from bitter almonds. Peels might also contain salicylic acid – a beta hydroxy found in willow bark – and retinol, an active form of vitamin A. The magic is in the mix. “If you put one of these ingredients at full strength on your skin, you’ll damage it.

But in combination and kept at low concentrations, the blend is strong enough to be effective yet gentle enough that there are no side effects,” Dr Gross explains. The exception is glycolic acid. “If it’s formulated correctly, it gives you bright, smooth skin on its own,” Dr Schultz says. “Now that the patent on it has expired, it has become a big go-to.”

Your resurfacing strategy

Use an at-home peel every day. If that seems high maintenance, look at it this way: All you do is put the solution on clean skin, then rinse it off after a few minutes (some peels don’t even need to be removed). You may need to work your way up to daily use; try the peel every two to three days and increase frequency from there. Apply serum and/or moisturiser. Done. It’s truly minimal effort, maximum results.