So the other day I had beautiful woman ask me about Glycolic Peel for dark skin. Having heard mixed messages about whether or not chemical peels was good for dark skin, it prompt me to do some research on the benefits of all the different acids out there, how Glycolic Acid is especially good for Dark Skin.
“I am a deep dark skinned woman of African descent. I would like to try a peel in order to get rid of my hyper-pigmentation, blemishes, and acne prone skin. I heard of your business, but I was reluctant to make a purchase because many people told me that skin peels are not suitable for darker skin types. They said that if I get a peel, it will worsen my problem and cause even more hyper-pigmentation and possible scarring. Is this true?”
When it comes to addressing irregularities on dark skin, you have to take precaution, regardless of any skin type or tone.
Glycolic acid peels for hyper-pigmentation are given as a series of four to six treatments, each one spaced about a month apart when performed at a medical-spa or dermatologist’s office. Peels range in strength from 10 to 60 percent. For darker skin tones, higher concentration of acid in chemical peels have the potential to further damage skin.
Glycolic acid is tolerated well by darker pigmented skins, especially when the treatment strength is gradually increased over time, according to “Glycolic Acid Peels,” by Ronald L. Moy. However, glycolic acid is not for everyone. While common side effects include temporary stinging, redness and mild irritation, more severe reactions can result in scarring and even worse hyper-pigmentation. As with all medicines, consult a professional before use.
Chemical peels (usually a series of peels) that exfoliate the skin can be used to lighten dark spots. There is a distinction though between true scars and dark spots.
I would caution you that in individuals with darker skin, the risk of post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation (i.e. darkening of the skin with any procedure) is greater. When I administer chemical peels for individuals with darker skin, I might start with a single coat of a light chemical peeling agent, e.g. salicylic acid. A test spot can also be done to see whether darker pigmentation occurs as a result of the application of the peeling agent.
In patients with darker skin complexion, chemical peels can be very useful. However, patients should be cautioned about the higher risk of skin pigmentation. These patients should be prescribed pre and post procedural pigmentation programs to control the incidence and severity of post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation.
Discolorations can be treated with a series of light chemical peels and bleaching creams. The cost of the light peels are roughly $250-350 each and are done about every 2-3 weeks. Black patients do very well with this combination of light peels and prescription bleaching creams
Nobody wants to be sad and have “bad” skin… everybody wants to be happy with good skin!
Glycolic Acid Treatments for Keratosis Pilaris
What It Is?: Glycolic acid is the smallest alpha hydroxy acid that is derived from sugar cane. It is one of the most well-known and highly used acid to smooth wrinkles, fade color discoloration and sun damaged skin.
"In my experience, Glycolic acid is the best and most effective for Keratosis Pilaris, but not all glycolic acids are created equal. There's a huge range of concentrations out there"
says David Schultz, M.D., Los Angeles based dermatologist. This alpha hydroxy acid exfoliates more deeply than lactic acid. "" For facial KP, Schultz recommends starting with cleansers and creams with a concentration of no more than five percent such as the Ultimate AHA Cleanser with 2% Glycolic Acid. For the body, a 10 percent lotion used twice daily tends to show noticeable improvement within three weeks. Most OTC glycolic acid treatments go up to 20 percent. (Try Rejuvenist (TM) Daily Treatment with 10% Glycolic Acid, $40, or for better value try Peel On-the-Go kit ,$60 ; for the face, NightTime Royal Alpha Cream, $35).
Who Should Use It: If you don't have easily irritated skin, and plain moisturizers aren't doing the trick, try glycolic acid next. If OTC glycolic products still aren't working, move onto a chemical peel. When you go upwards of 20 percent glycolic acid, you're verging into peel territory. These are topical treatments applied in a dermatologist's office or salon, and usually consist of 20 to 30 percent salicylic or 40 percent glycolic acid. These high concentrations deeply exfoliate the skin, resulting in a much smoother, healthier surface. One of the best professional kits now available for at-home use comes in 30%, 40% and 60% medical grade glycolic acid.
Pro Tip: For best results, do not slather on gobs of product and expect to see next-day improvement. Use the product sparingly, but consistently, and you'll notice a change within weeks. It's important to remember that it takes 28 days for our bodies to reproduce the upper layer of skin. So if you don't see results from an OTC acid treatment overnight, don't skip directly to a peel. It takes a few weeks to see results.
- Procedure: Glycolic acid peel
- Price: $200 - $400 per session (3 sessions recommended)
- Pros: Tighter pores, less acne, more even skin tone, no downtime
- Cons: Dry, flaky skin for 5-7 days after
Does anyone else remember that episode of Sex and the City where Samantha Jones decides to get a rejuvenating chemical peel before Carrie's book party and ends up, in Carrie's words, looking like beef carpaccio?
Yeah, it's burned in my brain, too. Which is why when someone suggested I try a peel—specifically, a glycolic acid peel—to help with my acne, I responded with a big "NOPE."
But given that it's one of the most popular skincare treatments out there, I figured it was worth trying—despite the risk of looking like undercooked meat.
What’s a glycolic acid peel?
A glycolic acid peel is like a super-charged version of the “brightening” peels. It uses glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid and one of the most effective exfoliating chemicals, to weaken the bonds between cells on the top layer of your skin—effectively removing that top layer.
This sounds pretty gory, but remember: The top layer of your skin is basically just dead skin cells. Sloughing off these guys can help your skin can look brighter and tighter. Other perks include stimulating collagen production (to fight signs of aging) and evening out skin tone if you’re dealing with hyper-pigmentation. In the case of acne, removing dead skin cells can also rid your skin of pore-clogging gunk.
For peel beginners like myself, it’s best to start with a light strength peel. “It’s a super-mild, very gentle chemical peel for light exfoliation,” says Melissa K. Levin, M.D., a board-certified New York City dermatologist and clinical attending at New York University Langone Health and Mount Sinai Hospital. But while it’s mild by in-office-treatment standards, it’s still generally a lot stronger than anything you can buy OTC. Meaning that it can irritate sensitive skin and cause redness and dryness (creating that trademark Samantha Jones lewk).
Typically, Levin says, a glycolic acid peel costs about $200 to $400 per session (depending on where you live). Most people, she adds, get a series of three to six over the course of a few months, depending on their skin concerns. If you just want tighter pores, three is fine. If you have more intense hyper-pigmentation, you’ll generally want more, she says.
The procedure: The 3-Step Acid
Once I arrived at Levin’s office, she asked me to remove all of my makeup and wash my face with a super-gentle cleanser. I had a few pimples on my chin, since you’re not supposed to use harsh active ingredients like retinol or acne-fighting salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide for a few days before a chemical peel.
I then put on a robe to protect my clothes and pulled my hair back with a thick headband (easier said than done when you have a pixie cut).
“It really only takes about 15 minutes,” Levin told me, so I mentally started the clock as soon as I laid back in the procedure chair. And it really went by quickly:
- Levin prepped my face to pH balance a clean workspace, and applied Vaseline to my nostrils and eyelids to protect the delicate skin there from the peel chemicals.
- Next, she used a brush to paint the peel all over my face, avoiding the eyelids, nostrils, and lips.
- She set a timer for seven minutes and we just...hung out while the peel did its thing. She kept an eye on my skin to make sure it wasn’t getting overly irritated or reacting badly to the chemicals.
- Once the seven minutes were up, she applied a neutralizing solution on top of my skin to stop the peel from working (and like, burning off all my skin).
- She wiped off the solution and then covered my face in cool, damp cloths to cool down the skin.
All in all...it really did take about 15 minutes. Damn!
I have to admit, I was ready for crazy-intense pain. But it didn’t really hurt at all. My face got warm—like, two-shots-of-tequila warm, not forgot-to-wear-sunscreen-at-the-beach warm. And at the most, my skin basically felt like how your mouth does after you eat a jalapeño—tingly, but not burning.
Recovery: Not so pretty
Levin held a mirror in front of my face once the procedure was done and....damn. My skin looked tighter and my pores already looked smaller. But the downside: my face was red AF and I was already starting to flake.
But no, I was not allowed to cover it up with makeup, Levin said. “No makeup today or tomorrow,” she told me, “but the day after that, you can.”
The Peel Recovery Skincare Routine
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I also had to tweak my skincare routine a bit for the next week to accommodate my sensitive post-peel skin. “Wash your face with a super-hydrating cleanser,” Levin said. Then: “Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.” Basic formulas only—she suggested using something with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and/or glycerin (very moisturizing ingredients).
I was also supposed to let my skin rest and recover, which meant no harsh ingredients (retinol, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, lactic acid, etc.) allowed. Basically, anything that said “brightening” or “anti-aging” on the label was off-limits.
And most importantly, she said, I needed to be really good about wearing sunscreen and minimizing my sun exposure—since my skin was very sensitive post-peel and thus even more susceptible to burning. “Hats are your best friend,” she said.
“You’ll start to see results in five to seven days,” Levin told me. But during the first few days following the procedure... “It gets worse before it gets better,” Levin said, “but that’s totally normal.”
Figure 1: Courtesy Jessie Van Amburg
My face the day after the peel. Notice those cute new breakouts on my chin? It only got worse from there.
Specifically, expect your skin to flake off all over the place for like, two to three days. In my case, I basically started peeling right away. This was extremely distressing, especially because after the procedure I went straight back to work and then out to a movie with my friend—looking like a shedding snake. And not being able to cover it up with some foundation was really hard.
And the peeling KEPT GOING. There were days where I touched my face and a few flecks of dried skin came off with it…[shudders]. But rather than rub it all off, I remembered Levin’s advice and slathered on moisturizer and sunscreen.
I also had some intense breakouts on my chin in the days immediately after the peel. I’d already had a few down there, sure, but the number doubled (and then tripled) by day three post-peel. Levin assured me that was normal too. “I think you got a pretty robust reaction because your skin is more sensitive and rosacea-prone,” she said.
I felt pretty desperate by day four post-peel. My skin looked awful, and I was convinced that peels weren’t for me. I looked like a cross between a pizza and a pumice stone, and it was not cute. Who would willingly do this, I thought while layering on my foundation.
Results: Good, but not necessarily life-changing
But then Thursday morning—six days after my glycolic acid peel—I woke up to massively improved skin. Like, clear, tight, glowing, and (mostly) pimple free. FINALLY.
For the first time in at least two weeks, I could go minimalist with my foundation and concealer. My zits had dried out, and all the last vestiges of flakiness were gone. And my usually-large pores were small, tight, and barely noticeable—especially on my forehead and T-zone.
Of course, given that this was just one procedure, I admittedly don’t have the most dramatic results. You can see some difference in brightness and pimples between one picture and the other but otherwise, the untrained eye might not notice much difference. But in my day to day, I definitely saw a big improvement. And those results likely would be compounded by another peel session or two.
But, I will admit—I don’t know if I would go back for another one right now. Two hundred dollars is definitely cheap in the grand scheme of beauty treatments. But I also don’t usually have a spare $200 lying around for a peel every few months. And especially given that peels usually happen in a set of three, I’d really have to cough up more like $600 to see major results.
The bottom line: If you want to dip your toes into beauty procedures, a glycolic acid peel is a good place to start—it's quick and you bounce back quickly, too. But don't expect the results to be earth-shattering.
Jessie Van Amburg Jessie Van Amburg is the senior associate editor at WomensHealthMag.com, where she handles beauty, food, and lifestyle coverage.
Source: Women’s Health
I suffer from dark scars and adult acne on my cheeks and chin. The dark spot, also called hyperpigmentation, are especially bad on my cheeks. Even though I have always followed a skin care regimen, I was never able to improve my acne scars. I decided to reach out to a local aesthetician, who specializes in people of color (dark skin).
At the aesthetician's office, I received a facial, which left my skin feeling very soft. A month later, I returned to her office and had a chemical peel done. The cost per treatment is ranges from $125 to $350. The chemical peel process was so easy. The first thing the aesthetician did was clean my skin with an alcohol prep pad. The alcohol removes any oil or makeup you have on your skin. After that, she applied the 30% glycolic acid peel. She left the acid peel on my skin for a little while and it tingled while it was on my skin. The tingling stopped when she applied a moisturizing sunscreen to my face. The whole chemical peel session took 15 minutes or so.
The first and second day post peel, my skin felt tight and looked shiny. Towards the end of the second day, my skin started to crack and began flaking around my chin and mouth area. This was expected though - it's part of the peeling process. As time went on, the flaking expanded into my forehead, nose and then cheek areas. Every morning and night after my peel, I would cleanse my face with a gentle cleanser. After cleansing, I would apply a skin lightener to help fade the marks on my freshly peeled new skin. I also made sure to use SPF 50 on my face when I went out. Freshly peeled skin is more sensitive to sunlight and I didn't want to form any new dark spots.
Six days after my glycolic peel, all of my flake had subsided and my face had returned to normal. My dark spots are now noticeably lighter and my skin texture has improved. It's now smoother and my pores are tiny. I think chemical peels are a good skin treatment.
Celebrities like Olivia Munn and Margot Robbie swear by glycolic acid peel treatments for smooth healthy bright skin. Celebrities’ beauty secrets can help everyday women look just as beautiful as famous women. Olivia Munn spilled her secrets — not only expressing how Munn lost 12 pounds with the “80-20 Diet,” but also how Munn faded her dark spots using glycolic acids. Munn claimed that she faithfully used glycolic acid treatments for a year in order to fade the dark spots on her face and make them less noticeable so that her face would reflect more light.
However, with the high cost of glycolic acids treatments that can range from $150 to $300 per visit— everyday women might look for similar products with a cheaper price that include the same ingredients if not products used by estheticians and dermatologists.
Glycolic acid is something that is worth the hunt, noting how the acid works to slough off the dead layers of skin in order to bring forth the fresher and younger skin beneath the top layers.
“Glycolic is often prescribed to resolve major skin concerns related to dryness, texture, clarity, firmness and elasticity. Where dry skin can cause dullness, using an acid removes the top, dull layers, promoting the production of collagen and elastin. It’s a rapid exfoliator that will slough away dead, dry skin cells resulting in an even-toned radiant and glowing appearance.”
Glycolic Acid peel systems in 30%, 40% and 60% strength should not be performed more than once a week at home in order to allow the dead skin to slush off before the next treatment. However there are leave-on creams that can be used nightly, at low concentration of course. Using glycolic acid for the first time will sting a bit- based on a person’s tolerance of the acid, but after several treatments, the skin will get used to the glycolic acid and that’s usually when it’s time to increase the concentration for a deeper peel or not…
Margot Robbie jokes about using glycolic acid in “a propriety glycolic and pearl mask,” as seen in the following spoof of her beauty routine, as reported by Elite Daily.
However, the sales and popularity of glycolic acid products are no joke, just how popular the glycolic acid peels that run from 10 percent to 60 percent strength and beyond for at-home treatments.
The convenience of leave-on creams such as the Rejuvenist (“mini-facelift in a jar”) has 10% Glycolic Acid, low enough to be used daily without irritations to brighten and exfoliate the skin.
“These peel creams help revitalize and renew dull complexions, revealing fresher, younger-looking skin with continued use.”
Olivia admitted that using the glycolic acid treatment at night is ideal and wears plenty of sunscreen when using the products and to make sure to avoid the sun as much as possible.
More and more celebrities now opt for non-surgical skin treatment. Such as chemical peels. Cameron Diaz confesses to struggling with uneven skin tone, sun damage and acne. She is a great fan of glycolic acid peel treatment to giving her healthy smooth skin.
For some people, skincare is a second language. For others, beauty buzzwords are confusing and vague and they leave them feeling unsure and intimidated, especially when it comes to the varied categories of exfoliants. And we get it. After all, there's a lot to learn. There's physical exfoliation, chemical exfoliation, AHAs, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and—okay, let's back up and go to square one. Consider this an exfoliation crash course.
As we know, exfoliation is removing dead skin, debris, and pore-clogging material away from the surface of the skin to reveal newer, brighter skin underneath. Just know there are two different kinds of exfoliation: physical and chemical. Physical refers to anything with a slightly grainy or abrasive texture that you massage into your skin to manually remove buildup. Chemical exfoliation, on the other hand, utilizes safe-for-skin acids that break through debris and dead skin on a cellular level.
Chemical exfoliation can be further broken down into the specific acids that are used. "Acids work to improve skin by removing the top layers of the skin through weakening the lipids that bond them together, thus removing dull and dead skin cells and revealing healthy skin cells," says Dendy Engelman, MD, dermatologist and director of dermatologic surgery at Metropolitan Hospital Center. These include lactic acid, salicylic acid, and yes, glycolic acid. Though all are good options if used correctly, the latter is particularly effective, which seems to be why glycolic exfoliation treatments have exploded in popularity over the past few years.
Before we launch into the wonders of glycolic acid, know that the word "peel" pops up frequently. According to Carl Thornfeldt, MD, founder of Epionce,"A peel is any compound put on the skin to increase epidermal cell proliferation and remove stratum corneum and plugs within pores." Essentially it refers to the process of putting acid onto the skin to exfoliate—acid that hasn't been mixed or diluted with other skincare ingredients.
Glycolic acid is a popular choice for a chemical peel, but there are many, many others that can be used. Take it from Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, MD. She's a dermatologist, a clinical assistant professor at NYU dermatology, and an associate at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center in New York. "Other acids that can be used include glycolic, lactic, mandelic, tartaric, malic citric, trichloroacetic, salicylic, carbolic, and so on. Some of these acids are used in combination as well and come in different strengths."
Where Does Glycolic Acid Come From?
Glycolic acid is an AHA, which is short for alpha-hydroxy acid (the name refers to its chemical makeup). According to Cecilia Wong, founder of Cecilia Wong Skincare and celebrity facialist, it's made from sugarcane. This differs from other acids, like lactic acid, for example, which is made from sour milk. "It's much milder and very gentle. The recovery time is faster, and it's a great option for sensitive skin." [Ed. note: although lactic acid is a great exfoliant for sensitive skin, you shouldn't be so quick to write off glycolic.]
Krista Eichten, vice president of products and services at Sanitas Skincare and licensed esthetician, says that glycolic acid reigns supreme as far as chemical peels go. "Glycolic acid is the gold standard in chemical peel formulations and is the go-to for many professional skin therapists for its proven ability to transform the health and appearance of a multitude of skin types," she says. This goes back to that chemical makeup we mentioned before.
"Glycolic acid has a small molecular structure, giving it the ability to travel deep into the layers of the skin," she continues. "Once there, the acid dissolves excess sebum and dead skin cells, revealing smoother, brighter, and younger-looking skin." Lactic acid, on the other hand, has a larger molecular structure. "This means that lactic acid is not able to penetrate as deeply into the layers of the skin."
That doesn't necessarily sound like a good thing, but it can be. "The benefit of this difference is that lactic acid is mild and it's more suitable for dry to sometimes even sensitive skin types. This is a favorite ingredient for brightening and also for exfoliating dry, sallow skin," Eichten says.
How Can It Benefit My Skin?
The benefits of undergoing a glycolic peel seem endless. Wong lauds it for stimulating natural collagen production, along with diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time. As Eichten mentioned, it penetrates deeply into the skin to reform texture and dullness. But our favorite glycolic peel benefit is the most basic. It leaves our skin looking refreshed, bright, and refined. Dullness is banished.
Again, it all stems from its molecular size. Engelman says that glycolic acid is the smallest of all safe-for-skin acids. That's why it's able to penetrate so deeply and exfoliate so thoroughly. Take it from us: If it's used correctly (and you care for your skin correctly after the peel), it's a total miracle-worker for lending that effortless dewy radiance that usually seems to be exclusive to skincare experts and top models.
What's also notable is the fact that it's safe to use during pregnancy. "Glycolic acid is great for combating the hyperpigmentation that can occur from the hormonal surges that occur in pregnancy, called chloasma," Engelman says.
I would often wash with a gentle cleanser then use these as a 'treatment toner' two to three times a week."
Are There Any Side Effects?
Speaking of after-peel care, there are a few things you need to know before booking your first glycolic peel. "Chemical exfoliants used in conjunction with retinol or vitamin C can increase sensitivity and dryness. Overworking the skin with too many actives can start to break the bonds between healthy skin cells and thinning the skin. Look for product with ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and peptides to strengthen the skin barrier," Engelman explains. In other words, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate post-treatment.
You also need to be wary of the sun. Glycolic acid can increase your skin's sensitivity to UV rays, so wear a hat, stay in the shade, and as always, use sunscreen in between treatments. It will protect your skin from harmful (not to mention aging) sun damage.
According to Eichten, "It is common to experience redness, dryness, and peeling," though the skin recovery process depends on the strength of the peel. "Typically, immediately after the peel, the skin will feel tight and look red. With some, by day two to three, post-peel skin can begin to slough and shed. The level of peeling again depends on the intensity of the peel. With mild peels, expect gentle sloughing and stronger peels skin can more dramatically peel. The complete turnaround time typically is between five to seven days. In this time, be sure to treat skin gently. Do not use any exfoliation products or devices, and it's imperative that precautions against UV exposure be taken to prevent hyperpigmentation."
And don't think you can book a glycolic peel or even use at-home glycolic chemical exfoliation products back to back. It's possible that your skin is getting too much of a good thing. "Excessive exfoliation can break down the stratum corneum—its job is to be a barrier against pathogens," Engelman says. "If the barrier function is damaged, skin becomes vulnerable to infection from microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungus, and leads to sensitivity and irritation. Even if the barrier function isn't visibly damaged, the skin may experience a low amount of inflammation (called chronic inflammation), which prematurely ages skin over time."
Seek out a board-certified dermatologist or esthetician for an in-clinic peel. For at-home products, practice similar safe habits. "To ensure a great and safe peel, look for a glycolic acid level around 5% and a pH level between three and four," Eichten says. "Incorporate glycolic acid slowly, as there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Start by using two to three times per week. If excess drying or irritation occurs, cut back. With continued use, skin will become stronger and healthier."
"As for her flawless skin, that radiance isn’t just the result of workout flush. The L’Oréal Paris spokeswoman says she loves “glycolic acid to get that healthy glow and clear skin. I never go to bed without taking my makeup off, [and I use] night creams to keep my skin hydrated. As for daytime, SPF is k-e-y. She faithfully uses the brand’s moisturizers with SPF “every single day. You have to protect your skin.”