Tag: Chemical Peels

Let’s Do Acid! 5 Stellar Acids to Improve Your Skin

No, no… this isn’t a post about dropping tabs or doing LSD for beauty. I’m not talking about that type of acid. This also isn’t a post about corrosive acid you might find in a battery or any other alarming chemical agents. This post is all about the types of acids that are actually safe and beneficial for your skin.

To the average person, putting acid on your face in the name of looking good sounds like a terrible idea. But devoted skin care enthusiasts know acids aren’t as bad or scary as they sound. Skin care acids typically provide a gentle, non-abrasive exfoliation that go a step above your average cleansers to enhance your glow. And though you may be picturing placing your face on fire, you’ll be relived to know that most acids (when administered properly) don’t cause a burning sensation. There are over 10 acids commonly used in the majority of skin care products but there are 3 acid families: Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA), Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), and Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA). Like everything else in skin care, you should only be using an acid that’s appropriate for your skin type.

Which Acid is Right For Me?

If you have a normal/dry skin type and are looking to fade fine lines and other signs of sun damage then AHAs are right for you. AHAs are water soluble and derived from foods such as sugar cane (glycolic acid), sour milk (lactic acid), apples (malic acid), citrus fruits (citric acid), and grapes (tartaric acid). The most effective AHA is glycolic acid as it has the smallest molecular structure enabling it to penetrate easier and deeper into the skin. AHAs work within the stratum corneum (outermost layer of the skin) to effect keratinization. Using products with AHAs are clinically proven to safely boost collagen.

Most AHA products you can buy over the counter (or online) typically contain no more than 10% AHA. Anything above that should be administered by an esthetician or dermatologist because with those higher amounts you can start to feel the burn—for lack of better words—and irritation.

If you have an oily/combination skin type then BHAs are what you’re looking for. BHAs are oil-soluble and only derived from asprin (do not use if you have an allergy to asprin). They can appear on labels as willow bark extract, tropic acid, trethocanic acid, salicylate, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, sodium salicylate, and betaine salicylate. Because BHAs are oil-soluble they are able to penetrate into sebaceous filaments, pores and lift the oil up and out of your skin.

Unlike AHAs, BHAs retain the same amount of efficacy at lower doses so when you read your skin care labels and see one of the aforementioned further down the ingredients list, don’t worry. In addition to decongesting your skin, BHAs are helpful in reducing fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin texture.

If you have sensitive/dehydrated skin type then PHAs are the skin care acids that will work best for you. These are commonly listed as gluconolactone, lactobionic, and maltobionic. While you could probably use AHAs if you had sensitive skin, you might still experience some mild irritation. PHAs (widely considered the next generation of AHAs) have a larger molecular structure, designed to penetrate the skin more slowly, and also acts as a natural humectant. These types of acids don’t have any of the sensitizing side effects that come with traditional AHAs and can be used if you have rosacea or dermatitis.

You will typically find PHAs available in large amounts (30% being the most common). While it wouldn’t be safe to try to use an AHA at such high a concentration, it’s okay to use for PHAs. Again, PHAs have a larger molecular structure and are more gentle.

Top 5 Skin Care Acids (in no particular order)

  1. Glycolic Acid—this is the OG of skin care acids. Its tiny molecular structure allows for the acid to really get in your skin and make a difference by boosting collagen and stimulating cell turnover. While you’ll immediately have a refreshing glow, it is important to use sunscreen liberally immediately following the use of products containing this acid. Glycolic acid is known for causing sun sensitivity.
  2. Mandelic Acid—derived from bitter almonds, this skin care acid is great for oily/acneic skin and for treating hyperpigmentation. This is a great alternative to those with an asprin allergy looking to combat breakouts and it’s also high in antibacterial properties.
  3. Salicylic Acid—if you don’t have an allergy to asprin, this is hand down the best acid for getting control over breakouts and even cystic acne. You can find salicylic and mandelic combined to provide a more powerful exfoliation.
  4. Maltobionic Acid—perfect for getting a smooth texture, firmness, and hydrating the skin.
  5. Tartaric Acid—extremely gentle and packed with antioxidants. You’ll want to use this if you are looking to prevent sun damage.

With any acid, you want to pay close attention to the ingredients/labels and consult your physician to ensure you don’t have any allergies. Avoid using acids if you’re currently on any form of retinol. You should stop retinol use for at least 6 weeks before trying acids.

Your Hyperpigmentation Handbook for Defeating Dark Spots

Hyperpigmentation is probably the skin concern clients come to me with the most. Both men and women have expressed frustration over the dark spots often left on their skin from the result of acne, pseudofolliculitis barbae, and other skin conditions. There are treatments, serums, and creams galore that cater to hyperpigmented skin but this post will help you navigate how to treat and defeat hyperpigmentation for good!

What is hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmenation causes some areas of the skin to appear darker due to an increase in melanin. Your melanocytes go into overdrive producing more pigment. This process is usually a reaction to external and/or internal factors such as sun damage, hormonal changes, picking at acne/scars, scratching mosquito bites, ingrown hairs, burns, reactions to prescription medications, or a host of other skin infections. Anyone can have areas of hyperpigmentation on their skin but those with medium to deep skin tones tend to experience it more than those with fair skin. Basically, the more melanin you have, the more susceptible you are to getting dark spots. Black, Latino, Asians, and Native Americans will experience this more in their lifetimes. And women are more likely to develop dark spots than men.

Can I prevent it?

Because hyperpigmentation is usually a reaction to something, it is hard to prevent. Following the right skin care regimen for your skin and being diligent in your sunscreen use are the proper foundation for combatting dark spots if they are caused by sun damage. For all other forms, you have to remember not to further irritate the area by scratching, picking, etc.

How can it be treated?

Not all hyperpigmentation is created equal. It’s important to work in tandem with your dermatologist and esthetician to be sure you are treating correctly. Below you’ll find safe treatment suggestions for the most common causes for dark spots. The suggestions below purposefully leave out hydroquinone and other bleaching agents. If you don’t see your specific hyperpigmentation concern, feel free to reach out to me, your Fairy Glow Mother, via email or Telegram.

Acne/General Scars

If you get the occasional breakout here and there (and you couldn’t resist the urge to pop) or if you got a scratch or scar from depilation, then spot treating should be effective in fading your dark spots. This can be achieved by using a serum or a cleanser with active ingredients including Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs). Combining daily use of a serum with AHA toning pads can start to clear light to moderate acne scars up within six weeks.

If your acne scarring is much deeper/darker, you will want to do a series of Salicylic-Mandelic Acid chemical peels. These combination peels are newer and are up to 25% more effective at lifting acne scars than Glycolic Acid peels alone. You will start to see a significant improvement in your appearance within 12 weeks. Pyruvic Acid peels are also suggested for mild to moderate acne. Your esthetician and/or dermatologist will let you know which serums are safe to use while you’re undergoing a chemical peel series.

Melasma/Hormonal Changes

Glycolic Acid has been proven to be a safe and effective way of fading hyperpigmentation caused by hormonal changes. Using a face wash with Glycolic Acid in addition to a topical treatment is usually suggested. Since melasma typically affects pregnant women, a safe alternative to Klingman’s formula (a topical which includes hydroquinone and tretinoin), would be a Vitamin C serum or cream. Please confirm this with your doctor before trying if you are pregnant. Other safe active ingredients include: niacinamide, kojic acid, licorice root, and azealic acid.

Ingrown Hair (pseudofolliculitis barbae)

There are many studies that suggest using a laser diode (a form of laser hair removal) to cure pseudofolliculitis barbae. While effective for fair-medium complexions, it may not offer the desired results in darker complexions. Benzoyl peroxide 5% has been proven to be effective in reducing the inflammation that causes hyperpigmentation in men who shave regularly. If the hair is still trapped beneath the skin, light chemical peels are suggested so that the hair can be removed.

Image Credit: Pinterest

A Case of the Exfoliants

Smooth complexions and softer skin don’t just come from facial cleansers and moisturizers alone. Exfoliants really help give us the glow by sloughing away dead skin cells on our skin’s outermost surface. There are two types of exfoliants: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical includes scrubs that contain micro jojoba beads, crushed almond shells, or sugar; pumice, and any abrasive facial sponges, brushes or loofahs. Chemical includes acids, enzymes and peels. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Let’s break it down.

When should I exfoliate?

If you love to beat your face and wear heavy makeup during the day, then nighttime exfoliation may provide the best results. On the other hand, if you tend to be oilier in the mornings when you wake up, you may want to exfoliate as part of your morning routine.

Normal, dry/dehydrated, sensitive, and aging skin types should use a mechanical exfoliant at least once per week. Oily/acneic skin types should exfoliate no more than three times per week. And no matter what, you should pretty much never exfoliate everyday. Over-exfoliation is the quickest way to dry out your skin which can cause fissures and possibly give yourself wrinkles prematurely. None of us want to age too soon. So that Clarisonic you’re obsessed with? Yeah, there really isn’t a need to use it everyday.

Chemical exfoliants are on a slightly different timeline. For the best results, you’ll want to use chemical peels in a series. A chemical peel series typically lasts 4-6 weeks and most clients take a 6-12 week break between series. Your esthetician will likely suggest the right chemical peel regimen for you. Pro tip: do not attempt to perform your own chemical peel. There are plenty of horror stories on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

There are some chemical exfoliants that may be used at home and those are enzymes and acids. The most common of these used at home are papain (papaya) and bromelain (pineapple) enzymes and glycolic acid. Check with your dermatologist to ensure that you are not allergic before use.

Which exfoliant is best for me?

Scrubs with sugar and jojoba beads are generally the safest mechanical exfoliants for any skin type. If you’re looking to correct texture and smooth your skin, try using a pumice very lightly on dry skin before cleansing.

Enzymes and glycolic acid are great for sensitive, dry, and aging skin types especially. If you’ve got oily or acneic skin, you’ll want an exfoliant that contains salicylic acid to help balance oil production while clearing out pores. You can find these combined in a scrub or available by themselves. Again, check with your dermatologist to ensure there isn’t an allergy.

Book an appointment with your esthetician today to learn more about the right exfoliation techniques for your skin.

Image Credit: Freda Mily by Riccardo La Valle via Freda.Mily Tumblr