Chemical Peels. Are they right for you? Are you brave enough?

Peel Series Part 1 AHA's

When does the first wrinkle show up?

There’s something about turning 40. From my own personal experience, the thought of it, was far worse than the actual ‘being 40’. Although for the first month or so it was really hard to let those words pass my lips. I’m 40. Even worse when it feels like everyone else around you seems to be younger than you.

After a time, I adjusted.

And you? You’re fine with it, right?  You should be. But your skin, it’s changing. For that you’re certain. 

So much so it’s led you down (as I like to put it), the proverbial rabbit hole, affectionately known as The Google or The YouTube. Searching for answers. 

Once you’re there you’ll find something, some morsel of knowledge that might help.

Miracles, hope in a jar, the solutions are never-ending and so are the opinions, with no shortage of easy, quick fix solutions. 

Mindlessly and hours later you emerge wondering where the last three hours went.  But at least now with a glimmer of hope; even though you still wonder whether you should believe what you read or watch on the internet? 

No wrinkles here.

Phew, time to make yourself a coffee. Your skin’s looking pretty good for your age, you can dismiss the annoying voice in your head telling you to worry. After, all how’s worrying going to help. 

You’re fine with a few wrinkles, but still, your skin could look a little better. You’ve got all the advice on how to care for your skin, you’ve become quite diligent in fact and feeling quite proud of your results. 

Why all this worry about turning 40! After all, it’s the new 30, and by the time you reach 50, well we all know it’s the new 40. It’s a comforting thought as you ponder the fact, you truly are outsmarting age.

And yet you linger on the idea that maybe there is something more you can do. Nothing drastic, but more than the routine you’re currently doing at home. 

You’ve heard about chemical peels, a few of your friends have had them, but you’ve never indulged. They sound a bit scary. You’re just not sure if you’re up for it. You hesitate. Nervous. Maybe next year. 


Find someone you can trust.

You just need to talk to someone who’s done it before, you do have that one girlfriend who absolutely swears by them and there’s no denying her skin does look amazing. But then look at her mum, it’s in their genes. Right? Maybe. 

If only you could just talk to someone or find someone you can trust, someone who could advise you on what to do without trying to seel you something. 

Okay, enough. It’s time. You’re taking the leap.


Then this happened.  


Despite memories of Sex and the City, when Samantha ventured out from the office of her Dermatologist with a face so red she stopped traffic. You push on, undeterred. You’re ready. You’re going to take the leap.

You should. You will find a better skin. But it’s important to find someone you can trust who has the experience and the care needed for a successful professional chemical peel treatment. 


As scary as Samantha looks in this nostalgic episode of Sex and The City, the peels we’re discussing today, known as AHA Peels are superficial and if you follow all the pre and post peel advice from your skin care professional then, even though you may experience some redness, you should never look anything like Samantha..


So let’s talk about AHA peels, what they are and what you can expect.

 AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acids)

There’s Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid, Tartaric acid, Malic acid and Citric acid and then there’s Mandelic Acid and Pyruvic Acid for sensitive skins. All can be administered by an aesthetician and all are considered superficial peels.

In this article, we’ll be focussing our attention on two of the most commonly used AHA peels. Lactic Acid (derived from sour milk) and Glycolic Acid (derived from sugar cane).


How do they work?

Your skin has three lovely layers.

Your epidermis, that’s the layer you can see, then there’s the dermis just below, that’s the living layer, it’s busy down there, it’s where you’ll find specialised cells known as fibroblasts amongst others, responsible for your collagen and elastin (more on this in an upcoming article) and then there’s your subcutaneous layer or the fat layer providing a cushion to the contours of your face.

So in the case of superficial chemical peels, we’re focussing our attention on the top layer, your epidermis.

For a chemical peel like Lactic Acid (derived from sour milk) or Glycolic Acid (from sugar cane) to be effective, they need to have a specific pH lower than your skin’s normal acidic pH of around 5.5.


A low pH formulation enables the peel to penetrate the skin efficiently and recalibrate your skins ability to function as it should. Think of it as a reboot. 


Once applied to your skin the peel penetrates the stratum corneum which is the outermost layer of your epidermis where the intercellular bonds binding your skin cells together are unlocked. This action allows the removal of superficial skin cells leaving you with a fresher, healthier looking skin

Now, you may be wondering; if the skin is so amazing, why doesn’t this just happen anyway?

You’re right it should, but as we age there are certain activities in the skin that tend to slow down. When you were a teenager or even in your mid-twenties your skin’s cellular renewal rate was about 21 days, by the time you get to 40 it has slowed down to anywhere between 28 to 40 days and once you hit 50, the renewal is more like 40 – 80 days. Far too slow if you want healthy, vibrant looking skin!

Despite the name, Chemical peels offer a natural process. You’re giving your skin a jump start with a superficial AHA peel. Not only are you removing the very top layer of dead, dull, dehydrated skin cells, but you are also initiating a much faster process of cell renewal, stimulating your skin’s ability to retain moisture, stimulating the dermis to produce collagen and improve the overall texture and tone of your skin.


Important things to know.

Most Lactic and Glycolic Peels have a range in strength concentrations between 10 per cent (which is very mild) up to 80 Percent. Anything over 60 per cent should only be administered by a dermatologist or cosmetic physician. Usually, if you’ve never had a peel before then the concentration chosen for you should never be more than 20 per cent. 

When getting a professional chemical peel you should expect to have all aspects of the treatment explained to you, including any possible side effects and outcomes and your skin care professional should always ask you to sign a consent form. 


No matter what you’ve seen or heard on Youtube don’t attempt to do this yourself. 


What can you expect?

In the first couple of days, your skin may feel dry, possibly even a little red and you may even see some visible peeling (although this is unusual with AHA peels).

Within a week of your first peel your skin will begin to look refreshed and more hydrated.

If you decide to partake in a series of AHA peels (usually 6 – 8 is best), then over time you will begin to see more dramatic improvements to fines lines, a softening in wrinkles and the resolution in some of the discolouration in your skin caused by an overproduction of melanin. Overall, a better-looking skin.


What you must do next.

There are a few things, like wearing sunscreen every day. That’s a MUST.

Everything else you need to know can be found over here. It’s a checklist. Exactly what to do and what to expect from the treatment and from the skin care professional you choose is revealed. Because as they say,  knowledge is power.

Of course, as wonderful as chemical peels can be, occasionally there can be minor complications,  such as blistering, excessive redness and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Honestly, as worrying as that might sound, all of these complications can be resolved quickly when following the advice you are given by your aesthetician or dermatologist. Any problems usually resolve themselves without too much concern and within a few weeks. 


As for me? Well, I love lactic acid peels, I find them less irritating than glycolic acid because they have a larger molecule size, which means a slower time to penetrate the skin and they hydrate my skin brilliantly. 



Expect to pay around $120AU per treatment, but if the peel is being included with other facial treatments or therapies then you can expect to pay anywhere up to $300

So there you have it.  Be brave and consider the chemical peels as a wonderful way to bring your skin back to luminous healthy life. 

Next week in this 4 part series I will be discussing the one and only Beta Hydroxy Acid known as Salicylic Acid. Who needs it. Who doesn’t? So, stay tuned!

Also in this series, I’ll be personally trialling and reviewing two relatively new chemical peels for the more sensitive skins, Pyruvic and Mandelic Acid. Look out for the article in the next few weeks.

And now you.

Have you found this article informative? If you did and you know someone else who could benefit then please feel free to share it. Or leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you. 

See you next time.

The Beauty Issue



This article appears as the first of a 4 part series on Chemo-exfoliation using Chemical Peels