Friday, November 18, 2011

Oops, I'm Peeling!

Successful acne-clearing and anti-aging routines revolve around exfoliants, as we've discussed in previous posts here, here, and here. For the most part, exfoliating treatments are super-predictable, often down to the day and time of day that you are likely to start peeling. But what happens when your skin doesn't stick to a schedule? And what can you do to minimize peeling when you weren't expecting it?

Peeling on purpose, but you get the picture

Lunchtime peels are not intended to produce visible peeling. The acids are light enough to break apart only the most superficial dead skin cells, allowing them to release cell by cell, without perceptible peeling. Occasionally, lunchtime peels (including microdermabrasion and dermaplaning) may produce some unexpected peeling, especially in the following cases:

  • Dry weather
  • Increased absorption from pretreatment
  • Vigorous exfoliation after treatment

Medium peels are designed to slough off the whole top layer of the skin, while sparing the pink, juicy "live" skin underneath. The exfoliated skin generally peels in small, flaky bits, which are easily removed with gentle cleansing and a washcloth. With medium peels, a few unusual responses sometimes observed are:

  • Darkening of the skin, especially over areas of hyperpigmentation
  • Starting to peel early, or continuing to peel beyond the usual five days

Intensive and double peels are intended to exfoliate the entire top layer of the skin, while allowing some acid to stimulate collagen production in the underlying dermis. Skin is expected to darken, harden, and peel in large sheets, like a sun or wind burn would(although blistering, scabbing, and oozing, which would indicate a medical-strength peel, are not expected). As with medium peels, skin sometimes peels outside of the usual range of five to seven days, which may be inconvenient for work or social reasons.

In any of these cases, it's a great idea to contact your aesthetician if you think you may be experiencing something out of the ordinary. Generally, as long as you are at least two days post-treatment, it is safe to use an ointment. We like Vivant's Recovery Ointment, which blends aloe vera juice with the standard occlusive petrolatum. Other good options are Aquaphor and Elizabeth Arden's Eight Hour Cream (the original balm formula, not one of the spinoff cremes). When you find yourself peeling unexpectedly, avoid scrubbing with all your might! Scrubbing at this juncture will leave you with raw, red skin that is almost impossible to conceal. Instead, slather on one of these occlusive preparations. You are essentially gluing down the peely skin. Go as long as you can in the day with just balm on your skin before you need to apply makeup. Then, tissue down the occlusive ointment to the bare minimum needed to keep the peely skin glued down, and apply makeup with a minimum of friction (this is not the time to perfect your blending technique). If prior to applying makeup, the peely skin is reeeaally obvious under the ointment, then you have my permission to wipe your face gently, one time, with a warm washcloth, but proceed with caution--peely skin is always easier to cover than raw skin!

Hopefully these instructions will help in the event that you experience "bonus peeling." Do you have any post-peel photos? Share a link in the comments section below!

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