From the geisha of ancient Japan to todays modern woman, skin whitening has been a popular beauty practice for hundreds of years – and we have come a long way from using nightingale feces! Whitening peels are chemical processes that use diluted acids to eliminate layers of dead or hyper-pigmented skin. One of the most commonly used types of whitening products is the glycolic peel. 

History of Skin Whitening 

Bathing was an uncommon occurrence in the 1500s. For cleaner appearances, those belonging to the most privileged communities used white powder. 

This was the case for hundreds of years. Then, in the early 20th century, fashion designer Coco Chanel soaked up the sun during a cruise. She returned with a tan, which the public began to embrace as stylish and attractive as there was little awareness of the dangers of overexposure to the sun, such as wrinkles, skin discoloration, and cancer. 

Although bronzed skin is still viewed favorably in many social subcultures, an appreciation for light skin has returned. This has led to an affinity for glycolic acids. They are found in citrus fruits and sugar cane, and work by encouraging the top layer of skin to peel, revealing the fresh skin beneath. 

Glycolic Acid Peels

A glycolic acid peel is applied via a sponge. It works by penetrating the skin, breaking the bonds that hold its layers together. After the desired amount of layers have been separated and removed, the acid is washed away with water. Immediately afterward, the skin will likely be red. It will also peel for several days. Glycolic acid peels are among the most mild skin treatments with the fewest side effects and may need to be repeated several times to achieve the desired results. 

The Benefits of Glycolic Acid Peels 

  • Clears blocked pores and blackheads. Pores appear enlarged when clogged with bacteria and dirt, which lead to blackheads. As glycolic acid dissolves dead skin cells, it clears blocked pores and blackheads. It also minimizes the appearance of pores by strengthening the surrounding cells and helping to maintain elasticity. 
  • Reverses sun damage. Overexposure to the sun can result in dark spots and discoloration of the skin. Glycolic acid peels expose fresh layers of skin, thereby minimizing the effects of the sun. The acid also stimulates the production of skin cells, and this regrowth leads to a brighter and more even complexion. 
  • Fades scars. Scars caused by acne and injury respond positively to consistent glycolic acid treatment. The peels contain stronger doses of glycolic acid than many over-the-counter acne treatments, so they can more effectively eliminate dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells. Remember that the effects of glycolic acid compound – frequent and regular use will continually improve skin. 
  • Reduces signs of aging. Glycolic acid increases cell turnover, keeping the youngest and healthiest cells on the skin’s surface. As it strengthens the deeper layers of skin, it softens lines and leaves a fuller, fresher appearance. 

Prior to Use 

When considering a glycolic acid peel, such as the Relumins Glycolic Peeling Gel from our line of products at Flawless Beauty and Skin, consult with a physician regarding discontinuing relevant prescription products several days prior. They should not be resumed until approximately 10 days after the peel. If using a peel for the first time, use the lowest available concentration and gradually increase strength as the skin becomes accustomed to it. 

A day or two before a peel, begin washing with a soap-free facial cleanser (without sodium lauryl sulfate). This will ensure the peel will effectively penetrate the skin. Depending on the type of peel chosen, consider keeping a free schedule for a few days after the treatment. This will allow time for recovery in the case of temporary redness and sensitivity, which are common side effects. 

Spot Test the Peel 

Conduct a spot test prior to undergoing a full glycolic acid peel to see how the skin will react and how long it should be left on. To do a spot test, take the preparatory steps described above and then select an area of skin below the ear and along the jaw line. Cotton swabs are helpful for applying the peel to avoid affected skin. 

Leave the peel on the small portion of skin for approximately one minute, then wash with water. If there is no burning sensation, it is safe to assume the peel can be left on for this length of time. If no adverse effects (excessive redness and itchiness, raised bumps, etc.) have been experienced for 1-2 days after the spot test, proceed with the full face peel and carefully follow directions for use. 

The Treatment 

Wash – with soap-free cleanser – and dry skin thoroughly, and apply a prep solution. These generally accompany skin peels, and remove any remaining oils on the surface of the skin. When the prep solution dries, apply the peel with a cotton swab or small brush. Do so liberally, avoiding the sensitive areas of the face around the nostrils, eyes, and corners of the lips. These sensitive areas would benefit from a coating of petroleum jelly to avoid contact with the chemical. 

Leave the peel on for approximately 1 minute, or for the length of time predetermined by the spot test. The skin will likely sting and appear red. To some extent, this is normal. If the sting becomes increasingly painful or the skin frosts, neutralize the peel immediately with cleanser or plain water. Alternatively, the peel can stay on the skin for more than one minute if the spot test was successful and there are no other presenting problems. Always neutralize after the desired amount of time. Subsequent peels can stay on the skin for an additional minute each treatment. 

As the skin adjusts to the peel, it may be safe to layer peels to increase their strength. This can be accomplished by applying one coating and applying another after about 5 minutes, or by using peels with higher concentrations. 

After the Peel 

Expect some redness on the skin for several hours after the glycolic acid peel. To ease the redness, use cooling products, such as aloe vera. A cooling mask or a simple cold towel wrap may also be helpful. The treated skin is also likely to be dry and flakey after the peel. The skin should always be allowed to peel naturally. Drink plenty of water and apply moisturizer or Vaseline regularly to minimize this effect. Stay out of the sun for several days or apply sunscreen if exposure is necessary. For more information on glycolic peels and other products to achieve Flawless Beauty and Skin, contact us today.