For this final piece in the exfoliation series, we’ll take a look at some of the chemical exfoliators. I’ll also briefly touch on moving beyond just the face to rest of the body, which as we all know needs help in that department too.
Chemical exfoliators include enzymes, AHAs, retinols, salicylic acid, TCA, and Jessner to name a few. While each will vary widely in its effect on the skin, these essentially work by digesting the stratum corneum cells and breaking down surface cells.
Enzymes are proteins typically derived from fruit, vegetable, dairy or other animal origins. They produce a chemical change in the skin by way of digesting the stratum corneum. Today enzymes, thanks to advancements in aesthetics, enzymes also provide valuable nourishing and skin-building qualities.
In the world of enzymes there are fruit enzymes extracted from cherry, pumpkin, pomegranate, tomato, and red grape. There are also lactose enzymes derived from pure cultured sour milk. These provide hydration and digestion to leave the skin glowing for days. Pepsin, papain (derived from papayas) and bromelain (from pineapples) are also widely used to digest keratin protein and smooth skin.
Enzymes are wonderful for providing exfoliation as well as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support. Many of the formulas are rich in vitamins and flavonoids, which also stimulate collagen activity.
Superficial Epidermal Exfoliations
There are a variety of acids that may be used for skin exfoliation, and each has a specific purpose and effect on skin cells and tissue regeneration. Some of the most commonly used acids include:
- AHAs – naturally occurring, nontoxic organic acids. The most commonly used include glycolic (from sugar cane) and lactic (from milk). Others include malic (apples), tartaric (grapes) and citric (citrus) acid.
- Azelaic acid (up to 15 percent) – created by oxygenating oleic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid found in milk fats. This is used as a lightening, lifting and antibacterial agent.
- Salicylic acid – a beta-hydroxy acid extracted from wintergreen and birch. It is a relatively safe, low-risk acid, as it is self-neutralizing and produces a drying and lifting effect. Repeated applications in high-strength doses can result in systemic toxicity.
- Flower acids – obtained from hibiscus chalices, flower acids are characterized by their high level of AHA-like citric acid (10%) and pyruvic acid (5%). They are classified as second-generation AHAs because of their ability to increase cell turn over without irritating the skin, and potent hydrating qualities.
- Retinol – a Vitamin A derivative that converts to retinoic acid and is a DNA regulator. It assists in the synthesis of collagen, aids in the formation of blood vessels and encourages healthy cell formation.
- Jessner and red wine vinegar acid (acetic acid) – Jessner is a combination of lower-strength acids (salicylic, resorcinol and lactic, all at 14 percent), which synergize to produce an efficient exfoliating agent with less risk. Red wine vinegar (acetic acid) is an all-natural acid with high antioxidant content.
This is a brief overview of some of the most commonly used agents, and I encourage you to expand your knowledge on the types of agents available, as it will prove to be the most important component in your chemical peel practice.
Exfoliating the Body
Body peels work beyond just the surface to reduce course texture and fine lines, diminish age spots and hyperpigmentation, and help maintain healthier, more youthful looking skin. I liken them to a workout for the skin, as clients often realize an immediate change in firmness and texture.
With body peels there are different techniques and skin issues to be cognizant of prior to treatment. Since the body has tougher skin – enzymes, AHAs like L-lactic acids, and other acid combinations may be used to lift away deeper layers of dead skin cells, provide antioxidants, and regenerate and hydrate, leaving the skin smooth and polished.
Skin assessments are essential and attention to any existing scar tissue, sun damage, spots and moles is imperative. Also, use caution not to peel more than 25 percent of the body at the same time.
Chemical exfoliation certainly produces tremendous skin benefits, but extreme caution needs to be exercised when working in this arena. Always seek out the proper education first. Once you do, you will be able to effect significant change in your clients skin.