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Skin

What are the best skin peels for your face?

Since their discovery in the mid-1970s skin acids (AHAs, BHAs and, more recently, PHAs) have become the glow-giving essentials of our skin regime. NEWBY HANDS gets the lowdown on which peel does what

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Why acids are key to a good skin

Famous for their skin-polishing properties (they dissolve the cement that holds the cells together, so dull, flaky surface cells are shed revealing a fresh, smooth skin underneath), acids have more far-reaching benefits than you might think. “Acids are truly underestimated,” says dermatologist Professor Briden, who worked for over 30 years with the doctors who discovered AHAs. “They normalize skin-cell turnover – and 50% of skin problems, including acne, are caused by abnormal skin turnover. Plus, they are shown to reverse sun damage, stimulate new collagen and hyaluronic acid, and lighten pigmentation.”

Which face peels work best?

With a menu of acid peels to choose from, much depends on your skin type and condition – and what you want to achieve.

AHAs

“These are good for thicker or sun-damaged skin,” says Professor Briden. “They have a smaller molecule and so penetrate the skin, which is why you often feel a stinging sensation, and even at a lower concentration of 5% acid, you still get results. However, they are not recommended if you have rosacea or a sensitive skin.” Mandelic acid, from almonds, is good for balancing an acne-prone skin and it calms rosacea “thanks to its anti-bacterial and calming properties. It’s also good for pigmentation,” says Professor Briden.

PHAs

The second-generation acids, these penetrate less and so don’t sting, plus they are hydrating, which makes them good for drier skin, while still giving you a gentle peel. “They also acts as a potent antioxidant and inhibit the enzyme that destroys collagen, plus they protect against glycation (the hardening of collagen fibers by excess sugar), and treat eczema,” says Professor Briden.

BHAs

“These include salicylic acid and are mainly used to treat acne and breakout skin as they have such good anti-inflammatory properties,” advises Professor Briden. “But you wouldn’t make these a part of your normal regime, unless you have a problematic skin, as they are so dehydrating.”

The perfect peel regime

We may associate a good AHA peel with that skin tingle, but any product that does this should not be an on-going part of your regular regime. “We use the AHAs when we want more of a peel, for those starting out on a new regime, or to treat sun damage,” advises Professor Briden. “In the same way that micro-needling or micro-dermabrasion create an injury to induce skin repair, the tingle and redness is creating a similar skin response. So this is not something you want to do long-term, only as a short course or as a booster treatment. The pH of your glycolic peel plays a role, and the lower it is, the more irritating it is. So for daily or ongoing use, choose pH 3.5 to 5.5.”

For daily or regular use, Professor Briden recommends using PHAs (or the more gentle buffered AHAs), “because they are moisturizing and potent antioxidants – plus, they repair the skin barrier, normalize skin turnover and boost collagen while still giving a peel.”

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