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By Arwa Lodhi
For many, the idea of a skin peel evokes images of layers of skin rolling off your face like so much old wallpaper, or a raw, angry red face for days. And that can indeed happen, depending on the potency of the formula. But if you’re after a gentler, more natural peel, there are loads of options – and they can do so much good for your face!
Like what, you may ask? Well for starters, they’ll get rid of dullness and congestion that simple face washing can’t erase. Secondly, over time, they can break up pigmentation spots, shrink pores, restore pH balance to the skin, and allow it to better absorb moisturizers and other products. Acid peels also boost collagen levels and thicken skin. Finally, if used regularly, they can soften fine lines and wrinkles.
What to choose
All kinds of natural ingredients can provide a peeling effect, which burns off dead cells on the surface of the face to reveal brighter skin beneath.
Lactic acid is one of those. Based on milk byproducts, it’s one of the most gentle peels and works really well on oily or combination skin.
Glycolic acid is a sugar cane based product that’s a popular choice for smoothing out wrinkles and comes in different strengths. Go for something under 4% at home – this will tingle a bit and leave a slight redness for around 24 hours.
Salicylic acid is a serious peel that cleanses deeply, eradicating the dirt and bacteria that cause acne.
Alpha hydroxy acid is the umbrella term for all of the above; basically for any acid that comes from several possible food sources, including sugarcane and milk.
Enzyme peels offer a more gentle solution that can be incorporated into a regular skincare regimen. These treatments can speed up natural chemical reactions in the skin that renew skin cells while exfoliating dead cells, diminishing scars, age spots, fine lines, and discolouration. The most amazing thing about enzyme peels is that they don’t damage or remove live tissue – they remove ONLY dead cells, so they’re perfect for frequent use.
Want to know a bit more about what peels feel like and what they can do for you? Check out our list below of products we’ve tried and tested, and see what happened when Vlogger Nikki Philippi went to a dermatologist for a clinical Jessner peel:
Products to try
When you’re essentially burning off a layer of skin, you really, really don’t want to have nasty chemicals in a product that are just going to enter your bloodstream deeper and faster, right? So ensure you only choose the most natural of peeling products, like these below. We’ve tried and tested each one!
This fruit based enzyme peel comes in gel form and sloughs away dead skin without irritating the epidermis too much. It’s a great product to use before a mask, as it will allow the ingredients to penetrate more deeply. This one is great for sensitive skin, and can be used weekly. When I tried this, I barely felt a thing, but my skin did look fresher right away.
Ouch factor: Zero Strength: Mild
French brand Caudalie’s glycolic acid mask is a quick radiance-boosting solution for all skin types that are looking tired, dull and dry. It contains papaya enzymes to eliminate dead skin cells and the antioxidant viniferine to help reduce dark spots and pigmentation. This boasts 85.7% natural origin ingredients and is free from parabens, mineral oils and phthalates. It’s very gentle, smells lovely, and can be used weekly.
Ouch factor: Zero Strength: Mild
This is another gentle peel that feels a bit tingly when applied, and should be left on for about 3 minutes before being rinsed off. It does give you some redness, but it won’t last long (think: overnight), and you’re good to go the next day. I had a bit of flakiness around my nose for a few days after using this; nothing major, but clearly, it works. Use once every ten days or so for best effects.
Ouch factor: 2 Strength: Mild – leave on longer for more strength
This is a strong exfoliation treatment infused with powerful ingredients designed to visibly reduce the appearance of wrinkles, discoloration, and pores while also providing nourishment to the skin. Glycolic Acid, Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid work together to reveal healthier skin immediately. This is fairly potent, depending on how long you leave it on. It can also be used on decolletage and acne. In fact, it’s great for oily skin, and can be used bimonthly. Try using it at night, as it will leave you a bit red for a few hours.
Ouch factor: 4 Strength: Low to Medium
This is a hardcore, professional grade AHA peel that stimulates collagen production, reduces the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation. Increased cell regeneration exposes younger skin underneath. But be warned: to get those benefits pretty quickly, you could experience redness and some skin peeling for around 5-7 days. Use only according to the directions given. This burned a bit going on, and I had a bit of redness and some serious flakiness between my eyebrows, under my lower lip and beside my nose for about a week.
Ouch factor: 7 Strength: Medium to strong