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What You Need To Know About Glycolic Acid Peels

by Ursula Dewey ,
What You Need To Know About Glycolic Acid Peels© Getty

If you're anything like the rest of us, when you hear the words 'acid' and 'peel' your skin will automatically start to crawl, but the experts say peels are actually one of the best and least invasive ways to improve your skin. To see if they were right we reviewed a series of glycolic acid peels and the results were NOT what we were expecting...

  1. · What happens in the treatment?
  2. · OK - but what does a glycolic peel actually do?
  3. · After Effects
  4. · How many treatments do you have to have?
  5. · Results: The Verdict
  6. · Check out these stars with flawless skin:

Let's face it - every girl wants their skin to look flawless. In fact, on average, most women in the UK wish their skin could stay looking 27 forever and it's no surprise. Skin at that age is generally plump, clear of spots and radiant with youth... at least it's supposed to be.

A quick poll in the office revealed that the skin things we fret about most in our twenties are; pigmentation, fine lines, break outs and general dullness. But according to cosmetic skin doctor, Dr Leah Totton, these are all things that can be improved with a glycolic peel.

Acid peels have been around for ages, they're one of the most tried and tested ways to improve your skin health. There are several types of acid peels which are offered routinely by dermatologists and cosmetic doctors; salicylic acid, mandelic acid and glycolic acid which is perfect for the treatment of fine lines, dullness and uneven skintone.

All of these peels can be very gentle. With a glycolic peel, the first two times you have a treatment you will have a very low percentage of glycolic acid (normally 20 percent) so that your skin can build up a resistance, then this increases to 35 percent and if necessary 50 percent for the final peel.

What happens in the treatment?

Forget about those Samantha Jones from Sex And The City moments; glycolic acid peels will not leave you with scorched, raw skin. The whole process is gentle, quick and easy.

"Glycolic peels are suitable for most people, even those without a specific concern and what's more you don’t need to have any downtime. Peels have moved on so much you can have a very controlled peel without having to look like a beetroot for days.​" Dr Totton confirms.

Before your first treatment your practitioner will assess your skin and your primary concerns and will then prescribe a course of treatment. My skin tone was uneven with fine lines and I was particularly conscious of acne scarring and blemishes which I wanted to get under control.

Normally you have to prepare your skin pre-treatment by using a cleanser with a low percentage of glycolic. Jan Marini do a good one which I had already been using so my first treatment started immediately after the consultation.

In the treatment your face is cleansed of make up and then the glycolic solution is applied to your skin for up to five minutes.

While the solution is on your skin you can feel a very light tingle which gradually increases. In no way was it painful or uncomfortable and before you know it your practitioner is neutralising the solution. Once it has been removed your skin is treated to a light SPF moisturiser. The whole process takes ten minutes and your skin is glowing and slightly pink. Other than that you're good to go back to work.

OK - but what does a glycolic peel actually do?

Dr Leah Totton says, "The first thing it does is exfoliate away the tough, dull, dead layer of skin, it also manages to penetrate through that layer and actually rejuvenate and regenerate the skin cells underneath. So typically you will get two benefits; the exfoliation as well as the rejuvenation which is helpful for things like fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone and blemishes."

The main incentive people have for getting a course of glycolic peels is to improve on what they've got. As Dr. Totton says: "It makes skin looks its best. A lot of people just want to look better, they want to look that much fresher, more plump, more glowing and that's what is so great about glycolic peels. Even you don’t have any specific issues for treatment or concerns you can still benefit from the treatment because it gives you a much clearer appearance of the skin."

It's the deep exfoliation which lifts away lack lustre skin, allowing a younger, clearer complexion to shine through.

After Effects

Forget sheets of skin falling off your face, the after effects of a glycolic peel are nowhere near. Expect shiny, ultra-clean skin post peel and a radiant glow for a few days afterward.

Dr Totton says, "Normally, you look very glowy for three days then on day four or five after the peel, you shed individual skin cells, so the skin can look slightly dryer and you can have some mild flaking from day three to day five."

The only thing you have to be careful of is sun damage. Post peel your skin is sensitive to UV so make sure you use a high SPF on your face (you should be doing that anyway)!

How many treatments do you have to have?

No one wants to commit to a lifetime of treatments, but the good thing about glycolic peels is that you can have a course then just top up every few months after that - it's totally up to you.

If you want to have perfect skin for a big event like a wedding or party, having regular glycolic peels in the lead up will see that your skin looks its absolute best.​

Ultimately Dr Totton says, "It will depend very much on how much work you’ve had done to the skin in terms of peels in the past. I have a course yearly, but my initial course which I had two years ago now was a six peel course, so if It is your first course I’d say one per month for six months then move on to maintenance – one peel every three months."

Results: The Verdict

I had a course of five treatments, spaced one month apart each time. Throughout this period my skin looked younger, fresher, plumper and more radiant. My fine lines were smoothed and my acne scarring and pigmentation were significantly improved, what's more, my normally temperamental skin was much better behaved with far fewer blemishes.

Every time I had a peel I had compliments for weeks afterwards about how good my skin was looking - which is exactly the kind of result I wanted. Nothing fake, nothing invasive, just my skin - but better.​

I was so impressed with how quick and easy the glycolic peels are to have. You can fit them into your lunch break and there's absolutely no pain or downtime. I had my treatments at Dr Leah Totton's Moorgate Clinic and was taken care of at every step of the process. From asking a hundred annoying questions to being advised on which skincare brands are a must (Heliocare and Neostrada), Dr Leah and her team were passionate, professional and dedicated to making my skin reach its potential.

The results you can get from a glycolic peel are definitely noticeable, but they're subtle. This is no Botox/filler job. The tone is more even, pores are smaller, breakouts are fewer and fine lines are barely there. For celebrity skin without the needles, this is a perfect treatment. I'll definitely be topping up with a peel in a few months time.

Glycolic facial peels are available from Dr Leah Totton, priced at £70.

For more information visit Dr Leah Totton's website.

Check out these stars with flawless skin:

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