Chemical Peels: How Often?

How often I do a chemical peel depends on my purpose:

Reverse damage: This calls for a more rigorous solution of .05-1.5 pH level working up from 12.5% to 25% TCA peel solution during the winter months, with daily sunscreen use. This low pH level will cause peeling of the skin, which will kick start my body's healing mechanism to produce more collagen. Frequency depends on my skin condition; I try to fit in 3-5 peels during the winter, but we have long winters! If I do only 3 peels, I try to squeeze in a spot treatment as well.

Maintain results: I opt for a higher pH level of 1.6-2.4 for mild exfoliation (the lower the pH, the more exfoliation), with chemical peel percentages of 20-35% glycolic or lactic acid chemical peel solution (depending upon skin type: glycolic for oily, lactic for dry, or glyco-lac for combination). Frequency depends on percentage, to 35% glycolic acid or a combination Glyco-Lac peel of this strength,  I will use only 1-2 times per month, with daily sunscreen use. I like to use this type of peel during the spring and fall.

Prevent and/or anti-aging: I use a higher pH level product (to reduce irritation), with about 5-15% active solution, which could be  10% glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid. I may be able to use it 2-3 times per week (depending upon skin type: glycolic for oily, lactic for dry, and salicylic for acne-prone) or even daily if my skin isn't too sensitive and the pH level isn't too low. I also like to add in a vitamin C solution, but I'll post separately about vitamin C, since it's fairly complicated and can really cause damage if not used properly.

Somewhere between: If I am unable to have any downtime but still want a fairly aggressive product that stimulates collagen, I can also opt for a tretinoin or tri-retinol product. Tretinoin (Retin-A) requires a prescription and some forms are associated with redness, flaking, and other irritation, but clinical studies show that tri-retinol products are just as effective but without the irritation. These are usually labeled as retinol-complex or tri-retinol complex serums or creams. Remember to use retinol products at night; and these take time, so I consider them as products that achieve a purpose somewhere between the three above.

Some of these schedules can be mixed; for example, I reverse damage during the winter, maintain during spring and fall, and prevent during the summer, depending upon my sun exposure.

(More on pH level and why it’s important)

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