By Bir Ganguly
Unprotected sun exposure and the resultant sunburn can cause peeling. The yucky kind! That is not the peeling we want to talk about today. Dermatological research has shown that chemicals, specifically, certain kinds of naturally-occurring non-toxic substances found in edible fruits and vegetables, have rejuvenating effects on human skin. The most important of these are Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs. These work by helping peel off the dead cells forming the upper layers of our skin. In the 1970s, Dr. Eugene Van Scott and Dr. Ruey Yu, were the first to demonstrate the clinical benefits of AHAs, initiating the alpha hydroxyl acid skin care revolution. Later, in the 1980s, the two doctors went on to create the world’s foremost cosmetic dermatology brand, Neostrata
Environmental pollution, sun exposure, repeated facial expressions – all get programmed into the skin’s memory. Slowly and steadily they start to show their weight on our skin – fine lines, wrinkles, increased dryness, poor texture, uneven patches, and brown discolorations appear as the fresh glow of the teens and the early twenties start to fade away. Yes. These problem signs can start showing as early as one’s late or even mid twenties, depending on lifestyle and habits. AHAs counteract these developments by a process knows as exuviation. As the skin’s natural exfoliation or cell turnover gets sluggish, dry, rough, and discolored cells build up on the skin’s surface. Sometimes sebum, the skin’s natural oil secretion, gets caught in between to make things more complicated. Throw in some bacteria (the skin has enough to start with), and acne bumps and uneven patches start forming. AHAs gently dissolve away these layers of dead cells, allowing fresh new ones to emerge and restore a smooth, young and healthy appearance to the skin. The process can help smoothen out fine lines, wrinkles, and general rough texture; unclog and tighten pores; increase firmness; and even out skin tone. Peeling becomes especially relevant as winter set in, for the skin is most stressed at this time of season change. Further, the onset of dry cold weather causes a spike in the rate at which dead cells accumulate. So, appreciate the first line of defense that it is, and treat your skin to a nice and thorough peel treatment.* It’s Thanksgiving time!
A good product to start with is Skin Healthy Home Resurfacing Peel System from Neostrata’s Exuviance line. This is a home regimen system based on four steps – cleanse, peel, neutralize, and moisturize. In addition to AHAs, the peeling product in this system uses PHAs or Poly Hydroxy Acids, an even more versatile group of acids, also discovered by the original inventors of the AHA technology at Neostrata. The formulation contains five per cent glycolic acid (AHA) along with 15 per cent mandelic acid and five per cent luconolactone (PHAs) and works to restore the skin’s healthy appearance by exfoliating the dead, dull surface layers of the skin to stimulate the process of cell renewal and bring new, fresh skin cells to the surface. The compact box includes eight peels plus one for testing, a neutralizing solution, and a 30-day skincare regimen made up of a cleansing gel, a day moisturizer with SPF 15, and a restorative complex for night-time use. To learn more about this system or to purchase ($65) visit www.neostrata.com. Or, dial 800.225.9411 to find a participating store or salon near you.
At the next level is the NeoStrata Skin Rejuvenation System – a glycolic acid peel system that can only be performed as an in-office procedure by a trained professional. This powerful procedure provides controlled and predictable removal of surface skin cells, stimulating skin renewal to improve the appearance of the skin. The process is relatively inexpensive compared to many other cosmedical procedures. It takes only about 15 minutes and the results are immediately visible. Depending on your skincare needs and tolerance, your dermatologist or aesthetician can choose from four glycolic concentrations ranging from 20 per cent to 70 per cent in strength. The NeoStrata High Potency Peel is a “next generation” AHA peel offering strength beyond the NeoStrata 70% Glycolic Acid Skin Rejuvenation Peel. In addition to 70 percent glycolic acid, it contains other peeling agents – acetic acid, pyruvic acid, and ethyl pyruvate – and delivers more heavy-duty results than any other peel on the market. It is often used to treat serious skin imperfections, including severe pigmentational irregularities and hyperkeratosis (extreme dryness of skin).
Just like the skin on the face or elsewhere on the body, the scalp can suffer from some of the same problems when dead cells clog up its pores. In fact, it can have worse consequences. With the scalp, this can not only cause itch, irritation, and possible break-outs, but lead to hair loss as well. NeoCeuticals Treatment Scalp Solution, also from Neostrata’s professional line, is formulated with a blend of AHAs, PHAs, and cooling menthol to make for a perfect antidote. It helps loosen and remove scales, while moisturizing the scalp.
NeoStrata professional grade products are exclusively available through licensed skincare specialists. Speak with your dermatologist or aesthetician about products or procedures that you are interested in. In Manhattan, Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton (14 East 4th Street; 212.673.7100) and Dr. Joseph Eviatar (Chelsea Eye, 157 West 19th Street; 212.727.3717) use Neostrata products in their practice – both administer the High Potency Peel. For further information, dial 800.225.9411 or visit the NeoStrata Web site, www.neostrata.com.
Alpha Hydrox is a recently launched line from Neoteric Cosmetics, a company that was one of the leaders in the first major wave of AHA products in the 1990s. The Intensive AHA Revitalizing Peel from this line with 14 per cent glycolic acid is a very convenient treatment. It comes in the form of spa-style facial cloth masks, allowing for easy and effective at-home application. The peels come in boxes of six, each mask individually packaged. Also noteworthy is the AHA Souffle (1.6 oz) from Alpha Hydrox. A lightweight, non-greasy formula with 12 per cent AHA, it perceptibly smoothes, softens and restores the skin. Excellent for overnight use. It also contains peptides and green tea which help with firmness and prevent the harmful oxidizing effects of free radicals. Both products are available at Walgreens and other drugstores for $15.99 each.
If you have taken the organic path, worry not, for here is just the thing for you. Herban Cowboy, the first fully organic product line for men has now launched its Organic Skin Scrub and Organic Skin Repair Gel. The scrub, made from citrus extracts and seaweed, removes impurities and excess oil and simultaneously works as a mask and a powerful natural peel. A 3-in-1 functionality. Follow up the scrub with the skin repair gel. Oil-free and formulated with pure spring waterand other natural ingredients, it offers an intensely fresh bolt of hydration and also helps condition and tone the skin. Both products (3.5 oz for $12) are vegan, and can be purchased at Whole Body (of Whole Foods) or from www.herbancowboy.com.
Finally, if your taste is for the Zen, the Activating Enzyme Mask from Anakiri is your peel of choice. The Anakiri line embodies the emerging fields of bio-energetic medicine, herbology, aromatherapy, and phyto-nutrition. Unsurprisingly, this mask gets its fuel from the powerful properties of natural plant enzymes. Thus, in addition to removing dead skin cells and assisting in the regeneration of healthy new cells, it also provides nourishment and support during the exfoliation process. The product works particularly well for oily and acne-prone skin as it is highly anti-bacterial and has a calming effect on over-productive sebaceous glands. Anakiri is the line of choice at various upscale spas around the country, including the spa at Wynn Las Vegas. To sample the mask, you can use the spa locator on the Anakiri website, www.anakiri.com, to find one near you. You can also buy it from the website if you want to use it at home (3.2 oz for $40).
* Chemical (acid) peels form an extremely effective and serious procedure in cosmetic dermatology. If not properly administered, they can cause burns and pigmentation problems. In use of any home-treatment products mentioned here, all relevant directions should be adhered to, including that of performing a patch test for sensitivity and tolerance. Additionally, consulting with a skincare professional, to get a better understanding of one’s skin and its suitability for different strengths of peels, is advisable, even when one only intends to use over-the-counter treatments. Professional grade products should be administered solely by a trained physician or other appropriate licensed skincare professional. Use of sunscreen is strongly advised in conjunction with any exfoliatory/peeling treatment of the skin.