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Treating your skin to a professional-strength peel can be like hitting the reset button on your complexion. You shed all the dead skin cells that build up on the surface of your skin over time and make it look dull, and start fresh with new, younger-looking skin underneath. Most peels you’re familiar with use acids or fruit enzymes to loosen this dead skin layer, but there’s another option that uses retinol, and although it’s not new, it’s recently become a much more popular request at dermatologist’s offices and spas.
“Retinol peels use vitamin A as the exfoliating agent, although they are sometimes combined with other peeling agents depending on the client’s skin type and individual needs,” says Chicago dermatologist Carolyn Jacob, MD. Vitamin A gives skin the smooth, rejuvenated results you’d expect from other peels, but with even more anti-aging benefits.
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According to Greenwich, CT, dermatologist Mitchell Ross, MD, retinol peels are highly effective because pure retinol is able to penetrate into deeper layers of skin due to its small molecular size. “They’re suitable for most skin types, but are particularly effective for those with acne, pigment issues and visible signs of aging. As people become more educated and understand the abundance of benefits retinol offers, these peels are becoming more popular. In the past, people only associated retinoids with acne, but today most women are adding a retinoid, whether over-the-counter or prescription, to their skin care routines. So, it just makes sense that they would want it in the form of a professional peel, too.”
Dr. Ross says you will notice both short-term and long-term benefits from a retinol peel due to how retinol works in the skin. “Your skin will feel more hydrated, fine lines and wrinkles will be reduced, your skin’s elasticity will be boosted for a plumper look, and the breakdown of natural collagen in your skin will slow down,” he explains. “For acne-prone skin, breakouts will be calmed and flare-ups will be reduced. Overall, retinol peels help maintain the general appearance and health of the skin.”
As with most in-office peels that tend to be much stronger than the versions you use at home, there will be some downtime. “Depending on the strength of the peel [6 percent retinol peels are commonly offered], there is typically mild flaking for two to three days after the treatment,” says Dr. Jacob. And as Dr. Ross recommends, “It’s always wise not to plan on attending a big social or work event for about a week after getting a peel.”