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The Complex World of Chemical Peels

The Complex World of Chemical Peels

Beneath sun spots, freckles and even scars, there’s a layer of fresh skin cells and a brighter complexion waiting to emerge. Of course, our skin pushes new cells forward every day, but it’s a slow process and certainly not dramatic enough for noticeable improvement. So our skin remains generally unchanged in appearance if we do nothing to intervene. The trick is how to uncover that hidden, undamaged layer safely and swiftly!

How do I pick the right peel?

Chemical peels were first employed by ancient Egyptians and they’re the longest running beauty treatment to date. Not surprisingly, they’re one of our most popular procedures. Lactic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, retinoic acid and trichloroacetic acid (TCA) are the most commonly utilized formulas in use today and each has their own unique interaction.

The popular Jessner peel is a specific blend, meant to remove superficial layers of skin, dry out active acne and shed blackheads. It also minimizes the appearance of fine lines, scarring and improves general tone and texture. Jessner is a proven peel that we rely on to help our clients maintain healthy, younger looking skin. But all that renewal will cost you some downtime, you’ll experience redness and a tight, dry sensation that increases as your peel progresses. The treated skin will darken as it sloughs off. During this period, resist the urge to pick! Baby your skin with a barrier cream or products recommended by your aesthetician, and plan to avoid makeup for at least 24 hours.

Glycolic acid is useful for superficial peels that renew the skin at the topmost layer with minimal flaking and peeling. Perfect for those with darker skin or those who are pregnant, have an allergy to shellfish or aspirin. If you’ve ever had a Hydrafacial at our spa, you’ve had a glycolic peel.

Customized Peels Go Further

Custom peels are a more sophisticated approach to treating skin concerns like melasma, acne and scarring. At Halcyon Med Spa, lead medical aesthetician Evette Ford has developed a variety of chemical strategies to achieve even more from a peel. Evette is a Texas licensed cosmetology operator and responsible for aesthetic services research and development. Her custom peels are treatments that go beyond a textbook chemical peel.

One such custom peel developed by Evette is our Scar Revision Therapy, a two-step process where she overlaps a Jessner with a TCA peel. In this process we’d begin slowly to watch for protein coagulation, called frosting. Unlike a basic Jessner which stays on the skin, this peel must be neutralized by retinoic acid. Patience is required! By starting slowly, we build epidermal thickness and address contraction of the skin fibers in each scar. You’ll see crusting followed by pinkness, especially at the areas of scarring where the chemicals are most aggressive. But the actual downtime is only about 5-7 days after each peel. Expect about three peels in the series, each spaced 4-6 weeks apart. Smoother, brighter and more vibrant skin is the reward at the end of the process.

Another peel developed in-house is the Pigment Power Peel, It’s an answer to treating unwanted hyperpigmentation, especially melasma. Melasma appears as brownish or grey patches across the face. They’re difficult to treat because melasma, which is common during pregnancy and other periods of hormonal changes, can worsen with exposure to heat. Both sun and lasers can potentially worsen melasma. The Pigment Power Peel is a gradual strengthening of acid application that targets the darker skin cells, shedding them lightly at first, then progressing to a deeper peel for more effective treatment.

But What If I Don’t Have Time To Peel and Flake?

If you’re someone who simply can’t afford any downtime, or someone who works outside and can’t avoid the sun, the ZO Skin Health Stimulator Peel might be a great option. Expect a tingling sensation as the peel is applied, then after 2-3 passes we neutralize the entire area. This is a great “lunchtime peel” that stimulates cell turnover, reducing fine lines and improving skin tone and texture.

How Do I Take Care When I Go Home?

Regardless of what type of peel you decide upon, or where you get it, be sure to follow your practitioner’s instructions to the letter. You’ll want to pause any at-home retinol applications prior to your appointment. Post care is critical to ensure you don’t end up with unexpected pigmentation, such as might be caused by unprotected sun exposure, or unwittingly thwarting the action of the peel by using the wrong products at home. Ask all your questions and don’t leave your appointment until you’re certain you understand your post-care instructions. You’ll want to be ready to soothe your skin directly after treatment.


Evette Ford is the Lead Medical Aesthetician and A.S. Research Developer at Halcyon Med Spa. She is a state licensed cosmetology operator and a former educator at Aveda Institute.

Halcyon Med Spa is solely owned and operated by Dr. Lonnie Schwirtlich. All medical services are performed by Allergan Master Injector Heather Lenhart, FNP-C, Donna Jackson, FNP-C and Dr. Katie Boyle.

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