The beginner's guide to acid facial peels - and why they're not as scary as they sound
The image of a raw-faced, lobster-red post-acid peel Samantha in Sex and the City was hard to forget. No wonder, then, that some people were put off facial peels after seeing it. In reality, however, acids used in skincare sound a lot scarier than they are. Any product with a pH balance of less than 7 is classified as an acid - and the skin has a natural pH of 5.5, so is acidic in itself.
Used correctly, acids are brilliant skincare tools. They can remove old dead skin, sun- and age spots and acne scars, and bring back the luminosity to skin that may have dulled with age. To get you glowing this spring, I road-tested a selection of both in-salon and at-home acid peels. Below, I've listed some of the most effective professional peel treatments along with the salons near to my base in Dublin where I've tried them, but many are available nationwide. Next week I'll look at the best DIY options.
Professional peels have higher levels of acids that can go deeper into the skin than at-home products. As such, they can be slightly uncomfortable when applied: expect one or two minutes of a tingly, hot, tight (but not painful) sensation before your therapist applies a neutraliser. Afterwards the skin can look red for a few hours, and some light peeling can be expected in the days after the session, before the new smoother, brighter skin emerges.
If a chemical-laden peel isn't for you, you can opt for a natural alternative. Face Modelling is a new treatment from award-winning facialist Agnes Gajewska. A combination of buccal massage (the therapist massages the inside of your mouth), face and body cupping, lymph drainage using kinetic tapes and face-lifting massage techniques, this is a dream for anyone suffering from sagging skin, double chins, dull skin, facial bloating, puffy eyes and jaw strain. Priced €130 per session exclusively at Essentials Salon, Dublin. See essentials.ie.
3 of the best: Professional acid peels
What: SkinCeuticals Bespoke Peel.
Where: The Spa at The Marker Hotel, themarkerhoteldublin.com, and selected SkinCeuticals salons nationwide.
Cost: Contact The Spa for pricing at 01-6875194.
This super speedy bespoke chemical peel, which uses glycolic and lactic acid, is customised to suit your specific skin type and issues. The treatment takes just 30 minutes, and leaves minimal redness on the skin afterwards, so it's possible to have it done over a lunch break. This peel is perfect if your skin is sun-damaged, dry or rough-textured, or for mature skin that's in need of a quick boost.
What: The Nunni Peel.
Where: The Ailesbury Clinic, ailesburyclinic.ie.
Cost: €350 per session.
If you have a darker skin tone and suffer from dark sunspots or heavily pigmented skin discolouration, known as melasma, check out this combination peel. Using glycolic, lactic, salicylic and mandelic acid, it is brilliant for those with darker skin tones who are not able to use laser treatments for skin issues.
What: Dermalogica Pro Power Peel.
Where: Nu Essence Salon, nuessence.ie, and Dermalogica salons nationwide. See dermalogica.ie.
Cost: €140 per session.
If you're wary about getting an acid peel, start gentle. This treatment from Dermalogica is a set of three peels - which use different acid percentages bespoke to each client's skin needs - with a two-week break between sessions. The peels are very relaxing, it feels like having a facial. The discomfort only lasts for a couple of minutes and left me with zero redness and a glowing complexion. Brilliant.