LaVie Organique Skincare Blog

The Three Faces of Exfoliation, Part 2: Chemical Exfoliation

The Unappealing Side of Chemical Exfoliation

Twenty-five years ago, the discovery of the bonus benefits of the acne treatment tretinoin (Retin-A) launched a revolution in skin care. Since then the use of synthetic vitamin A derivatives and other chemical exfoliants as anti-aging treatments has swept the beauty industry. At last, there were products and procedures that could dramatically improve the appearance of aging skin. In addition to Retin-A and related skin care products, more extreme versions of chemical seemed to promise a quick fix for every skin problem from acne and oily skin to age spots, warts, and wrinkles. But as with so many “miracle” products, the powerful effects of these chemical treatments come with risks.

Vitamin A Derivatives: A Word of Caution

The active ingredient in tretinoin and its over-the-counter cousins, the various retinol facial treatments retinol, is a vitamin A byproduct that induces a light chemical peel by introducing high doses of vitamin A into the skin. These products can cause severe irritation when used improperly. Women who are pregnant or nursing are warned not to use them because of the link between high doses of vitamin A and birth defects. Many women with sensitive skin find the redness and flakiness caused by these products too unpleasant to tolerate.

A Choice for an Organic Life

The Lavie Organique Product Line

At the right dosage level for your skin type, however, this powerful antioxidant does help restore a more youthful appearance by exfoliating worn-out surface skin cells and promoting cellular renewal in the underlying epidermal layer. With a natural form of vitamin A such as the retinyl palmitate in my LaVie Organique™ Original Formulas, you’re assured of the anti-aging effects of a plant-derived free radical scavenger without the risk of looking and feeling like you have a major case of sunburn.

Synthetic Chemical Peels: What Price Beauty?

Synthetic chemical peels are sometimes referred to as “lunchtime facelifts.” The implication is that you can radically change your appearance quickly, painlessly, and without any downtime. But even light peels with alpha hydroxyl acid (the active ingredient in many acne medications) or synthetic glycolic acid may cause flakiness, redness, and scabbing that can mar your appearance for days or weeks—and the deeper your go beneath the skin’s surface the higher the cost in pain and suffering. A medium trichloroacetic acid (TCA) can cause blistering and severe redness that may make you want to hide your face longer than you’d anticipated. With a deeper peel, the potential are more serious. In fact, the risks of this type of peel are equivalent to the dangers of surgery. This invasive procedure uses phenolic acid, a coal tar-derived industrial solvent and known carcinogen, also known as carbolic acid. Sedation and heart monitoring with an electrocardiograph are required. Recovery time usually takes three or four months and patients generally require strong medication to endure the deep throbbing pain.

The fact is, both TCA and phenol achieve their effects by inflicting a second-degree burn on your face. The severity of this injury to your skin poses serious risks including heart arrhythmias, shock, and infection. And in some cases the final result of all this painful damage can leave you with a ghostly white or brownish complexion.

As a European, I was schooled in a different approach to beauty. We prefer to incorporate a program of gradual, milder exfoliation into our holistic skin care regimen to achieve lasting results over time. I’ll explain more about this approach in Part 3 of “The Three Faces of Exfoliation.”

Leave a Reply