The LONG History of Chemical Peels

The LONG History of Chemical Peels | RefinedMD, Los Gatos + San Jose

The LONG History of Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are ultimately a form of exfoliation that also encourages collagen production. They are just what they sound like: chemical concoctions that peel away (exfoliate) the top layer or layers of skin to reveal the younger-looking skin below the surface. RefinedMD offers a variety of chemical peels so that every person of every skin type and tone can benefit from this popular treatment. However, the idea of skin resurfacing is not new—it has been around for thousands of years.

Research shows that during the prehistoric period, people (women in particular) used shells, rocks, and other natural elements to resurface their skin. Specifically, women in Babylonia and India preferred pumice stones for exfoliation. These stones are still used today, but mostly on tougher skin like the soles of the feet during pedicures. During the Middle Ages, the very first chemical peels were created. They were created by soaking cloth in mustard, lime, or even sulfur. Today, lime and other citric acids are still used in chemical peels (though the idea of putting “just” lime on your face is not going to yield the best results). It’s no surprise that we have been rejuvenating skin since time immemorial, but it’s great news that today’s chemical peels are so advanced.

Peels in the Early Days

Allegedly, Romanies were the first community who used phenol for what is today called deep chemical peels. They shared “recipes” for peels throughout their villages and these were passed down throughout the generations. Today, there are light/superficial peels, medium peels, and deep peels. Most clients opt for light or medium peels, with deep peels reserved for surgical appointments (often while the patient is under anesthesia due to the discomfort). However, Romanies weren’t the only people who were aggressive when it came to peels.

There is a story of Turkish people who would use fire to singe their skin, which (when performed correctly) would exfoliate the skin. Obviously, today that is no longer performed. It is very difficult to achieve proper controlled damage with this kind of heat, and burns can be difficult to treat (though for those who do have scars from burning, chemical peels and lasers can help with that!).

Of course, no mention of beauty’s history would be complete without the Egyptians. They were renowned for their innovative and eclectic beauty secrets. According to early papyrus documents, balms and acids were used for chemical peels. As for the Romans and Greeks, they preferred fermented grape juice, soured milk, and lemon extract for skin clarification. Once again, acid appears as an early means of beautification.

Chemical Peels Today

Chemical peels today have come a long way, but we still use many ingredients sourced from natural materials to make up these peels. While “sour milk” is no longer in chemical peels, you will often find lactic acid as one of the ingredients. “Sour grapes” aren’t in chemical peels, but sometimes tartaric acid is (and that’s exactly what is found in sour grapes!). Salicylic acid is one of the most common chemical peel ingredients, and it can be found in wintergreen. There’s also beta hydroxy acid in there, too.

The famed TCA peel, a favorite for medium peels, is sourced from nature. Deeper peels contain different ingredients, sometimes sourced from nature, but today the trend has shifted away from deep peels that require extensive healing (and discomfort) toward medium and light peels—and with good reason.

These peels offer incredible results with total skin shedding being complete in less than one week. You no longer have to suffer for beauty (or use fire and milk gone bad). Peels are customized just for you, expertly applied, and most clients feel comfortable getting back to their daily lives even after medium-depth peels. Peels not only help your skin look incredibly better and more youthful right after healing (ahem, just one week) but results keep improving thanks to collagen production. If you’re interested in chemical peels, contact RefinedMD today for a consultation by calling the office or completing the online form.