When you hear the word “skin peel,” images of beauty and shrunken pores may not come to mind. I actually think of that guy’s melting face from Raiders of the Lost Ark — you know the one who stupidly opened the ark and looked right in. Nowadays skin, or chemical, peels are usually mild. You can do them at home or at your dermatologist office, and if you’re lucky your medical insurance may even cover them. Why? They remove pre-cancerous cells! That’s right, for once you can feel good about a silly beauty treatment. You’re not really that vain, just being proactive about your health (wink).
The mild peels, which can be done with a variety of different acids, remove a portion of the top layer of your skin, called the epidermis. This is our skin’s “bouncer,” serving to protect us against bad guys (infections, for example) and keep the party going smoothly inside. (The party is of course the complex network of body functions in your body.)
Below the epidermis is the dermis. This is where the collagen and elastin lie, keeping skin taut and flexible like that annoying girl in yoga class who can do all the hard moves.
The top portion of the epidermis naturally renews itself about every two weeks. Dead cells slough right off, making way for the new generation underneath. When you get a peel, you are speeding up this process, rushing the oldest, dullest skin cells out the door. But the peels also dig a little deeper into the skin, removing a layer of cells that normally stays put. It is this layer that houses the age spots and discolorations from pigment cells. Sayonara blotchy skin. In addition to improving the evenness of skin tone, peels also smooth fine wrinkles and improve acne.
Also thrown out in the skin-peel trash are potentially pre-cancerous cells. You never know where cancer could be lurking in its early stages. Sometimes it’s in the top layers of skin. A cell is damaged but hasn’t spread the bad vibes too far. Peels remove some of these possible party-killers, but only the “good” kind not the melanomas. It’s like giving the obnoxious guy at a party the boot but not the serial killer. Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, forms in an even deeper layer of the epidermis and is not removed in mild skin peels. To protect against melanoma, you’ll need to slather on that sunscreen and check your moles!