A number of chemical products aid the skin to exfoliate. One of the most common is salicylic acid. In 1-2% concentrations, it allows gentle peeling of the skin and is usually incorporated in washes and astringents.
Another product is glycolic acid. It is usually available as soaps, creams, lotions. An alpha-hydroxy acid, it allows exfoliation and is usually available from 5-20% formulations. The higher the concentration, the stronger the exfoliating effect. This can, however, cause some discomfort and stinging sensations.
Retinol is also used as part of cosmetic products to induce exfoliation. Milder in action compared to its relative, retinoic acid or tretinoin, it is incorporated in creams which are usually used at night.
After exfoliation, keeping skin smooth starts with proper care—from eating the right food to using the right products. Avoid products that make your skin sting. The stinging sensation should disappear in 1 to 2 weeks after starting on a new product. If it doesn’t disappear, chances are your skin will eventually react and become red or rough.
Sometimes, your skin is already peeling but you are unaware of it. Dryness and slight flaking can be barely obvious after a treatment. Sometimes, your skin will seem not to have peeled at all. If you do see obvious peeling on your skin after a treatment, moisturize and top it off with a good sun block. Since you have just removed part of the upper layer of your skin, it’s normal for it to be more sensitive, especially to ultraviolet light.
Stay away from the outdoors for at least a week after a treatment. Some patients learn too late, when they are older, that all the peeling sessions they had as younger women are the cause of the pigmentations on their skin because they weren’t able to protect their skin properly by using sun block and by avoiding outdoor exposure.
Now you’re ready to face the sun—do use sun block properly by applying it every hour that you are under direct exposure or else you will be back to exfoliating yourself because of the unwanted and uneven brown pigmentations on your skin.