Alpha Hydroxy Acid and Beta Hydroxy Acid Peels

Chemical peels are very popular. I first read about them in a beauty magazine three years ago. The editor had tried a chemical peel on the fine wrinkles on the her forehead and was pleased with the results. Before deciding whether a chemical peel would be a good treatment for the age spots on my face and arms, I started gathering information and feedback from people who had tried mild, medium or deep chemical peels.

Shop for AHA and BHA Chemical Peels that are safe to use at home (professional strength gel peels).

I finally decided to give chemical peels a try in 2005, three weeks after my first professional microdermabrasion series. I had a mild glycolic peel at the local spa. The procedure lasted for about 30 minutes, didn't hurt and had no adverse reactions, but a week afterwards, the age spots on my arms and face were still there. The glycolic peel had no effect on my skin.

The lack of results, however, doesn't prove chemical peels ineffective. I personally know many people who are quite happy with chemical peeling treatments, and based on their experiences and my own findings, I've made a comparison between the two most popular peeling agents: AHAs and BHAs.

They are both mild acids which exfoliate only the top layers of the epidermis. They both destroy the tissue that connects the outer damaged skin layer to the layer underneath, and instantly burn the exfoliated cells. The main difference between the two acids is that Alpha Hydroxy Acids are water soluble while Beta Hydroxy Acids like salicylic acid are lipid soluble. The benefit of a water soluble acid is that it draws hydrating ingredients found in after-care products into the skin, while a BHA acid penetrates oily skin and blocked pores better.

As I understand it, another difference between Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids is that AHA acids are irritant, whereas BHA acids have anti-irritant properties. As a result, BHA peels are safer and more effective than AHAs on sensitive and oily skin, while AHAs are better on sun damaged skin.

If you don't like the idea of acid on your skin for 30 minutes, but still want to give chemical peels a try, you can test one of the many at-home AHA and BHA cosmetic products. There are tens of moisturizers, anti-age creams, cleansers and exfoliants with peeling acids of lower or higher concentrations that mildly resurface the skin.

Please remember to talk to a skin specialist before deciding to buy products with AH or BH acids, because they can be very dangerous if used without medical guidance.

Next, a few tips on personal microdermabrasion.