Alpha hydroxy peels are not a cure-all for the face


May 26, 1994|By Paula Begoun | Paula Begoun,Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service

Q: I asked my doctor's office for an ingredient list for the MicroPeel and BioMedic products used by dermatologists, but the woman there told me she didn't think it was available. At this point I began to wonder. My doctor sent me a letter saying I would not be sensitive to the sun, yet the brochure says otherwise. This contradictory information tells me that someone is confused. However, I'm still interested in AHA peels. I use Alpha Hydrox Lotion and I'm happy with it, along with Cetaphil Lotion and baking soda. Yet my skin is still not as clear as it could be. The pores are large, the color uneven, and I still break out.

A: Even if I weren't opposed to skin peels (and I am), I would still encourage you to see another physician because this one is giving you poor information. The brochure is correct; your skin would most likely become more sensitive to the sun. You should also be allowed to see the ingredient list. The information I have from several dermatologists is that there are possible risks of skin discoloration and even wrinkling from continued use of AHA skin peels. I would not jump in until more research is done on the matter. Also, you have unrealistic expectations about AHAs. They will not close pores, the peels can't even out your skin color any better than the Alpha Hydrox Lotion you are using can, and the peels, AHA moisturizers and toners won't eradicate breakouts. AHAs can do positive things for skin, but women are getting carried away with all the marketing hype and believing that they are a cure for all facial ills, and they are not.

Q: I have read your books and you've saved me hundreds of dollars already, but even more important, my skin condition has vastly improved. However, I still have a problem with flaky skin and I hope you can help. My skin is sensitive and dryish/flaky in patches, especially in the T-zone. By midday I am very shiny/oily in the T-zone, which also tends toward blackheads and breakouts, but still flaky at the same time.

I am using Cetaphil, Physicians Formula Gentle Refreshing Toner, and 3 percent hydrogen peroxide both morning and night. In the morning I use Origins Let the Sunshine SPF 14 moisturizer/sunscreen and/or Almay Replenishing Lotion and Lancome Imanance Foundation. At night I use Exfogel followed by spot use of Almay Replenishing Lotion. I think I may need more exfoliation, but the Exfogel seems to make my makeup streaky so I don't use it in the morning. I tried Alpha Hydrox Face Cream, but it seemed to make my breakouts worse.

A: I am not surprised that you are shiny by midday. Using two moisturizers (the Origins Sunscreen and the Almay Lotion) plus the Imanance foundation, which is also rather emollient, is probably making your skin oily. (Also, Imanance has an SPF of 8, which means you are using two sunscreens on the skin, not the best idea.) You're way overdoing it and need to cut back. Give up the Origins sunscreen and the Almay Lotion and find a foundation with a higher SPF like Clinique's Sensitive Skin Foundation with SPF 15 or Estee Lauder's Sportswear Tint foundation with SPF 12. Use the Origins SPF 14 when you are exercising or spending the day outside without a foundation. The Cetaphil cleanser is good, but I am not familiar with Physicians Formula Toner. If it doesn't contain irritants, that's great, but please make sure.

Also, use the 3 percent hydrogen peroxide only over blemishes and blackheads once a day until the flakiness stops. The Exfogel contains water, aloe vera gel, glycolic acid (10 percent), xanthum gum and preservatives, which makes it an excellent oil-free AHA product. However, from the way you describe your skin, even though I think the Exfogel sounds very good, at 10 percent AHA it is too strong for your skin type.

Paula Begoun publishes the Cosmetics Counter Update, a newsletter that comes out every other month. For an introductory copy of the newsletter, send $1 for shipping and handling to: The Beginning Press, 5418 South Brandon, Seattle, Wash. 98118.

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