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10 Sep
2015

A History Of Chemical Peels

Posted in Beauti-Med Tips


Your skin, the largest organ of the human body, is made up of three primary layers. Chemical peeling, also known as chemexfoliation, involves blistering the upper layer (epidermis) in the targeted area to loosen the outer layer of skin so it can peel off. The damaged area then regenerates with cleaner skin and a more youthful appearance.

Chemical Peels History

For centuries, chemicals peels have been used to lighten dark patches, smooth out skin tone, improve skin texture, and improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

The ancient times

Chemical skin exfoliation dates as far back as the Egyptians, who used alabaster and different animal oils to improve skin texture. The ancient Egyptian women believed that cleanliness was necessary to promote healthy and beautiful skin. As a result, Cleopatra and other women bathed in sour milk, which contains lactic acid, to rejuvenate their skin.

They also exfoliated their skin with grapes skins, and bathed in grape wine, to achieve the same effect. Grapes contain tartaric acid, which is one of the ingredients used in mild chemical peels today, together with other fruit acids and lactic acid.

Middle ages

Through the ages in Europe, the Gypsies formulated and passed several formulas for chemical peels from generation to generation. The Egyptians’ formulas, containing sour milk, grapes, and old wine, were still used as skin peels in the Middle Ages. At the same time, the Greeks used lead oxide to make their faces whiter; a practice that was borrowed by Europeans around the 15th century when pale skin became more fashionable.

The Europeans mixed chemical peels with lead oxide to create a combination that became very popular. However, there are certain side effects of using lead oxide on skin, and as a result, people turned to other methods.

Modern times

True skin exfoliation was first introduced at the beginning of the early twentieth century when George MacKee used phenol (a carbolic acid) to treat acne scarring. To perform superficial peeling, he applied phenol to an area of the skin for 30 to 60 seconds, and then washed it away immediately with ethanol in 4 to 6 treatments at 2 month intervals. Phenol had been used earlier for cosmetic purposes to remove the laxity of the lower eyelids.

Three decades later, in the 1930s, lay operators attempted to use phenol to remove wrinkles. Unfortunately, many patients were scarred from the chemical peel. While scientists were experimenting with various phenol concoctions, European and American spas and health resorts continued to produce their own chemical peel solutions, using formulas and ingredients passed down through the centuries, though the new formulas were closely guarded.

Some of the newer ingredients in modern chemical peels, like resorcinol, trichloroacetic acid, and salicylic acid were discovered in the 1950s and mixed with phenol to create medium-depth and deep chemical peels. These chemicals are still used in modern peels, along with newer ingredients like glycolic and pyruvic acids.

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