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by Sion K.
I’m in my early 40s with combination (very oily around the T-zone, very dry elsewhere), highly sensitive skin. My skin reacts extremely negatively to almost every cosmetic/skin-care product, whether it’s scaly patches, redness, pimples, etc. I’m beginning to show faint laugh lines. Wrinkles are not obvious or pronounced yet, but if one looks closely, the telltale marks are becoming increasingly noticeable.
I had used Dr. Dennis Gross’s Original Alpha Beta Peels several years ago, but had to discontinue use after about 1 week, as the peels seemed to dry out my skin extensively. I then had to moisturize to counteract the dryness and subsequently had to buy products for the pimples that followed. When I discovered – from TIA’s trial studies — that there was now a new sensitive skin option, I was rather ecstatic. Perhaps I could finally join the Alpha Beta Peel fan club with Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel ($88 in the shop).
Purely based on my experience of believing the claims of the hundreds of skin care products in the past, I was wary of expecting miracles. I hoped that the peels would ameliorate to SOME degree my skin’s uneven texture, discoloration, and laugh lines. As I knew I was going to be reviewing the product for public consumption, I made sure to be extra diligent with respect to reading/following the enclosed instructions. (Admittedly, I am guilty of being a “skimmer,” regarding the pamphlets that emphasize that the user read the directions carefully before using product).
As I perused the instructions that came with the peels, I noted that if individuals found the peels to be too harsh when used each day, they could use the peels every other day, until the skin became more acclimatized. Hmmm, perhaps I might finally join the Alpha Beta Peel fan club.
I then began to wonder whether the original formula peels might have been tolerable if I had used the same acclimatization method, as was described. To satisfy my curiosity, I purchased a box of the original peels (now renamed Universal Alpha Beta Peels). As with the Ultra Sensitive formula, the Universal formula lists its benefits as, “improves radiance, improves skin tone and texture, and minimizes pores and fines lines.” Upon receipt of this order, I was ready to begin my testing/experimentation.
With respect to my regular skin care routine, I did not change anything, but for the addition of one more step — application of the peels. My nightly routine consisted of the following:
1) Cleanse face (Skinceuticals)
2) Use Ultra Sensitive peel
3) Apply toner (Lavo)
4) Moisturize (Shiseido)
It is important to emphasize that I followed the above routine on only the right side of my face! As to the left side, I used the Universal peels every 3 days, rather than daily. I ran this experiment until I used all 30 Ultra Sensitive peels.
When I finished the 30 Ultra Sensitive peels, I took a well-lighted mirror and examined my face closely. I was more than a bit astonished at both the results, and the DIFFERENCE between the two sides of my face.
There was a slight change to uneven texture and discoloration on the right side of my face, where I used the Ultra Sensitive peels daily. There was no visible change to fine lines. On the left side, where I used the Universal peels every 3 days, there was a significant improvement in uneven texture, discoloration and lines.
I then studied the before/after pictures I had taken. Surprisingly, the differences outlined above, were just as noticeable, in pictures taken with my less-than-stellar phone camera. I sent my friends copies of the photos (both sides of face), without revealing that the pictures were from two different sides of my face. Without divulging any other details, I asked them to divide the photos into two categories: before/ after, in addition to including any other pertinent remarks.
I was rather amused to see that many of my friends thought the “after” photos of the RIGHT side of my face were “before” photos. It is noteworthy as well, that with respect to the “after” photos of the LEFT side, I received several inquiries as to which “procedure” I had undergone.
My next task was to investigate and compare the ingredients, listed for both peels. The active ingredients in the Ultra Sensitive formula are lactic acid, mandelic acid and willow bark extract. Active ingredients in the Universal formula are lactic acid, malic acid, glycolic acid, citric acid, salicylic acid.
As can be seen, the greatest differences in the formulas, for the two types of peels are in the type and number of acids. Most of the acids in the Alpha Beta Peels are pretty common in any form of exfoliating product. However, there were some that were unfamiliar to me.
Ultra Sensitive Formula
Mandelic acid is also an AHA, with an exfoliating strength slightly higher that of glycolic acid. However, in multiple trials, researchers found that mandelic acid was tolerated much better, resulting in less adverse side effects that can sometimes be seen with glycolic acid. In particular, over dryness (sometimes taking the form of dry, scaly patches), and hyperpigmentation, were tolerated much better by individuals who had previously used hydroquinone or tretinoin.
Willow Bark Extract is a BHA. The positives of this ingredient are several (exfoliation, stimulation of new skin cells, clearing of pores). However, there remains controversy as to whether it does indeed clear or prevent acne, though it is often advertised on products as an anti-acne agent.
Interestingly, malic acid is found most commonly in fruits and vegetables, particularly apples. Evidently, it is produced when the body coverts carbohydrates into energy, and thereby supports energy production. With regard to external dermatological use, it is categorized as a very mild alpha hydroxy acid, which is less irritating than other exfoliating agents when applied to the skin. I wondered why it was used in the Universal Peel, rather than its Ultra Sensitive counterpart.
As can be deduced by the term, citric acid comes from citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, etc. It is considered a “low risk” acid that has multiple benefits. It can assist with sloughing off dead skin cells, accelerate cell turnover, improve skin tone/texture and even diminish the look of wrinkles. Though it is also considered a “low risk” acid, individuals seem to have slightly differing reactions to this ingredient, varying from the concentration necessary for optimal efficacy, to the type of benefits that result from its use.
Though my skin responded to the Ultra Sensitive peels, Universal Peels used every 3 days showed far more dramatic results (with none of the usual side effects I experienced when I previously used them daily). Though this method may certainly not work for everyone, I would suggest giving it a try. I loved that I did not have to go through the peel routine EVERY night, as was necessary with the Ultra Sensitive formula, and I only need to purchase one box every three months!