Acid Peel (Chinese called “Shua Suan 刷酸”) is currently a very popular beauty treatment in the Chinese cosmetic market.
Nowadays when people find their skin is in need of some Tender Loving Care (TLC), they quite often book themselves a chemical peel.
What are Acid Peels?
Acid Peels are one of the Chemical Peel techniques, which are applied to the face to remove dead skin cells and stimulate the growth of new cells. The goal is to improve the skin’s appearance, for example reduce age spots and even out skin tone.
Acid Peels in China are often known as “Brush the Acid” (Chinese is “Shua Suan 刷酸”). They are generally used by putting the chemical onto the skin surface to remove old skin and thus promote new skin regeneration.
As the UK’s NHS describes, there are 3 types of peels, called superficial, medium and deep. Superficial and medium peels are usually safe, as long as they’re done correctly. These types of peels are not permanent and they need to be repeated.
Deeper peels are more risky. They’re longer-lasting and do not usually need to be repeated.
The types of Acid Peels, their concentration, and the residence time of chemical agents on the skin can all affect the depth of peeling. Depending on the depth of action of chemical peels, they can be divided into superficial peels, medium peels, and deep peels. The deeper the skin peeling effect, the more obvious the effect, and the greater the probability of adverse reactions.
What to think about before you have a Chemical Peel
Acid peels can be risky and can cause adverse reactions.
A high concentration of acid may cause skin irritation and have a destructive effect on the skin. As the concentration of acid increases and/or the residence time increases, the probability of adverse reactions also increases. Temporary erythema, swelling, tingling, burning and other discomforts may occur during the treatment, and there may be scabs and pigmentation after the operation. Also rare are burns, erosions, exudation, abnormal pigmentation, reactive acne, milia, telangiectasia, contact urticaria, scars and so on. When performing “acid brushing” treatments in medical institutions, professionals will choose the appropriate concentration and plan according to the actual situation of the patient. They can scientifically observe and judge the skin response process during treatment, and intervene or terminate the treatment if necessary. They can thus minimize or alleviate adverse skin reactions.
Acids used in acid peel treatments are NOT cosmetics
Acid peels need to be performed by a trained professional in a medically qualified hospital or clinic. The acids used are not cosmetics. At present, there are many types of acids used in acid peel treatments. Some acids cannot be used in cosmetics, such as tretinoin, trichloroacetic acid, etc. The concentration of acid is generally relatively high when brushing acid in order to achieve a certain therapeutic effect. For example, in the dermatology department of medical institutions, the commonly used concentrations of fruit acid during treatment for acne are 20%, 35%, 50%, and 70%, and the commonly used concentration of salicylic acid is 20%-30%.
Acid use in cosmetics has strict management requirements
Certain acids can also be added to cosmetics, such as fruit acid or salicylic acid, but there are strict usage restrictions and technical requirements. The content of alpha-hydroxy acids and their salts and esters (including malic acid, citric acid and other fruit acids) in cosmetics must not exceed 6.0%, and the PH value of the product must not be lower than 3.5. The content of salicylic acid in cosmetics should not exceed 3.0%. Except for shampoos, it should not be used in products used by children under three years old. At the same time, the label should indicate “Salicylic acid, not for use on children under three years old”. It can be seen that the allowable concentration of “acid” in cosmetics is relatively low.
Cosmetics are daily-use chemical industrial products for the purpose of cleaning, protecting, beautifying, and modifying, and have no medical effect. Some cosmetics can achieve certain cleansing, exfoliating and other effects, but they are fundamentally different from acid treatment. Cosmetics are forbidden to express or imply that they have medical effects, and avoid inappropriate claims such as “resurfacing” to prevent misleading consumers.
(Thanks to Tian Yan, deputy chief physician of the Department of Dermatology of the Air Force Special Medical Centre, and China Association of Fragrance, Fragrance and Cosmetics Industry for their strong support to the National Medical Products Administration in the popularization of cosmetic safety science!)
Here are a few examples of Chemical Peel products which have been successfully filed in the Chinese Market: