Remember the season 5 episode of Sex and the City where Samantha gets a chemical peel before an event? "I wanted to look fresh for the party," she tells Carrie. "Well you are, you look like beef carpaccio." Raw, red, burnt skin is not the desired effect of a facial peel, but most of us worry about its damaging impact. Surely we shouldn't be peeling anything away from our skin? Actually, peels go back further than you think: "The chemical peel is actually one of the oldest cosmetic procedures in the world," Nicola Kilner, co-CEO of Deciem, tells me. "Men and women in ancient Egypt used it to achieve beautiful, smoother skin."
Now, a new generation of peels is changing the game – scary words like 'chemical' have been banished, and there's no need to fork out for a beautician to do the honours. With experts repeatedly advising against harsh and abrasive scrubs, the new peels are an essential step in your beauty routine. Designed to remove dead skin cells and restore the vibrancy of skin, fruit enzymes and natural acids head up the skin-friendly ingredients.
"A ‘facial peel’ can vary in definition from brand to brand. Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel uses natural fruit enzymes to gently nibble away at skin and dissolve superficial dead skin cells," Noella Gabriel, cofounder and creator of Elemis Therapies explains. "In addition, the enzymes work instantly without the need for rubbing, making this the perfect choice for mature or sensitive complexions."
Keeping Samantha's mishap in mind, is there anything to be cautious about when using peels? "Not at all, regular exfoliation is so important to maintain healthy skin and maximise the benefit of all products used on your skin," Lou Riby, MD at Elemental Herbology explains. "The key is to find the right product, follow instructions, and seek professional advice if you are not sure what to do."
So now we've boycotted microbeads, ditched the coarse scrubs and chosen a facial peel, what's the best way to use it? "Always ensure that skin is clean, and use it as a booster treatment – so once or twice a week will suffice," Amanda Bell, global director of training and artistry for Pixi, tells me. "Make sure you rinse skin after use and really hydrate with a serum or oil. The skin will look immaculate and the texture will be improved." Hopefully you're all using a daily SPF as a matter of course, but it's even more important when using facial peels. "Skin will be renewed, so more at risk from harmful UV rays," Gabriel warns.
So there you have it: the revitalising and glow-inducing new addition to your skincare regime. Ahead, we've rounded up our favourite facial peels.