Glycolic Acid Peels, I Just Can’t Quit You

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As if last summer's very public voyage into waxing my ladyparts wasn't enough to convince you, I'm into trying things in the name of journalism beauty. Or, you know, pain. Glycolic acid peels that tear my face apart fall into the latter category.
A bit of background: For those not in the know, here at R29, the beauty team lets us ransack their stashes four times a year (all in the name of charity, of course). Meaning, four times a year, our main conference area becomes a battleground where grown women (and men, mind you) will shamelessly throw down the gauntlet to get their hands on some retinol. And, coincidentally enough, just before the holidays, I’d been searching my face for imperfections to pass time, as women are wont to do, and found a few fine lines cropping up around my nose and mouth. (Sometimes, success is bitter.) I immediately assumed I’d inherited my mother’s laugh lines about 10 years too early, but my dermatologist assured me that any complexion woes were likely a result of staying out late and subsisting on caffeine for most of December.
So, when the beauty sale came around days later, I’d fervently fought off a few worthy adversaries in the creative department and swiped a five-minute glycolic acid peel with the hopes of revealing a new, radiant visage in two weeks’ time. And, by “fervently fought off,” I mean amicably traded my Tom Ford nail polish for it. We’re not animals.
With the green light from my derm — she mentioned that, if nothing else, the peel could stave off hyperpigmentation, one of my main skin concerns — I tried it out while catching up on Orange Is The New Black one Sunday night in December. After keeping it on for about three minutes too long thanks to a particularly bizarre sex scene with Pornstache that I just couldn’t bring myself to pause, I rinsed it off and felt instantly glowy. I’m pretty sure I looked exactly the same that night, but the placebo effect is real, people.
The next morning when I got out of the shower, my skin was actually glowing — prenatal style — and my hyperpigmentation looked a tinge lighter, if I do say so myself. I was feeling ambitious, so I went to work sans makeup that day, feeling like a successful protégé of fellow R29er Susan Kaplow, who glows so effortlessly that I imagine she applies one droplet of the world's finest face oil on her mug at night and immediately illuminates her bedroom with her radiance. (Check her out for yourself.) I was feeling good.
That went on for a solid 48 hours, until Wednesday morning, when, after applying my moisturizer, my face tingled like the dickens. My complexion looked noticeably duller, too, so I went back to my usual makeup routine of mixing foundation with highlighter and moisturizer, only to have my entire face — especially around my nose — peel off mid-day. I’ve never been sunburnt before, but I finally understand the satisfaction that comes with pulling an entire layer of skin off your face in one go. Talk about a hate-like.
I shed for a solid two days (subtly, so say my cordial deskmates) — and woefully declined no fewer than four social engagements — before I swore off glycolic acid peels for good. But, the tingling finally stopped by the weekend, and my complexion was definitely brighter. So, two days later, I was back at it — it is a weekly peel, after all. I made sure I took it off in the allotted five minutes this time, but my skin was not having it. Between the redness and the stinging, and then, the wildly unpleasant burning, I’d convinced myself it wasn’t an allergic reaction, but rather, a result of using the supposed wonder product again too soon. So, after a two-week hiatus — when my skin looked downright radiant after peeling off again, mind you — I was back at it. A month of the same glow-peel-sting-glow cycle later (I’m a glutton for punishment), I finally threw it out since I clearly can’t resist temptation with it sitting in my medicine cabinet. In late January, this had been my hardest decision so far for 2014.
Luckily, a cocktail of grapeseed oil, Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant, and Estée Lauder’s Revitalizing Supreme Moisturizer — which, unlike almost every other cream out there, never burned, even when dealing with raw skin — repaired my visage within a couple of very, very long (and, even worse, very, very cold) weeks. The sick part? I’ve received so many compliments on my complexion in the past few weeks that I’ve thought about fishing the peel out of my garbage to use it again.
StriVectin Dual Phase Peel, $89, available at Ulta.

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