When you’re trying to decide on what to look for in a chemical peel, whether it’s a lighter peeling agent or a medically overseen chemical peel, the simple fact is that any list of ingredients is a bit overwhelming. Most of the chemical names make no sense to the average person. There is an understandable anxiety that comes with not knowing what you’re going to have one your skin when you do your best to take care of it. As a result, OROGOLD would like to take the time to explain a few common ingredients in peeling agents. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should at least help you understand a few of the items on the list.
AHA is short for “alpha hydroxy acid”. This isn’t a single compound, but represents a range of potential acidic compounds that can be in a peel. Acid is itself a word weighed down by a lot of negative associations, but let us be clear that AHAs are approved for cosmetic use and it would take a dangerously high concentration to cause permanent harm. You most likely eat and drink sources of some AHAs routinely. Glycolic acid, one of the most common AHAs used, is derived from some sugars, and another AHA, tartaric acid, is found in grape wines. They all necessarily have complex sounding names because these are their long form chemical names, but they aren’t strange chemicals created in a lab.
If you guessed that BHA stands for “beta hydroxy acid”, then you’re doing well. This is another group of acids, but for the purpose of topical application it typically only refers to salicylic acid. This name likely sounds particularly familiar to anyone who has ever had to fight a breakout as many acne products specifically advertise that they use salicylic acid in their formulas. When used in appropriate concentrations, the worst this BHA does is help clear pores and chemically exfoliate the skin. It is very common and so safe to use that it is ubiquitous in topical skin care products. The only thing mystifying about seeing it listed as BHA is simply that you don’t recognize its name.
As with the other compounds, the ‘A’ in TCA is for acid. Trichloroacetic acid is probably the most potent of the three common peeling agents. Unsurprisingly, it is also the one that had to be created in a lab in the first place. That said it has a history in cosmetic use. If you’ve ever had to treat a wart, then you may even recognize TCA as a compound that appeared in the formula. Its topical applications are almost exclusively focused on removed unwanted layers of skin and in the hands of a professional it is perfectly safe, but a peel heavy in TCA is the one most likely to leave your face with a slightly burning sensation afterwards.
AHA, BHA, and TCA are a bit less obscure to you now and OROGOLD hopes this makes them less intimidating when you’re considering some form of peel. These are far from the only ingredients in a peel, but are very common active ingredients that help with the “peel” part of a chemical peel. Others compounds used in peeling agents tend to be ones designed to soothe and combat the burning sensation caused by the acidic compounds. Others are skin fortifying ingredients to help make your newly revealed skin even healthier than what you’ve removed. Any kind of peel is just another form of skin care and doesn’t need to be nerve-wracking due to obscure chemical names.