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Glow Getter: Going Under the Blade for a Brighter, Smoother Complexion

Chemical peels 101 + intrepid beautygeek Liza Herz submits to the blade before undergoing a peel.
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Could you lie perfectly still on a treatment table with someone bent over you wielding a scalpel? When it's a chance to diminish sun spots and fine lines, you try not to picture Dexter staring down his next victim and instead focus on the results: revealing the fresh, healthy skin lurking underneath the damage.

At The Plastic Surgery Clinic's posh new Yorkville skin spa and boutique, fresh skin means submitting to "the blade." Having your skin "dekeratinized" is the first step in a dermaplaning Micro Peel ($90).

"Using the blade (a modified 10 blade with a rounded blade edge - not a standard surgical scalpel) is much more effective than using a peel solution alone," says the clinic's Medical Director, plastic surgeon Dr. Frank Lista. Removing the keratin layer of the skin (the very surface cells) allows the peel solution to penetrate better and more evenly, he explains.

Dermaplaning image

Dekeratinizing is not startling or painful -- there's just a slight scraping sensation. A pedicure is more invasive. Plus, the nimble-fingered aesthetician, Adriana, assures me that although the blade removes the hair on my face, it is vellus hair (peach fuzz), not the thicker "terminal" hair that grows on legs, so it will grow back just as soft, and I won't look like a circus-sideshow bearded lady. Whew.

Chemical Peels 101

A chemical peel is like time-lapse photography for your skin. When we age, skin cell turnover slows from a 28 day cycle to 40 days by the time you're in your 30s. And it's those past-their-prime cells with their damage, uneven tone, maybe even (ugh) sun damage that make your skin look dull, dry and just plain old. An alpha hydroxy acid peel speeds their removal by dissolving the "glue" holding them in place and stimulates the growth of newer, healthy replacement cells. The result is increased collagen production and a glow that says, "I've never tanned a day in my life and I do yoga every morning at 6."

Chemical peels come in different strengths. If you're a fraidy cat or have sensitive skin, a lactic-acid peel is a less-strong alternative to glycolic acid. "We often start with gentler peels at the beginning of a patient's skin care regimen, then tailor or alter the dose as the skin becomes more hearty and vibrant with continued peels and skin care," says Dr. Lista. He recommends starting with peels every 2-3 weeks. Then one every 1-2 months for maintenance.

chemical peel

At the Plastic Surgery Clinic, after blading and cleansing my skin, Adriana brushes on the chemical peel solution and leaves it for two minutes. She then gently neutralizes it with cotton pads and follows it with a soothing mask. No sting -- just ahh. Adriana then applies sunscreen before letting me head out the door because a peeled face is a very sun-sensitive face. There's no redness, no downtime at all. I'm just a little flushed. (Maybe I'll say I just did a hot yoga class if anyone asks.)

Full results come 2-3 days later when the flush settles into a glow, so I skip the blush that morning. But never the sunscreen.

Glow Getter Shopping List

Skinceuticals_Miracle 10 AHA 1_Super C

UV Protection: Stock up on SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV DefenseSPF 50 ($45,, because a chemical peel demands extra sun vigilance. Beloved by skin doctors, SkinCeuticals UV Defense is a broad-spectrum physical block, so unlike a chemical sunscreen, there's no 20 minute wait for it to become effective. Perfect if you make a habit of running out of the house late, smearing on sunscreen as you go.

Supporting Skincare:The Plastic Surgery Clinic's Dr. Lista developed the Miracle 10 line when he saw patients spending money on surgeries but not following up with proper skincare. The twice-a-day, five-product personalized-to-skin-type ritual exfoliates, hydrates, helps even out skin tone and stimulates collagen growth. You also get to play mad scientist every night by mixing a wee scoop of pure vitamin C powder (Super C, $89) with an exfoliating lotion (AHA Gel 1, $54), for a potent hit of skin brightening and antioxidant protection against free radicals.

Play the Home Game


For the DIYer, Philosophy's Micro Exfoliating Treatment ($70, available at select Bay and Shoppers Drug Mart stores in November) lets you do a chemical peel in the comfort of your own home. The once-a-week treatment uses both lactic and salicylic acid to smooth skin while delivering an infusion of vitamin C and cell-stimulating peptides.

Peeling for Beginners

Olay Regenerist Night Elixir

If you want a smoother complexion but get ouchy just seeing the word "acid," try Olay Regenerist Night Resurfacing Elixir ($40, mass retailers) every other night before bed. This Beautygeeks favourite with 3.9% glycolic acid is a great way to dip a toe into that chemical peel world without fear of irritation, but all the skin-clearing, pore-unclogging benefits of light exfoliation.

But don't try that blade thing at home.