Hair & Beauty

Unmasked | Here’s What It’s Really Like Getting A Chemical Peel

By Jessica Pridmore - 05 Dec 2018

In the age of flawless complexions and wrinkle-free faces deemed a status symbol, beauty trends like glass skin, Insta filters and apps that literally delete your facial ‘flaws’, it seems there is nothing we’ll stop at to obtain the (unattainable) beauty standards de jour.

The infamous phrase ‘beauty is pain’ is one we’ve come fairly accustomed to. Validation of the ‘pain’ we go through to look and feel our best is quantified by the visibility of the end result.

We were invited to Skin Reveal in Graceville QLD to trial the DMK Pro Alpha Remodelling Procedure Peel, one of their signature skin revision treatments, which just so happens to address all of the effects life has had on our complexion.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s really like to get a chemical peel, we’re about to spill the proverbial tea. Hope you’ve got a strong stomach—this one’s intense…

So, What Is This Pro Alpha RP Peel And What Does It Do?

The Pro Alpha RP Peel is a multi-layer treatment used to dramatically improve skin tone and texture. Claiming to reduce the signs of sun damage, mild scarring even out skin tone and stimulate the production of collagen and delivering oxygen to the blood cells, results reveal a bright and dewy complexion. The Alpha Pro can also be prescribed for persons suffering from acne and acne scarring, as it stimulates your skin’s ability to reset from the inside out, targeting the infection deep under the skin.

Using a potent mix of plant derived AHAs, BHAs and Vitamin A (this, importantly is the remodelling component of the RP peel, as Vitamin A is key in promoting healthy skin cell production) your skin is encouraged to stimulate regeneration and regrowth meaning that your skin continues to see lasting effects months after the peel has taken place.

Peels get their (fairly dramatic) reputation due to the fact that, true story, your upper dermal layers really do peel off. In a nutshell you shed the dead skin over a 10-day period, revealing new revitalised skin beneath.

Sounds so simple, so scientific. Easy, even. But you can’t just go walking into a peel like stopping into a bar for a quick frosty; there are things to consider and time required to prepare. Unlike other walk-in-walk-out treatments, a chemical peel requires commitment, and a whole lot of patience.

Preparation. Preparation. And More Preparation

In addition to making sure you are a suitable candidate for the Alpha Pro Peel, which includes a patch test and skin consultation, there is also a lot of preparation involved pre-treatment. We’re talking weeks. My DMK therapist-slash-skin-whisperer, Paula, prescribed me two enzyme therapies*, each a week apart, before I was booked in for the peel itself, to ensure my skin was in top condition.

(*Enzyme therapy really is the unsung hero on the Pro Alpha Peel. We’ve spoken at length about this treatment (we even reviewed the benefits here) and is crucial to pre-and post-care, as this kick-starts the rebuilding of healthy skin cell production deep in the dermal layers.)

I was also given a plethora of lotions and potions to take home (including a melanin inhibitor, vitamin C serum, beta gel, a nourishing cream and cleansing cream, among many, many others) to help my skin fully prepare. One of the key attributes to DMK's Pro range is its ability to treat the premature ageing of the skin (and yes, that means sun damage). The RP Peel completely overhauls your skin's performance on a cellular level, rebuilding the foundations, so to speak, for ongoing healthy skin.

So, why all the prep fuss? Two reasons. The naturally derived AHAs, BHAs and Vitamin A used in the peel process are potent; similar to introducing a retinol in your regime you need to build up your tolerance. You can’t just go full beast mode with this. And when we're talking about reconstructing cellular performance, that's no overnight job.

Something to also consider before you commit to any kind of chemical peel is whether you suffer from stress and/or anxiety as (all jokes aside) the first few days post-treatment are intense, isolating, even, if you’ve never experienced one before.

What Does It Feel Like?

We’re not going to lure you into a false sense of security here; undergoing the treatment wasn’t exactly pleasant, and at times was fairly uncomfortable. The key difference between a standard chemical peel and the Pro Alpha is the application process; you double down, undergoing two peel applications in as many days.

Day one, I was pretty excited. Anxious, naturally, but the DMK team had been exceptional in preparing my skin and my expectations of the treatment. Stinging, redness and a slight burning sensation were all to be expected, but this did not put me off. Call me a masochist, or just mildly deranged, my interest was piqued. Also, looking through the incredible before and after images taken of previous clients, I had to say, it was convincing.

After a thorough cleanse Paula then began the peel. The orange-coloured, gel-like liquid was applied to my face, neck and chest in thin layers, allowing it to sink down to the transdermal layer before applying the next coat. This, coincidentally can go on for up to eight layers—Paula explained that she’s looking for my skin to feel ‘cushioned’, which means it has fully absorbed the desired amount.

While at first this only feels slightly tingly, as soon as the mixture seeps below the first few layers of your upper dermis it really does start to sting a bit. So much so that at layer three, that both Paula and my photographer (there to capture the whole thing) were tasked with fanning my face before the next layers were applied.

This continued for (you guessed it) eight layers—my skin was thirsty, obviously—and then you’re sent home instructed not to wash off the peel solution until the next morning. Aside from looking like the victim of a very bad spray tan, leaving the confinements of aircon and having to drive home in a very hot and humid car means it technically reactivates the peel, meaning my face was stinging quite intensely in rush hour traffic. Within the hour though, the tingles had subsided, and while it felt a little puffy and sensitive, it simply looked as though I'd applied too much fake tan.

The next day the peel had clearly gone to town on my face, as all of my underlying pigmentation had been brought to the surface. Paula was very excited, and while my face was still puffy, tender, and looked like it needed a damn good clean, I was almost proud of my skin passing stage one with such flying colours.

Now, this is where things get a bit dicey. My already tender face had to undergo the exact same treatment as the day before. And, I can honestly say this was no picnic. Same deal: eight layers, each more ‘bitey’ than before. And, where the same stinging sensation wore off after each application the first time, this time the heat built under the skin after each solution application.

Full disclosure; getting a chemical peel over the top of a chemical peel felt like my face was on fire. Okay, so I'm being a tad dramatic, but let it be known this is not like having a relaxing face massage. It's the kind of discomfort that tingles at first and makes your eyes watery, then gradually intensifies until your toes start curling and your face needs fanning to lessen the stinging sensation. Kind of like if you rubbed a chilli all over your face (if that's what you're in to?). As per the first treatment, the stinging subsided within the hour and, aside from pillowy-looking cheeks, I just looked mildly sunburnt.

The Aftermath

In the immediate days after, the discomfort (physically, because my face was dry and felt quite tight post-treatement, but also not looking like myself) tested my sanity. Truly. There are not many things that make me feel uncomfortable, but the combination of work commitments (because mortals sadly don’t have the luxury of retreating from public life for the days immediately after a peel), not being able to sleep properly because my face was too tender to touch the pillow, and one particular moment meeting an interstate client for the first time in real life the day after the second peel, really did take me far from my comfort zone. Theirs too, probably…

Did I mention it was because my skin was literally falling off my face in large strips? I was under strict instructions from the DMK team not to pick or peel any flaking skin from my face. Let me tell you right now, there was some picking. And peeling. And itching. You’d have to be a saint not to.

I was resigned to spending my days skulking under a larger floppy hat, collecting my dead skin shavings in my pockets (what else do you do when out in public and your face is falling off?), and avoiding eye contact with colleagues, baristas and family members.

It wasn’t until day 5 where a third enzyme treatment was administered to ‘lift off’ my dead skin layers (that by this point were flaking off me faster than you could say Goldfinger) did I start to feel somewhat normal again.

I will say this though, after the initial discomfort two days after the peel, post-care was simply managing the dryness. Pretty amazing what your skin can do, right? It’s also worth noting that by this point the new skin that was revealed under my old dead skin was dewy, cushiony and alabaster as snow (zero freckles. Wild).

Did It Work?

Did it get rid of my hyperpigmentation from years of sun damage? Yes. Did it make my skin look and feel brand new, line-free and dewy as hell? Yes, yes and yes. One of the main reasons I put my hand up for the Alpha Pro RP Peel is that I considered myself to have a very uneven skin tone (being fair-skinned and freckly this is practically a given—not a bad thing, I actually quite like my freckles, but I have a surplus, let’s put it that way), and years of sitting in air con plus only succumbing to a halfway decent skincare regime in recent years had left my skin lacklustre. All these things have been addressed and then some. I'm literally luminous and have ditched my foundation and BB cream completely. 

Where Can I Get It?

DMK offer the Alpha Pro Six-Layer Peel across Australia and New Zealand at various salons. It goes without saying that you should book in a consultation with a DMK specialist before you set your sights on the Pro Alpha Peel, as there are a number of alternative therapies on offer that don not require down time. Their store locator will point you in the right direction.

The Verdict

The goal of an even complexion and taking off four to five years comes with a level of discomfort, which, I don't think anyone's naïve to. Immediately after the treatment, I’ll admit, I slightly regretted my decision to have the peel in the first place, mostly as having to undergo a 7-step daily regime and having a sore and puffy face for the best part of a month was not exactly my idea of a good time. 

But, three weeks later, with my face settled and the promise that the best is yet to come (best results are seen six weeks after a peel when your new skin fully regenerates post-trauma), even I have to admit that the results far outweigh feeling self-conscious for a couple of weeks. The entire process is certainly a commitment, but like all things that are worth pursuing, patience is the key.

But wow is it worth it. If just for the running commentary, ‘oh my god, your skin looks incredible’.

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