This is a common question. Jessner’s peels, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels and retinol treatments do not require neutralization. Constituents of the skin and its water content lead to self-neutralization of the acids within the skin. Pure alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) peels, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, require neutralization with either water or a weak base like sodium bicarbonate. If these acids are not neutralized, they can potentially collect in the upper portions of the skin and cause surface irritation or burns. Unfortunately, the required neutralization process can free hydrogen and, therefore, reactivate the acid and increase the heat and sensation in the skin.
The addition of H2O (water) into the skin where an acid that contains a carboxylic (COOH) group is already present causes the hydrogen to cleave from the COOH group to create H3O+. Because pH is the negative algorithm of concentration of H3O+, as the water is added to the acid already present in the skin, additional H3O+ is released and the patient’s skin pH drops. This creates increased heat and discomfort, and the potential for negative outcomes and side effects. For these reasons, the use of self-neutralizing peels is advantageous and more comfortable for the patient.
The base of a peeling solution also plays a role in its effect, pH value and the need for neutralization. In the cream base of PCA SKIN ‘s Esthetique Peel, the pH is higher, meaning the lactic acid functions in more of a metabolic fashion, decreasing corneocyte cohesion and moisturizing the skin. This is in contrast to the more destructive action of a highly acidic AHA solution.
PCA SKIN has created a range of balanced formulas by combining multiple ingredients that work through different mechanisms of action. By using several peeling agents together, you can use each at a lower percentage, hence maximizing outcomes and minimizing side effects. PCA SKIN combines hydrophilic AHAs with other ingredients such as lipophilic retinol or salicylic acid, TCA, antioxidants, calming agents and ingredients for evening skin tone in bases that provide excellent delivery systems.
The synergy of any formula plays an integral role in positive patient outcomes. If AHAs are used in a formula with support ingredients, their capacity to build-up in the upper layers of the skin and cause burning is greatly minimized. Additionally, using blended peels that do not require neutralization removes the need to introduce water, thereby avoiding the H3O+ increase in the skin. Blends allow for greater effectiveness with little to no downtime.