A peeling gel is a product designed to exfoliate the skin. The gel uses ingredients that remove dead skin cells and unclog pores. Depending on the brand, the product incorporates abrasive particles or chemical ingredients to revitalize the skin and give the user a fresh look. Some peeling gels incorporate both abrasives and chemicals. The gel base keeps the various ingredients in a thick suspension; this allows a thick layer of the product to stay in place on the skin, giving the active ingredients time to work.
These cleaning compounds may include abrasive granules such as pulverized lava, jojoba beads, or ground grape seeds. The abrasive granules exfoliate skin by acting as a form of sandpaper, scrubbing off dead or loose skin cells. The addition of an alpha hydroxy acid, such as glycolic, citric, or lactic acid, aids in this process by reducing cell adhesion and allowing for easier removal. Fruits such as oranges and papayas contain natural alpha hydroxy acids. Hyaluronic acid is another common ingredient of peeling gels that improves the texture of the skin by increasing hydration.
Product directions recommend starting with clean, damp skin. Users apply the gel on the face evenly, avoiding the areas around the eyes. Some gels are made to remain on the skin for several minutes, while others suggest massaging it into the skin immediately. The peeling gel then rinses off the skin with warm water. A soft towel is best for drying the skin afterward as the exfoliating ingredients may cause some skin irritation.
There are several precautions to take when using a peeling gel. Products containing alpha hydroxy acid may cause the skin to become photosensitive, and users should avoid exposure to sunlight until the skin is less sensitive. Most peeling gels recommend a once- or twice-weekly application as excessive use can cause redness, increase skin dryness, or develop pigmentation issues. These products may result in a slight inflammation of the skin, causing pore openings to close in response, trapping debris, and exacerbating acne problems.
Peeling gels may sound similar to chemical peels, but the two are quite different. While a peeling gel may remove a small amount of superficial skin, chemical peels go much deeper. Dermatologists perform chemical peels using high concentrations of alpha hydroxy acid and operate under strict conditions. This procedure has much more significant results and lasts longer than the use of over-the-counter products.