Mandelic Acid: The At-Home Chemical Peel To Fade Discoloration

Doing this peel once or twice a week has made my post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation disappear almost completely.

I usually love my biracial brown-girl skin like crazy, but the extra pigment I possess means that whenever I get a leftover dark mark from a bad breakout, it hangs around for months, if not YEARS.

I spent my teens progressively collecting enough post-pimple pigmentation that I started just calling it freckles. Only after my 20th birthday did it all start to slowly fade. But then a bad reaction to a foundation left me with this:

I’m not a normal foundation wearer so having this patch of intense post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation was especially embarrassing. Walking around well out of my teens with such a visible reminder of my acne made me feel ashamed. The marks were so prominent that not even the most powerful concealers could cover it up. I considered some pricey dermatological treatments, but they were just out of my budget.

That’s when a little research brought me to the concept of the at-home chemical peel.

Before you scold me for putting such a serious treatment on my skin without the supervision of an esthetician, know that there are some very safe and reputable ways to DIY. I purchased my peel from Makeup Artist’s Choice, who have a top-notch customer service team who can help you choose the right peel and show you how to use it safely.

After sending a picture of my skin to their email account and describing my (sensitive) skin type, they recommended the 25% Mandelic Acid peel, which is the mildest one they carry. They do, however, carry peels increasing in strength all the way up to the super-strength TCA peel, which will literally make the top layers of your facial skin all come off like a lizard.

Makeup Artist’s Choice recommends that you wash your face before applying the peel and let it dry thoroughly; don’t just pat it with a towel, let it air-dry completely. I use Fresh Soy cleanser because it is gentle and non-drying. Then, I take a cotton ball and rip half to a third of it off--too much cotton will absorb too much of the peel--and use it to apply a super-thin layer of the liquid to my face.

Then, leave the peel on for three to five minutes. If you are using a mild peel (and I suggest you start on the mild end) you may feel tome tingling or warming of your skin; but if it is painful or burning, wash it off immediately.

When your time is up, wash off with your gentle cleanser and rinse with plenty of cold water. Stronger peels will require you to neutralize the acid with baking soda. All the more reason to start mild.

Then, I spray a calming mist like Avene’s thermal water and moisturize with a simple but intense moisturizer. I’ve been loving Tarte’s Pure Maracuja Oil. It’s a bit pricy, but I only need two or three drops to provide skin-healing moisture that doesn’t break me out.

The first time you use the peel, you may notice some light flaking of the skin, especially around the nose, mouth, or other dry patches you have. It isn’t anything a little extra moisturizer can’t fix, though, and will reveal brand-new luminous skin underneath.

Some people will also see a serious reduction in blackheads and clogged pores from using this. In my experience, this prevents active breakouts better than my prescription Retin-A that I quit using because of this peel.

Most importantly though, doing a mandelic acid peel once or twice a week has almost completely faded those marks that would still be lingering in full force without it. It took me six weeks of consistent use to see results, and about 12 weeks to get the full effect of the fading. So while you do have to be a bit patient for this to work, it will give you major results. You will probably find that just one peel gives you an overall glow, too. I always do one the night before a party or event.

This peel saved my skin at a fraction of what a peel at the derm’s office would cost. A one-ounce bottle for $17 usually lasts me about four or five months and has given me the confidence to go out in public, bare-faced and happy once again.