Acids & Peels: Does Stinging Mean It’s Working?

Dr. Janet Zand

September 4, 2020

If an acid or peel stings, does that mean it’s working?

That’s what a lot of people think, including many so-called beauty experts.

“Stinging and redness are par for the course,” says one popular beauty site, in their review of a particularly strong chemical exfoliator.

Unfortunately, that advice could be dangerous, and it doesn’t tell the whole story.

First, a little tingle is okay, but if your skin strongly stings, burns, or feels raw, that is NOT a sign that the product is really working. It’s a sign of skin damage.

That’s because stinging and burning means you’ve exfoliated living skin cells, not dead ones. That’s why it hurts!

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to stop using acids altogether. It just means you need to proceed with some caution...

What to do instead

First, check your current skincare products. Do a lot of them contain exfoliating acids, like...

• AHAs: alpha hydroxy acids include glycolic, lactic, mandelic, malic, tartaric and citric

• BHA, which is salicylic acid

• PHAs: poly-hydroxy acids include lactobionic acid and gluconolactone

If a lot of your products contain these ingredients, you may be overdoing it. And that’s easy to do nowadays. Why? Well, because acids are so popular right now, skincare companies are putting them in cleansers, toners, creams, peels, masks — you name it!

Second, if you use an acid product and your face starts to burn, stop using it immediately!

This actually happened to me when I started using the glycolic cleanser, a product recommended to me by a friend. My friend loves this cleanser and can use it without any issues. But my skin is very sensitive, so when I tried using the cleanser, it started to burn.

So here’s what I do now …

I use the Système 41 cleanser, which contains fruit and plant acids, and the Système 41 Microdermabrasion Scrub. And that’s it. I don’t use any other products with acids in them. These two are more than enough to make my skin glow ... and without any burning, redness, or damage.

Third, when you introduce a new skincare product, go slowly. This is always true with new products, but it’s especially important with acids. Start by using the new product once a week, and see how your skin reacts. If there’s no stinging, redness, or peeling, then try using it twice a week, and go from there.

Finally, it’s important to know that some people shouldn’t use acids and peels at all. If you have a pre-existing condition like rosacea, try facial massage instead. Facial massage boosts circulation, which brings nutrients and oxygen to your skin. And when that happens, a natural result is healthy cell turnover.

So try these tips out, and let me know how it goes. And remember, if a product stings, stop using it immediately! The short-term effects aren’t worth the long-term damage to your skin.

To your health naturally,
Dr. Janet Zand

PS:  You can get the Système 41 Cleanser and Système 41 Microdermabrasion Scrub here.

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