A bit like our rep for bad teeth, it’s repeatedly been assumed (and proven by the likes of the NPD group) that us Brits invest less in skincare products and treatments that our European and American peers, favouring makeup and slapping on a bit of sunscreen every now and again over professional grade treatments and skincare regimes. Yet with dermatologist consultations up 57 per cent last year in the UK according to WhatClinic.com , it appears that the tide is turning in terms of taking skincare seriously.
The recent spring of noninvasive, professional skin treatment bars offering the kind of technology you’d normally only find at a medispa or dermatological clinic also indicates that powerful, “time is money” treatments are trumping the traditional pampering facial. Curious as to what to expect from the likes of a lunchtime peel or pre-work laser and light facial? Here’s the high-five of snappy high-street treatments, plus a rundown of what peels, light and lasers can do for your skin. Cast all memory of Sex and the City’s Samantha out of your mind- things have moved forward since that particular red-faced peel-gate episode, and thank God.
Peels, light and laser: the lowdown
Peels: A chemical peel is essentially an acidic exfoliator at a more potent strength than you’d use at home, prescribed, applied and removed by a professional. The exact acid and other beneficial skincare ingredients used differs widely according to your skin type, individual concerns and of course the skin specialist you choose, but expect either alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) or beta hydroxy acids (BHA).
Depending on the concentration of the acid used and number of sessions you have, results-wise you can expect smoother skin texture, more even skin tone, a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and revved up collagen production. Milder peels of the ‘lunchtime drop-in variety’ are relatively low-risk in terms of Samantha type reactions, but depending on the strength and type of peel you opt for, possible side effects can include scarring, swelling, flaking, sensitivity, redness, or in an absolute worst-case scenario, scarring. In reality you’re unlikely to suffer a reaction if you go to a pro, but be aware that a high SPF afterwards and in the days following is a must as skin will be ultra sensitive to sun damage.
Light therapy: From LED (light emitting diode) to IPL (Intense Pulsed Light), the light therapy used in your treatment can depend on your unique skincare needs. You may associate IPL with hair removal , but at a much lower intensity IPL can be used in “photofacials” to address pigmentation , rosacea , acne , broken capillaries and fine lines. IPL works by targeting pigment in the skin and causing microdamage, encouraging the skin’s healing mechanisms to kick into action, resulting in brighter, rejuvenated skin. In terms of feel, IPL is the one you’ll notice, but it’s not painful per se- more like being very lightly flicked with the tiniest plastic band on earth. No matter how gentle, IPL should always be performed by a trained technician, as there’s a small risk of burns.
LED on the other hand can be used at home ( this acne-busting mask is a prime example ), although a professional grade treatment will emit more infrared light than a home device. LED light can have a different effect on the skin depending on the colour spectrum in question. Blue is well known for targeting acne bacteria, red, somewhat ironically, can calm inflammation and yellow in particular can speed up collagen synthesis. Ideal for sensitive skin, there are no side-effects and you can treat skin as often as you wish (you won’t feel a thing).
Laser: Also a light therapy, according to advanced skincare and laser expert Debbie Thomas , laser is the strongest option of all, working on just one wavelength, therefore it can deliver targeted results in terms of fading age spots or light acne scarring in particular. Laser also boosts collagen and elastin production and penetrates the surface of the skin to clear out bacteria that can cause acne. There are lots of different strengths of laser available, but if you’re booking a quick whip-round rather than a dermatologist administered treatment, the laser used should be low energy. You’ll need more treatments to see dramatic results, but you’ll be far less prone to side effects of serious laser resurfacing, which can include itching, swelling and peeling, or if administered in the wrong hands, burns, scarring and permanent alterations in pigmentation. A lower energy laser will also be only slightly weird feeling rather than actually painful as can be the case with stronger laser.
Five swift skin-savers
Skin Laundry at Liberty
A two-step, 15 minute facial incorporating YAG laser that penetrates skin to a depth of 2.55 mm, followed by gentle IPL light, Skin Laundry’s deep cleansing, skin energising treatments are the quickest of the lot (really ten minutes of action post-consultation). Since enjoying sweeping popularity in the US, Skin Laundry’s launch into the UK market has been a roaring success, likely owing to the instantly softer, brighter looking skin staring back at you after your first treatment.
After a course of four treatments, I can report that zits took a hike, skin felt and looked a lot more polished (the roughness I had previously cleared up) and all in all things felt more plump and healthy. I can’t say I noticed any reduction in sun spots or acne scarring, and the redness I’m prone to didn’t really die down, but then a brisk zap of laser and light can’t achieve everything, especially at a low energy. Skin Laundry founder Yen Reis apparently books in every week to ‘launder’ her skin, and while the price is prohibitive for that kind of commitment (your first session is free, and £60 thereafter, although packages are available), the results I saw trumped the effect of most regular facials, and if time is money, you know the score there. Safety wise, it’s not for everyone, and you can find clear FAQs and guidelines on the Skin Laundry website detailing the dos and don'ts, but if you’re a suitable candidate, it’s reassuring to know that the treatment is actually mild and you’re not looking at any downtime- my reactive skin was cool, calm and collected post-treatment. I can see this Laundry business becoming quite addictive…
Find out more and book in for a treatment here
The Light Salon
With treatments available at six London locations, The Light Salon’s Express LED treatments cater for all, no matter your skin type, skin tone or time schedule. Drop in for a 15 blast of blue (bacteria eliminating) or red (circulation enhancing) light, with a booster of yellow pre-treatment to help the skin’s top layers to absorb your light of choice, or go the whole hog and add in a customised peel, tailored mask or microdermabrasion treatment for added glow. For a fusion of light therapy within the context of a traditional facial, Cowshed’s exclusive Light Salon face and body treatments bring together cleansing, exfoliation, lymphatic drainage massage and hydration for maximum ‘skinprovement’. Expect a more pampering experience than many lunchtime drop-ins- think hand massages and a definite mood boost after sitting still and bathing in the light.
Treatments from £35 (packages available). Find out more and book in for a treatment here.
The Peel Boutique at Grace Belgravia
If the thought of a peel still scares the living daylights out of you, Dr Rabia Malik’s serene Peel Boutique, located within the luxurious lap of women’s health, wellbeing and lifestyle club Grace Belgravia, will reassure you that a bit of considered acidic exfoliation is no bad thing. The first doctor developed express peel bar in the UK, Dr Rabia’s treatments all feature a non-irritating lactic acid base, with additional elements such as brightening pineapple enzymes, green tea extract and D-beta-carotene to address specific skin issues such as dullness, dryness and blemishes. Medical grade and more intensive than at-home equivalents (tread with care where home peels are concerned), yet with no adverse side-effects or recovery time, the twenty minute treatments safely resurface skin while also zoning in on your dermatological bugbears and stimulating collagen production. Dr Rabia advises treatments from the mid-twenties onwards, and even if you can’t afford to lunch here regularly (all peels are £75), even just the one makes a perceptible difference to skin texture and radiance.
Find out more and book in for a treatment here
Skin Design London Skin Peel & Lift Lounge at Fortnum and Mason
With a peel to target blemishes and uneven skin tone (The Cherry Peel), a peel to address inflammation and fine lines (The Pink Rock Rose Peel) and more hands on peel incorporating lymphatic drainage massage and a facial ‘vacuum’ (The Triple V Lift), Skin Design London's 15 minute treatments are accessible from many angles- starting from £20 and available in central London, incorporating a peel into your skincare regime regularly could become the norm if you like what you see after a lounge session. If cosseted away, highly bespoke services are what you’re after, Skin Design London won’t be for you, but if need a convenient pit-stop for an enzyme-based face and neck rejuvenation that won’t cost an arm and a leg, Skin Design London ticks that box.
Find out more and book in for a treatment here
Debbie Thomas Illuminate at Harvey Nichols London
Skincare specialist to the stars Debbie Thomas has chosen Harvey Nichol’s suitably fabulous beauty lounge to launch no less than eleven 20 minute Illuminate treatments, so if a more customised experience is a must, you’ll be in your element here. Treatments are individually priced and don’t come in cheap, but for your investment you’ll get the latest technology and techniques, from regenerating LITE baby laser to mesotherapy infusions, mini micro-needling and Coolift oxygenation and hydration treatments. Whatever your skincare aim, Debbie has likely designed a treatment to tackle it and leave skin looking far more sorted on departure and in the days after treatment, whether that involves helping inflamed skin to heal, tightening and brightening the eye area or fire-fighting breakouts. Debbie was in residence at the year’s Oscars for skincare prep and post-party repair- if she can take on the most special of Hollywood occasions with aplomb, we reckon she's got your skincare SOS situation covered.
Skincare consultations are £25 which is redeemable against your first treatment- treatments start at £69. Find out more and book in here .
Curious as to what a course of regular peels can achieve? Find out how Imogen Edwards-Jones turned over a new skincare leaf …
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