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Jessner Peel Treatments: What to Know

One of the keys to achieving healthy, beautiful skin is understanding the science behind the professional treatment products your clinician may use during your appointment so that you feel comfortable with them pushing your skin to its appropriate limits. A popular peel type amongst professionals is a Jessner’s peel for how it aids in correcting common skin challenges like acne and uneven pigmentation. Learning about some of the basic science behind a Jessner’s peel is beneficial for helping those that are seeking safe and effective results to feel more comfortable.

What is a Jessner Peel?

A Jessner Peel (or Jessner’s Peel) is a medium-depth chemical peel  that is designed to improve skin on a deeper level. It combines lactic and salicylic acids with resorcinol to exfoliate while treating conditions such as acne and acne scars, hyperpigmentation, aging like sagging skin, wrinkles, dull complexion, rough texture and more. The intensity level of the peel can be customized, to treat your specific concerns.

The Jessner peel (or the more commonly used modified Jessner peel) is a safe, effective way of maintaining the skin and is also very effective on body parts, too.

Like other chemical peels, a Jessner’s peel breaks down the surface layer of skin. The cells die off and slough away after the peel. Your body then begins a healing response, which brings new, fresher-looking skin to the surface.

Jessner’s Solution

Jessner’s solution was invented nearly 100 years ago. A doctor named Max Jessner developed the formula as a way of treating benign skin conditions. His original formula contained several acidic ingredients that effectively break down the skin’s surface layers and encourage new brighter skin to take its place.

The ingredients in the original Jenner’s solution were equal parts salicylic acid, resorcinol, and lactic acid, mixed with an ethanol base. More recently, manufacturers have formulated a modified version that contains higher concentrations of lactic acid and salicylic acid, with a smaller concentration of citric acid. They replaced resorcinol because it can cause irritation and hyperpigmentation, especially for people with darker skin tones.

The Jessner Difference

So, what’s the strategy behind the mix of acids utilized in Jessner Peels? It’s very specific. First, salicylic acid is keratolytic used to dissolve hardened skin cells within the epidermal (aka outermost) layer of the skin, while lactic acid adds a dose of hydration. Resorcinol has historically been used in the Jessner formula, thanks to its natural antiseptic properties. However, as of just recently, this is being modified. Instead, TCA (trichloroacetic acid) is being used, which is the most popular method of medium-depth peels, called modified Jessners. Retinol and other AHAs can also be added to modified Jessners, such as mandelic, azelaic, phytic, glycolic, and the like.

As mentioned earlier, the Jessner peel is a medium-depth peel, which is what separates it from its more superficial or deep counterparts.

Jessner solution is a leave-on solution that is self-neutralizing and takes several days to complete the peeling process. This kind of peel has to be left undisturbed (without application of water or oil) in the skin for a minimum of six to eight hours post-treatment to allow for the full benefit.

What are Jessner Peels Good for?

In the most simplistic terms, the Jessner solution essentially deconstructs the top-most layer of the skin and, in turn, triggers an inflammatory response from the skin layers that sit below. Ultimately, since our skin has a natural intuition to heal itself, this leads to the removal of actinic keratoses (translation: sun damage) and the improvement of minor hyperpigmentation, scarring, wrinkles, and elasticity.

The mix of acids in the Jessner peeling solution makes it a suitable treatment for a wide range of skin concerns, from blemishes and age spots to acne scarring and wrinkles.

However, exfoliating and resurfacing treatments like this acid peel can be risky for medium to deep skin tones, as they can cause hyperpigmentation.

Some skin can overpigment if not pretreated prior to a peel or any laser treatments. If you have an olive, brown, or deep skin tone, your provider may prescribe the skin-lightening agent hydroquinone, to prepare your skin. The powerful ingredient reduces the number of melanocytes (cells that incite melanin production and are responsible for pigmentation) in the skin. Carefully weigh the risks and benefits with your provider, to determine if a Jessner peel is right for you.

Generally speaking, best candidates for Jessner Peels are those with fair skin and sun damage. If you’re new to chemical peels, or are unsure which peel is right for you, book our Sensi Peel. At your appointment our professional will discuss your desired results along with your previous experiences with chemical peels to help ensure the appropriate peel is selected. They will then work with you to create a customized treatment plan for your skin needs and to help you understand how to maintain results with advanced home

How to Prepare for a Jessner Peel

If you are aware of any sensitivities to chemical peels, acids, or other ingredients in the Jessner peel, or if you have very sensitive skin, talk with your dermatologist or esthetician before getting the Jessner peel.

Two to four weeks before your treatment, your provider may recommend adding a topical retinoid, to your skin-care routine, to help speed cell turnover and aid exfoliation.

We recommend that you avoid UV exposure, antibiotics, and anything that could harm/weaken your skin barrier for two weeks before receiving the peel. You should also stop using specific active ingredients including retinol, BHAs/AHAs, and benzoyl peroxide a week before receiving the peel to reduce the risk of irritation.

The best time of year to fully benefit from Jessner (or similar) peels is when UV radiation is comparatively weak, such as late autumn, winter or early spring. As noted, the major complication of this peel is hyperpigmentation, and UV radiation is the main instigator.

Those with medium to deep skin tones may need to do further preparation pre-peel, such as the use of hydroquinone in the weeks leading up to the appointment, to head off potential issues with excess pigmentation.

What Happens During a Jessner Chemical Peel?

At your appointment, your professional will first thoroughly cleanse your skin. We recommend adding a dermaplane treatment to enhance the results of your peel as this serves to remove the skin’s uppermost layer allowing the peeling solution to penetrate deeper into the dermis.

After cleansing, a layer of the peel is applied using gauze which is swiped around the skin. The peel solution is applied in layers. One or two layers achieves a mild to moderate peel, while three to five layers results in a more aggressive peel.

We allow approximately two minutes for the product to penetrate between layer applications, and observe the skin for any ‘hot spots. You’ll feel a stinging or burning sensation as the peel solution is applied, and as it begins to penetrate. Typically, we apply two to three layers of the peeling solution and then will apply a corrective agent on top, which can include things like retinol, vitamins, hyaluronic acid, or peptides, depending on our goals for skin and what kind of underlying conditions there are.

Jessner peels are self-neutralizing, so the solution will be left on. In-office treatment time is typically 30 minutes or less, but the peel solution will continue to penetrate for several hours.

To avoid interfering with the solution, keep your skin dry for at least six to eight hours—no water, steam, or sweat.

How Long Does it Take for a Jessner Peel to Peel?

For the first day post-peel, your skin will look swollen and inflamed, like you got a bad sunburn. It’s also normal for it to feel tight. Then it will deepen to a tan or brown color and become crusty before beginning to shed.

You’ll need about a week of social downtime as you peel and heal, if you had a medium-strength peel. The peeling begins one to three days after treatment, is most significant for the first day after it starts, and tends to be much less after the first day.

It can take up to two weeks to fully heal and see your final results.

How Should you Care for Your Skin Afterward?

Proper Jessner peel aftercare is essential, to get the best results. Follow your provider’s instructions carefully, to ensure optimal healing.

We recommend simplifying your skin-care products. Use only a gentle cleanser, simple moisturizer, and SPF 30 sunscreen (particularly a physical one with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide) while your skin peels.

Avoiding sun exposure and excessive heat during the peeling process is important. That means no prolonged time spent outdoors, in saunas or steam rooms, or in high-intensity workouts.

You should also allow your skin to shed on its own—no scratching, picking, or rubbing it—to encourage healthy healing and avoid scars.

You can resume your normal skin-care regimen and apply makeup after your skin has stopped peeling and flaking.

How Soon Will you See Results?

Within a week, your skin will have finished peeling and you’ll see the fresh, new skin that was underneath. You can expect brighter, smoother, more evenly toned skin.

To see a significant improvement in lines, scars, and even hyperpigmentation, you’ll need a series of up to six peel treatments, spaced four to eight weeks apart.

It takes several peeling-and-healing cycles to ameliorate concerns that originate below the surface of the skin.

What are the Side Effects of a Jessner Peel?

The temporary side effects of Jessner Peels align with the typical inflammatory response: redness, swelling, and itching—all normal and expected as your skin heals. You can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or apply hydrocortisone cream to soothe those symptoms.

More serious risks include allergic reaction, contact dermatitis, a bacterial infection, or a flare-up of a dormant viral infection (like herpes simplex 1, aka cold sores).

If you experience pain, blisters, or weeping sores, talk to your doctor to determine the cause of your symptoms and get treatment immediately.

What is the Difference Between a Jessner Peel and a TCA Peel?

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is often contained within a Jessner peel, but it can also be used on its own in a chemical peel solution. In a TCA peel, TCA is typically the only active ingredient. In a Jessner peel or modified version, it’s combined with salicylic acid and lactic acid. One study comparing the two to treat melasma found that both TCA peels and modified Jessner peels with TCA are effective in reducing visible skin discoloration, but the TCA-Jessner combination yielded better results. Another study focused on acne scars also saw that results improved with a combined Jessner and TCA solution.

However, TCA peels are safer for a wider range of skin tones—darker skin tones included—with less risk of hypo- and hyperpigmentation. A TCA peel can be a superficial peel or medium-depth peel, whereas Jessner peels are always medium-depth. Neither are deep peels.

An experienced provider will recommend the best solution for your concerns.

Can you do a Jessner Peel at Home?

Jessner chemical peel kits can be purchased for home use, but doctors suggest you proceed with caution and we wouldn’t recommend performing any chemical peel on yourself, unless you really know what you’re doing and trust the product manufacturer.

At-home chemical peel solutions tend to be superficial and therefore milder, but you can still do serious damage with improper use. Left on too long or used too frequently, self-applied solutions can cause burning, scarring, scabbing, irregular texture and tone, and pigmentation issues—damaging your skin, potentially permanently, and making it look worse rather than better.

Being treated under the supervision of a licensed esthetician or board-certified physician is the safest and best treatment option.

Our Enhanced Jessner’s Peels

Designed to improve skin on a deeper level the PCA Peel® line of modified and enhanced Jessner’s peels combine lactic acid, salicylic acid, kojic acid, citric acid and resorcinol. This revolutionary reformulation provides safer application, a more comfortable treatment and increased skin benefits.

PCA Peel with Hydroquinone

An innovative light to medium depth Jessner’s Peel, modified and enhanced and proven to soften the appearance of lines while encouraging a clear complexion. Key ingredients 14% Lactic, 14% Salicylic and Citric Acid effectively exfoliate and brighten the skin, while 3% Kojic Acid and 2% Hydroquinone lightens hyperpigmentation promoting an even skin tone. A perfect treatment for acne and hormone induced breakouts and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Skin Concerns
√   Aging
√   Discoloration
√   Acne

Key Benefits
√   Effectively treats acne
√   Improves the appearance of breakout prone skin
√   Improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
√   Improves texture
√   Hydrates and brightens the skin
√   Reduces dark spots and other forms of discoloration (including melasma)
√   Promotes a clear complexion

Skin Types
Fitzpatrick Types I – III
Dry, Oily, Combination, Normal

PCA Peel with Hydroquinone & Resorcinol

PCA Peel with Hydroquinone & Resorcinol is the most potent of our enhanced Jessner’s formulas. This peel will help to improve skin tone, enlarged pores and pigmentation, for oily, thicker and more resilient skin types. PCA uses the same key ingredients as in their other Jessner Peels with the addition of Resorcinol to enhance results for those who require a deeper exfoliation treatment. Perfect for Fitzpatrick types I-III.

Skin Concerns
√   Aging
√   Discoloration
√   Acne

Key Benefits
√   Deeply exfoliates resilient skin types
√   Promotes a clear complexion
√   Reduces dark spots and other forms of discoloration
√   Promotes a clear complexion
√   Improves the appearance of breakout prone skin

Skin Types
Fitzpatrick Types I – IV
Dry, Oily, Combination, Normal

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