Botnia’s Gentle Approach to Peels and Exfoliation

“OMG, you’re glowing!!! Spill your secrets!” 
“I got a peel from x spa! Isn’t it amazing? You should try it!”

Facial peels are a common spa treatment that you might hear a lot of people rave endlessly about. While a chemical peel seems like a miracle treatment, what you may not know is how it can be damaging to the skin long term. If you’re looking for that radiant summer glow, there’s no need to attack your skin with harsh chemicals to get results. At Botnia, we treat the skin gently, using organic products your body already recognizes without harming the natural function of your skin. Let’s break down the science of chemical peels, why they can be beneficial to the skin, and the proper way to use them in your skincare routine. 

What does your esthetician use?//

The instant glow after a chemical treatment can become addicting, but at what cost? Over time, stripping away your skin’s natural defenses can result in increased hyperpigmentation, acne, and breakouts. Who wants that? (Not us!) 

Facials aren’t supposed to hurt!

In the treatment room, Botnia Spa Partners only use botanicals and oils that are anti-inflammatory and reduce the risk of dermal toxicity, and the results are beyond our expectations! We saw our clients having healthier and more glowing skin using gentler products without the heavy chemicals. Our core value in making skincare is to help aid your body’s naturally functioning systems and approach the skin like it already knows how to do its job. Instead of daily peels and lots of AHAs, breaking down your skin’s natural defense and moisture barrier, and stripping it of all that protects it, we’ve formulated professional back bar products that aid your skin in its ability to heal and take care of itself. Find a Botnia Spa Partner who offers gentle exfoliation and holistic facials. We promise you’ll never go back to harsh chemical peels.

The science of acids and bases//

In the beauty industry, the term “pH-balanced” gets used a lot, but what does it even mean? 

pH stands for the potential of hydrogen. It’s a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a water-based solution. Pure water has a pH of 7. Acids like lemon juice, vinegar, or battery acid have a pH of less than 7. Alkaline solutions like soap, ammonia, bleach, or drain cleaners have a pH greater than 7. These chemicals are dangerous in high concentrations because they can break down lipids and proteins, two biological molecules that are largely responsible for cellular structure. (Don’t forget to wear gloves when using those chemicals!) 

Our skin pH typically sits between 4-6 which is weakly acidic. You might be thinking . . . then why does our skin have an acid mantle? The acid mantle is a very thin, acidic film on the surface of human skin. It maintains its own pH (4-6) composed of sebum and a salt/water mixture secreted by sweat glands. Our blood maintains a physiological pH of 7.4, which is slightly basic (alkaline). Bacteria thrive in neutral to slightly alkaline conditions, so the body manufactures an acidic barrier to inhibit the potential growth of bacteria in our blood. In response, the metabolism of our skin adapted to function best in acidic environments.

Even though alcohols can be great cleansers for certain things, you’ll want to stay away from any product with alcohol as an ingredient because it’s very alkaline and rarely used in skincare products for this reason. This is why you’ll see acids more commonly used in skincare: they mimic how our skin already functions.

What are AHAs and BHAs?//

When the skin is congested and you’re experiencing certain chronic conditions (like acne, eczema, psoriasis, etc.), acids can be useful to help with the cellular turnover of your skin. The two most common types of acids used in skincare are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs).

AHAs include glycolic acid and lactic acid. Let’s break them both down.

Glycolic acid is a powerful exfoliant that removes calcium ions from surface skin cells, which causes dead skin cells to slough off, exposing a new layer of skin. This creates improved skin texture and a reduction of pore size and fine lines, and creates a “glow.” Because it’s the smallest molecule in the family of AHAs, this allows it to retexturize the skin with a smaller concentration than other acids, making it super effective, but also the most dangerous. It’s often sold in too high of a concentration (any more than 20% is too much) and can have detrimental reactions when using it with other active ingredients like other AHAs, BHAs, Vitamin C, and retinol and can cause irritation and inflammation in the skin. Buyer beware: Some companies even sell products with glycolic acid at a 70% concentration! You’ll also want to be aware that the newly exposed layer of skin is more susceptible to UV damage, so sun protection is super-important after using glycolic acid.You can find glycolic acid in our Toner with a 0.60% that offers a gentle daily exfoliation. We also include the glycolic acid in our professional back bar apothecary that can be used in a custom treatment. Find a Botnia spa partner here

Lactic acid, another form of AHA, is a larger molecule and due to its size isn’t able to penetrate the skin like glycolic can. So while it offers similar benefits to its sister AHA (improved skin texture, skin tone evening, collagen stimulation, reduced pore size and fewer fine lines) it requires usage over a longer timeframe to see results. It’s why we recommend using Essential Enzymes or goat milk yogurt with our skincare: it’s much gentler and also contains moisturizing properties. Lactic acid can be found in our Renewing Face Wash, Daily Face Wash, and Gentle Cleanser as a pH adjuster to maintain the acid mantle of your skin on a gentle everyday basis.

BHAs differ from AHAs in that the hydroxyl group is on the beta carbon. BHAs are oil-soluble, meaning they’re able to reach deep into the skin. They work great with acne-prone skin: cleaning out and minimizing pores and reducing inflammation. The most common BHA is salicylic acid. We don’t use any BHAs in our skincare because we find that it strips the barrier.

Using acids in your skincare routine//

Washing your face daily with products that include an AHA like lactic acid can help to maintain your acid mantle because your skin will recognize it because it exists in our bodies. The lactic acid in our products will keep your skin functioning in tip-top shape while gently exfoliating your skin.

If you find that you have some congestion or maskne, it’s a great idea to use something a little more powerful once a week to help with cellular turnover and clear your pores. Our Weekly Digest Mask includes pomegranate and pumpkin enzymes (both AHAs) that encourage gentle exfoliation. They also contain powerful vitamins and antioxidants to help brighten the skin’s complexion. Mix this powder mask with Essential Enzymes or goat milk yogurt to create a gentle mask that’ll give you the same glow you can get from a chemical peel without its harmful results!

The things to note if you are using AHAs and BHAs with a high concentration in the formulation, you’ll want to be sure to keep out of the sun to protect your skin from further damage. You’ll also want to be aware of the other ingredients you’re using like retinol/retinoids and vitamin c as they can cause further irritation to the skin.


There’s no need to burn off your skin to glow! AHAs can be a wonderful ally in your skincare because they can gently help to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, but you want to make sure you’re using them in the right percentage to prevent harmful damage. If you’re wondering which product is right for you, reach out to us and we’ll help you choose! This summer, book your appointment with a Botnia Spa Partner and get your summer glow with gentle yet powerful and effective natural skincare!  

Xo,
Botnia 

References: 

1. Surber, Christian, et al. “The Acid Mantle: A Myth or an Essential Part of Skin Health?” Current Problems in Dermatology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30125885.
2. “Ingredient Series: The Chemical Exfoliators, AHA and BHA.” KraveBeauty, 2018, kravebeauty.com/blogs/news/ingredient-series-the-chemical-exfoliators-aha-and-bha.

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