While everyone tends to think of acne as a problem of too much oil, it’s really dryness that works against skin, particularly in adults. So if you have acne-prone skin, then winter’s seasonal aridity can exacerbate the issue, causing redness and spurring on breakouts, says Dennis Gross, M.D., a New York City dermatologist and founder of DG Skincare. “When skin is dry, the dead skin cells can block pores, impeding a normal healthy flow of oil and incubating the acne-causing bacteria in the skin, leading to acne,” he says. Using astringent acne products meant for teenagers or, conversely, anti-aging creams that are too rich, can also interfere with finding a balance for clear, well-hydrated skin. A popular course of action, then, is a facial treatment that can prevent the blocked oil gland from forming in the first place. That’s the tack taken by The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Denver, “where the dry climate is one of the biggest challenges for winter,” says lead aesthetician Kristy Roberts.
The 50-minute Alpha Beta Peel is designed to be a skin clearing, balancing and hydrating attack against breakouts. These steps all support the main event — the Alpha Beta Peel, a cocktail of calibrated alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (including malic, lactic, glycolic and salicylic), which your facialist sweeps over your face and then neutralizes a few moments later. (There’s no downtime required.) Together, these acids exfoliate dead skin cells, boost collagen production and help clear pores. In fact, salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid, is one of the few acne drugs that’s been proved to penetrate the pore and clear blockages. (It also shares a common chemical ancestor with aspirin, which results in a calming effect on the skin.) Good news for those with mature skin that still breaks out: the peel has an anti-aging effect, as well. Gross, who makes the peel, recommends the treatment every 30 days, about in synch with the natural process of skin cell turnover. A milder version of this two-step peel meant for daily use at home can help maintain clear skin and open pores — as can the right light moisturizer, and the return of summer’s restorative humidity.