The Facial Radiance Intensive Peel from First Aid Beauty has flown straight into my shortlist of fast-working, effective face masks. It’s a clay-based acid peel that brightens, smooths and gives an instant glow – as well giving the feeling that your old face has been entirely removed and replaced with a new one, a la the 1997 John Travolta/Nicholas Cage film Face Off.
OK, so not quite that drastic, but you can definitely feel the renewing effects of this rinse-off mask. If you’re not familiar with acid peels then don’t be (too) scared: the acids in question, usually AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids, are actually a relatively gentle way of exfoliating the skin, eating away at dead cells and revealing the newer ones underneath. Obviously they should be used with some degree of caution (see below!) but if it’s the sort of product that you can easily get on the high street or from a mainstream online beauty etailer, and you follow the instructions, you should find that they are a very straightforward and simple way to perk up dull or tired-looking skin.
And the Facial Radiance Intensive Peel* will most certainly perk you up – what I assume must be quite a hefty dose of lactic acid means that it works in just a few minutes. This mask is far more powerful than the liquid “toner style” acids that I’ve tried (Alpha-H Liquid Gold or Pixi Glow Tonic, for example); the liquids or liquid-soaked pads that you wipe on and leave might give you a mild tingle as the acid gets to work. You’d get more than a mild tingle if you tried to leave this mask on! In fact I don’t think that you could leave this intensive peel on unless you have a face made from iron. Or rocks.
How do I know that? I tried, of course! Now listen; I don’t have extremely sensitive skin, but neither do I have the sort of skin that can withstand a lengthy session with a sand-blaster and miniature blow-torch, which seems to be the torturous level that some of the very expensive clinic procedures are at. (I overheard a conversation in which one person was saying how an array of fans had to be pointed towards her face during a treatment she regularly undertook as otherwise the burning sensation was too unbearable. Seriously. The mind boggles.)
I’d say that my skin sensitivity level is about average. It’s neither tough old handbag leather nor delicate origami paper. It can withstand variations in temperature and a moderate to severe wind-speed, but it doesn’t like being scrubbed with Swarfega.
So believe me, most of you, when I say that you do NOT want to leave this little mask on for more than five minutes. My limit with it is three. At four I begin to experience an uncomfortable burning, at five I have the distinct urge to put my head into a bowl of iced water and at seven I’m just about running for the phone to call the fire brigade. My optimum leave-on timings, for the First Aid Beauty Intensive Peel are: one minute for beginners and those prone to a little sensitivity, and two minutes for those who like a glow but don’t want any tightness or redness. Three minutes gives me a noticeably brighter face in the morning, a more profound result than a one or two minute session, but I have to follow the mask removal with a face cream that’s soothing and calming. (Toleriane Overnight Care did me proud on that front.)
But I feel as though I’ve spent far too much time discussing cautionary tales and not enough time talking about the benefits of this particular mask; I very much like that the clay part feels deep-cleansing and the acid peel part feels renewing. Together it’s rather like the ultimate skin makeover – when I said that the Intensive Peel joined my shortlist of “fast-working, effective face masks” I was referring to the kind of treatments that give you visible, touchable results within minutes. Zelens Transformer mask, for example, or the Pumpkin Enzyme Peel from Peter Thomas Roth. Or Omorovicza’s Deep Cleansing Mask. If I still had hangovers (unfortunately no time for them at the moment) then I would be calling all of these my Hangover Masks.
This is a good, reasonably affordable little peel if you want something to really blow the skincare cobwebs away but I would very much err on the side of caution if you do have sensitive or very dry skin. The acid is too powerful and tingly for sensitive (I tried it on a bit of a hormonal, weather-beaten day and it really stung around the nose and on my chin after a couple of minutes) and the clay might be a tiny bit drying for already very dry skin. Though you don’t really leave the mask on for long enough for it to “dry out”, so it’s not a huge issue…
I’d say that the main perk of the Intensive Peel is the speediness – if you don’t take long, languid baths and hate sitting about waiting for a mask to work then this is your dream come true. (If you do like to faff about in the bathroom and shave your legs, plait your hair, pluck your eyebrows, etc whilst your mask is doing its thing then please don’t use this one. You’ll forget about it, get into a relaxed zen state, ignore the ever-increasing tingle coming from your head and rinse it off after thirty minutes to find that your face looks pink and tight and shiny, as though it’s been put through a laminating machine.)
If you want an even easier – and gentler – peel than this mask then do try one of the wipe-on-and-leave AHA liquids. First Aid Beauty do an amazing peel pad that’s very easily tolerated because it’s reasonably mild – just wipe it on after cleansing and follow with serum and moisturiser. You can find those here*. Alpha-H’s Liquid Gold is an old favourite – bit more of a tingle, but a very straightforward formula that really gives radiant, fresh-looking skin. You can find Liquid Gold online here*.
The First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Intensive Peel is £30 from Marks and Spencer here*.