Skin Frosting: What Is It and Why Does It Occur?

Esthetician talking to client visiting her after beuty procedure

When it comes to skincare treatments, particularly chemical peels, one term you might encounter is ‘skin frosting.’ This phenomenon, often mistaken for an adverse reaction, is a standard part of many professional skin treatments. But what exactly is skin frosting, and why does it happen? Here’s everything you need to know.

Understanding Skin Frosting

Skin frosting is a process that occurs when certain types of chemical peels, particularly those containing salicylic acid, are applied to the skin. The skin takes on a white or ‘frosted’ appearance, which is the result of the acid neutralizing on the skin’s surface. Despite appearances, this doesn’t indicate a problem; in fact, it’s an entirely expected part of the treatment process.

Why Does Skin Frosting Occur?

Skin frosting occurs when the chemicals in the peel interact with the proteins in your skin, causing a reaction that leaves a visible white, frosty residue on the skin’s surface. This residue is a salt crystal byproduct left over from the neutralization process.

This frosting only pertains to the surface of the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin) and does not reflect what is happening within the deeper layers of the skin, the epidermis, and dermis. As more of the peel solution is applied, this residue may become more apparent.

Frosting vs. Blanching

It’s crucial to distinguish skin frosting from blanching. While frosting is a surface-level phenomenon, blanching goes deeper. Blanching refers to protein coagulation or kerato-coagulant — in layman’s terms, a burn! It’s a controlled burn or wound to the skin, often seen as a response to more intensive treatments. The skin may shift from varying shades of ashy gray to bright white, depending on the depth of the damage. Read more about their differences here.

FAQs About Skin Frosting

  • Is skin frosting a cause for concern?
    Not at all. Skin frosting is an entirely normal part of the chemical peel process and is not harmful to your skin.
  • How long does the frosting last?
    Skin frosting typically lasts only for a few minutes during the treatment. However, it may last longer if more of the peel solution is applied.
  • What about post-treatment care?
    After a treatment that results in skin frosting, you should follow the post-care instructions provided by your skincare professional. They’ll typically advise you on moisturizing, sun protection, and avoiding certain activities that might irritate the skin.

Skin frosting is a fascinating, if slightly odd, part of the skincare world. While it might be unnerving to see your skin take on a frosty appearance during a treatment, it’s an entirely normal process. As with any skin treatment, always consult with a skincare professional to ensure you’re using products that are appropriate for your skin type and concerns.

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