The 5-years-ago version of me, would never have foreseen the present me writing about Maxi-Peel. I was (and still am) annoyed by the kutis-artista* tagline and the inference that to achieve “kutis-artista”, you must have whiter skin.
I stumbled upon this product when I was looking for a cheaper, more accessible alternative to products that a dermatologist prescribed me, CHAT 2% solution.
The active ingredients in CHAT 2% are Clindamycin Phosphate, Hydroquinone, Alum, and Tretinoin.
I couldn’t find a product with these actives except for a toner being sold at Belo Clinics (also labeled CHAT 2%). But I did find two similar products sold off-the-shelf:
1 – VMV Superskin 3 Toner (Clindamycin Phosphate + Tretinoin)–now discontinued, and;
2 – Maxi-Peel Exfoliant Solution (Hydroquinone + Tretinoin)
First, let’s talk about CHAT 2%. It’s an alcohol-based toner and is a potent anti-acne product. Below is a brief summary of what it can do, based on the ingredients:
1 – Clindamycin Phosphate (Antibiotic) – Kills acne-causing bacteria
2 – Hydroquinone – Lightens the skin (including dark spots)
3 – Alum – Tawas. This works as a pore-constrictor that minimizes oil production
4 – Tretinoin – Increases skin cell turnover
Maxi-Peel only has tretinoin and hydroquinone. This is a drug, as in medicine. That fact made me hate the ads even more because they make it seem like any other cosmetic toner that you can just swipe on. In other countries, you need a prescription to buy tretinoin and/or hydroquinone.
My skin cleared up with the set of topicals given by the dermatologist. I stopped using them after my skin became OK-looking. I thought my skin would remember to stay clear even if I stop (well, it didn’t). I had to use acne topicals again but I didn’t go back to the doctor because their products are expensive (and I’m confident with my googling skills). I created my own anti-acne skin care routine based on the products I was prescribed.
When I started using Maxi-Peel, I had a lot of tiny pimples, white heads that lay on top of each other, and hyperpigmentation. I used Strength #3.
Note: Strengths 1 – 3 only differ in the amount of tretinoin but all of them have the same concentration of hydroquinone (2%). There is Strength #4 that has 4% hydroquinone, available over-the-counter (prescription not required).
If you’re using this for the first time, I strongly suggest getting the lowest strength. Also, buy the following:
1 – An opaque spray bottle to transfer it to, and;
2 – Cotton rounds or square cotton puffs
The bottle’s dispensing mechanism doesn’t allow control to prevent over-soaking the cotton pad. Remember: Applying too much will result in unnecessary flaking, swelling, and irritation.
I believe that everyone who’d use this would experience flaking during the first few weeks. The liquid base carrier will not allow slow release of actives onto the skin. What we want to avoid (by applying as little as possible) is burning the face off.
APPLICATION METHOD AND FREQUENCY
Sweep the cotton pad on a completely dry face, avoiding the area around the eyes, the corner of the mouth and the nasal folds. Apply once a week on the first week and increase frequency until you can tolerate nightly use. Most of my tips for easing into tretinoin cream will also apply to Maxi-Peel.
In my experience, the latter causes more flaking, irritation, and dryness compared to tretinoin products in cream form. Use a moisturizer that doesn’t have actives that would irritate the skin even more (e.g., chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs). I remember using oilatum cream and physiogel lotion while I was on this solution.
Do not forget to use sunblock. Avoid the sun at all costs. If you know that you can’t commit to using sunblock, DO NOT USE THIS. Both tretinoin and hydroquinone increases sensitivity to the sun. Aside from inhibiting tyrosinase (that prevents melanin production), hydroquinone can also kill your melanocytes (cells that contain melanin). I don’t know if the skin can reproduce melanocytes, but at least for the time you’re using the product, your skin’s natural protection against the sun will be reduced. If you’re not a religious sunblock user, do not use Maxi-Peel.
Do not start using this before reading a sh*t ton about both hydroquinone and tretinoin. Read articles written by professionals on the net. Read clinical studies. Read reviews of people who have used this. Read about the horror stories and scare yourself so you’d be more careful with the dosage you give yourself. Better if you could talk yourself out of using it.
If you have deep-colored skin, do not start using this without reading about ochronosis first.
This is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t handle several weeks of looking like apocalypse came upon your face, do not use this product.
The severity of my acne ranges from mild to moderate. I get clusters of tiny pimples on the cheeks and forehead (some with pus, some without). I only get one to two cystic pimples at a time and I seldom get pitted scars. Sometimes, I get shallow dips.
This stuff works — on both acne and post-acne marks. (I don’t know how this would work for people who have cystic/ hormonal acne.)
If you can tolerate the initial irritation, it’s an almost sure answer to hyperpigmentation — like how you’d expect paracetamol to work on most ordinary headaches.
Hydroquinone remains to be the gold standard in skin lightening.
I stopped using this regularly after finishing two small bottles. I can’t remember how long it took me to use them up but I’m sure I quit before the 2nd month mark (you’re not supposed to continue using it beyond that duration of time). In addition, my face became significantly lighter than my body — not a good look I tell you.
On my 2nd bottle, I used it alternately with tretinoin cream. When my skin became near-perfect and even-toned, I replaced Maxi-Peel with VMV Superskin 3 Toner. My face returned to its previous color, thankfully.
To this day, I still use tretinoin cream. Nowadays, I only use Maxi-Peel after a really bad breakout. Thankfully, I can’t remember the last time that happened.
While it was effective in preventing/treating acne and evening out my skin tone, I don’t think it improved the appearance of my pores. It probably won’t help with pitted scars, too.
The initial flaking and breakout you could experience will not be easy to conceal. Your face could look like it’s made of inflammation and dandruff. It can get THAT bad.
A lot of people experienced skin thinning, sunburn, and even more scarring with this product. It is both physically and emotionally painful. If your skin isn’t that problematic or if your intention for using it comes only from a desire to achieve a certain level of skin perfection, I recommend against trying this out. If you have a recurring acne problem and severe post-acne dark spots, this might be a good last resort solution. But still, consult a doctor.
If you’re already decided on trying this out, please take it seriously. Educate yourself and treat it as a drug.
If you’re decided on using this product, I suggest you read these first:
Credit to Maxi-Peel Facebook Page for the feature image.