According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, which affects up to 50 million Americans annually. Acne is also the most common reason for trips to dermatologists globally. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop with acne alone. In some instances, acne could turn into scars – and stay on your face for good.
The good news is, there are chemical peels for acne scars to help you say goodbye to them in no time. Here are 16 things you should know about chemical peel for acne scars – from a clear definition, to procedures and products, and everything in between.
1. What Exactly is a Chemical Peel?
From the name itself, you can tell what chemical peel is: it is a peeling procedure that involves the use of chemicals. Still, what exactly is a chemical peel?
A chemical peel is a type of cosmetic procedure that involves the application of a chemical solution or acid on your face to trigger peeling. It destroys certain parts of your skin, particularly dead and damaged skin cells, to allow new skin to grow and regenerate. Consequently, the acids chemically exfoliate the top layers of your skin to signal your skin cells to produce more rapidly.
In other words, chemical peel helps get rid of skin imperfections, thereby making wrinkles, dark spots, and acne scars less noticeable. Apparently, there is no one size that fits all when it comes to chemical peels. Read the next section to find out how to get rid of acne scars according to degree of severity.
2. Get to Know the Different Types of Peels to Treat Acne Scarring
Acne scars may be reminders of your awkward growing up stage or stress that doesn’t seem to go away. The good news is there are specific chemical agents available to make these scars fade, depending on the severity.
Here are the different types of chemical peels to treat acne scarred areas:
- Glycolic Acid – If you have minor acne scars, glycolic acid is your best bet. It is derived from sugar cane and allows deeper penetration into your skin’s pores to encourage the release of dead skin cells. Aside from improving the appearance of your skin, glycolic acid treatment also reduces redness that comes with acne scars.
- Lactic Acid – This agent is derived from milk and found naturally inside your body, which makes it safe for all skin types. It comes with hydrating properties and keeps your skin moisturized while peeling the top layer of your skin. This improves your skin’s tone and texture, too.
Salicylic Acid – Also known as 2-hydroxybenzoic acid, this peeling agent helps reduce scarring, wrinkles, fine lines, and other skin blemishes. Among the peeling agents, salicylic acid is considered the mildest.
- Trichloroacetic Acid – This is often used for medium facial peels since this agent is able to penetrate more deeply into your skin. If you have darker skin tone, this peeling agent is ideal since it is less likely to cause pigmentation irregularities.
- Phenol Peel – This ideal for deep peels and has the ability to penetrate deeper into your skin, all the way down to the dermis. It helps improve the appearance of atrophic or pitted scars, although you have to be aware of the side effects such as infection and discoloration.
- Obagi Blue Peel – This is the latest type of chemical peel aimed at treating acne scars.
Now that you know what chemical peel is, it’s time to get to know a little bit better the three different types of chemical peeling in the succeeding sections.
3. As Mild as It Gets: Choosing Superficial Peels
If you have mild scarring or skin discolorations, then superficial peels could be the solution. It is the mildest type of chemical peel that penetrates lightly on your face. The most common peeling agents used are glycolic acid or solid carbon dioxide.
How It Works
After cleansing your skin, the chemical agent will be applied on your skin using a gauze, small brush, or cotton-tipped applicators. Depending on the chemical used, the peeling agent will stay on your skin for a few minutes then water or alcohol will be used to neutralize the acid.
You will feel burning sensation on your skin, which is normal. You can use a handheld fan to help you cool your skin and relieve any discomfort. Since it is mild and treats superficial blemishes, the recovery time is immediate.
4. Stronger than Yesterday: Penetrate Your Skin Using Medium Peeling
When it comes to slightly deeper scars and skin discoloration, medium peeling could do the job. Medium peels are able to penetrate your skin more deeply and may cause second-degree burn on your skin. Most dermatologists use trichloroacetic acid or TCA as the main peeling agent for medium peels.
How It Works
The procedure is similar to superficial peels, although the peeling agent may stay a bit longer on your skin, with the procedure lasting for 40 minutes. Since TCA is stronger, stays longer in your skin, and able to soak deeper into the layers, medium peels are more painful compared to superficial peels.
Cold compress, fans, pain relievers, and oral sedatives may help reduce pain and stinging sensation. Nonetheless, recovery time is five to seven days.
If you have deeper, pitted scars, then the next type of chemical peel is for you.
5. When Deep Acne Scars Call for Deep Peeling Procedure
This is the most painful type of chemical peel among the three. It has the ability to penetrate several layers on your skin using phenol chemical and may cause second-degree burn. Unlike superficial and medium peels that require more than one session, deep peels require only one session in most cases.
Deep peels are also not suitable for darker skin tone because it tends to bleach your skin, a condition called hypopigmentation.
How It Works
- Before the procedure, your doctor will give you pain relievers and oral sedatives to ease any discomfort.
- During the procedure, you will receive intravenous fluids and be put in a heart monitor since phenol acid can be toxic. This is only applicable if you will receive phenol in large doses.
- After cleansing, phenol will be applied on affected areas in your skin and let the chemical penetrate deeper into the layers. At this point, there will be a break of 15 minutes after one area of your face is treated to avoid getting too much phenol in your body.
- For deeper problem areas, your dermatologist will place tape or ointment after peeling to promote further healing. Wash off the ointment after 24 hours and remove the tape after two days. Reapply as needed.
The procedure may take 60 to 90 minutes depending on the area that needs treatment. Recovery period is three weeks to two months and you are required to take antiviral and antibiotic medicines to prevent infection.
6. Say Yes to Peels: The Benefits of Chemical Peels for Acne Scars
At this point, you already have an idea on what chemical peels can do for you acne scars. It is already established that side effects are possible, especially for medium and deep peelings.
Why should you still go for this kind of procedure? Here’s why:
- Improves the appearance of your skin brought by acne scars, pigment scars, fine wrinkles, and sun damage.
- Reduces acne lesions, thereby improving your skin’s tone and texture
- Brings back your skin’s smoothness, health, and vitality
- Long-lasting effects, especially if you are able to maintain proper skincare to minimize or prevent the appearance of pimples and other skin lesions.
- Inexpensive option to improve the appearance of your scars.
7. A Word of Warning: Understanding the Risks That Come With the Peeling Process
Unfortunately, chemical peel comes with unwanted side effects too. Consequently, the deeper the peel, the greater the risks and side effects are.
Despite its good intentions, some of the risks that come with this procedure are:
- Temporary or permanent changes in your skin color
- Reactivation of cold sores
- Redness or erythema
- Crusting and scaling
- Swelling, particularly around the eyes
- Allergic reactions to chemicals
- Increased sensitivity to sunlight
- Infection, especially if you have history of herpes outbreaks
Will you still go for chemical peel or microdermabrasion for acne scars? The choice is yours, although Skinception Dermefface FX7 could help you effectively remove all types of scars, including those left by acne.
8. Your Expectations: What to Expect After the Chemical Peel Treatment
Unless you went for at-home treatments, chemical peel is often an office-based procedure and done in an outpatient surgical facility. You already know what happens during the procedure, whether it is superficial, medium, or deep peeling. The next question is what happens after the procedure?
Here are some of the things you can expect after treatment:
It is important to pay attention to after-treatment care tips to avoid compromising the results of chemical peeling.
9. Preparing for Your Chemical Peel and Acne Scars Procedure
In case you decided to go for this procedure despite the risks and possible complications and to fulfill your skin obsession, here are tips to help you prepare for it:
- Avoid any form of facial treatment for at least two weeks before your scheduled chemical peeling.
- Minimize sun exposure.
- Two to three weeks before the peel, regularly and religiously cleanse your skin twice a day, apply moisturizer up to two times a day, and use sunscreen at all times.
- In case of medium or deep peels, your dermatologist will prescribe a short course of medicine to prevent viral infection.
- Avoid smoking.
- Apply the lotion prescribed by your doctor to make it easier during the peeling process.
Make sure to follow these steps to minimize unwanted reactions and make peeling easier and less painful for you.
10. Understanding the Limitation of Chemical Peels and Acne Scars
Here’s the thing: chemical peel is not for everyone. In fact, this procedure could only work on certain groups of individuals, which is why it is imperative that you seek medical help before going for this type of procedure.
Below are situations where chemical peel for acne scars is not advisable:
- Taking certain medications
- Active herpes lesions
- Recently used isotretinoin or other medications used to treat acne
- Recent facial radiation therapy or facial surgery since it slows down the re-growth of your skin
- Impaired immune system, since it delays the healing process and increases your risk of infection
- Allergies to certain medicines
If you are under any of these situations, consult your dermatologist and ask for the best option to treat acne scars.
11. Don’t Forget the Price Tag: A Closer Look at the Chemical Peel Costs
Apparently, chemical peels come with a price – and it may be too heavy on your pocket.
So, how much does it cost?
The cost of chemical peel varies, depending on the following factors:
- Your doctor’s professional and consultation fees.
- Severity of acne scarring.
- Size and location of the affected areas.
- Chemical agents to be used.
- Transportation costs.
- Medications before and after the procedure.
In other words, it could go as low as $65 and cost you as much as $1,500 per session. Quite heavy, don’t you think? Your insurance company is less likely cover for the expenses too, since chemical peel is considered a cosmetic procedure. Unless it is medically necessary and certified by your dermatologist, you have to pay for the procedure straight from your pocket.
You can opt for in-office treatment where a licensed dermatologist will perform the procedure. Apparently, this could be more costly. On the other hand, there are home treatments available that offer the same result but done at the comfort of your home and at a more affordable price.
Read the succeeding sections to find out what these products are.
12. Try Skyn Iceland Nordic Skin Peel with Biospheric Complex: One of the Best At-Home Peel
Do you have sensitive skin? If you want to try peels at home without compromising your skin, then you should consider Skyn Iceland Nordic Skin Peel with Biospheric Complex.
This home chemical peel comes with a nice, portable container and doesn’t irritate sensitive skin. Use this product every morning to make your skin smooth and bring back its natural glow. This also makes you look refreshed.
Here comes the best part: it is an easy but effective single-step peel at an affordable price of $45 per tub.
13. DERMAdoctor Physical Chemistry: A Micodermabrasion and Chemical Peel Treatment Rolled Into One
Here’s the good thing about cosmetic products these days: aside from helping you save some shelf space, there are products that could do more than just one function.
Take the case of DERMAdoctor Physical Chemistry. It is a combination of chemical peel and microdermabrasion that is safe and gentle to use. It is safe, non-irritating, and leaves your skin baby soft while getting rid of dead and flaking skin.
If this is not enough to convince you, then you should know that this home peel lightens and softens acne scars to reveal a smoother, clearer, and brighter skin. It makes you look younger as well, which is not bad. It may be a bit on the expensive side at around $75, but the results are definitely worth every cent.
There are few more chemical peels for acne scars you can try, so make sure you read until the end.
14. Treat More than Just Acne Scars with AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel
Is oily skin your problem? Do you want to get rid of acne scars while addressing excess oil issue in your face? If yes, then this product is for you.
AmorePacific Treatment Enzyme Peel is dream come true for those with problem skin. After applying the product in your skin, your skin will feel less oily, less greasy, and more smooth and supple. At the same time, it makes your skin looks calm, more firm, and more even-toned. This product smells wonderful too, while keeping your face fresh and clean.
A bottle of this product costs about $60 and definitely worth trying.
Let’s say you tried these products and it didn’t work for you. That’s fine. There are still few more home chemical peels you can try to make the scars go away.
15. Miracle in a Bottle: Kiehl’s Overnight Biological Peel
How can you say no to a glowing skin and makes you say bye-bye to acne scars? Unfortunately, a scar-free, healthy skin comes with a price – and an expensive one to be exact.
In that case, try Kiehl’s Overnight Biological Peel.
Often referred to as “miracle in a bottle,” this product exfoliates your skin without irritating it. It works with sensitive skin too, allowing you to wake up to clear and healthy glowing skin. In just a few days, you will notice less visible dull skin, redness, and acne scars as if nothing happened.
Here comes the best part: it is one of the affordable home peels you can use for only $46. Go ahead and give it a try. In case it didn’t work, you can still try the next product sold in the market.
16. Get to Know One, If Not the Best At-Home Peel in the Market
There is a reason why you should read customer reviews before buying a particular product. It gives you an idea on how a particular product works before you spend money on it. When it comes to the best home chemical peel, one product is consistent in the list: O.R.G. Skincare Organic Mineral Peel Face with Brightening Agents.
- It is organic.
- Works well with sensitive skin without leaving your skin dry or irritated.
- Doesn’t strip your skin off its natural oils.
- Reduces the appearance of acne scarring.
- Affordable at around $44.
In other words, if you are looking for an all-around product without being too heavy on the budget, then try this. Who knows, this might be the perfect one for you.
The Bottom Line
These 16 facts and tricks gave you an idea of what chemical peel is all about. At the same time, you were acquainted with the best chemical peels you can do at home if you are a bit tight on the budget.
Still, this doesn’t mean you should put the welfare of your skin in your own hands. Take time to schedule a trip to the dermatologist to help you determine the type of acne scars you have, the severity of your skin condition and the appropriate chemical peels for acne scars. This way, you won’t compromise the health of your skin and avoid irreversible damage in the future.