Chemical Peels for Acne and Acne Scars

Acne is one of the most common skin disease affecting millions of people across the globe irrespective of their gender, race or age.

This article shall discuss the mechanism of chemical peels and its effectiveness in doing away with acne scars.

What are Chemical peels?

Chemical peeling is medical treatment techniques to repair or rather improve the skin texture by affecting the removal of the damaged skin layers by exposing it to the extremely acidic solution.

It is used to remove scars, wrinkles, line and also to reduce acne breakouts.

It can be used to remove surface layers as well as deep layers of the skin and the latter is usually a severe medical procedure requiring complete medical attention involving cardiopulmonary monitoring and intravenous hydration.

Though there are various home procedures of peeling available nowadays, it is usually advisable that you seek consultation from a dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

It has also been suggested that people who are fair and light skinned are better suited for this kind of treatment as with dark skin people, there is a fair chance, that the pigmentation is fairly different from their original skin color.

This might give them an uneven color contrast on their skin and make the treatment effects quiet visible.

How does chemical peel treat acne scars

When the skin is exposed to an extremely acidic solution, it starts to blister and eventually peels off giving way to the formation of new skin.

The damage also stimulates collagen formation which speeds up this process.

The new layer thus formed is free of any damage and is smoother and of better texture.

Chemical peel solutions

The acidic solutions that are widely used for this treatment include:

Alpha hydroxyl acids (AHA) : They are naturally occurring organic carboxylic acid like glycolic acid and lactic acid. These are used for light peels and can also be mixed with daily moisturizers in very small concentrations to improve skin texture

Beta hydroxyl acid (BHA): They are relatively milder and can go deeper into the pores.

Jessner’s peel: It is formed by the mixing of salicylic acid, resorcinol, and lactic acid and is known to break the intracellular bridges between keratinocytes

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA): They are used for deep peels in concentrations ranging between 20% to 50% and is preferred for dark skin patients over any other solution

Phenol peels: They are the strongest solution and are used for extremely deep peels. Their effect might last for over 20 years and more. This requires only one round of treatment and several months to heal.

Kinds of peels

There are various kinds of peels which can be used according to the size and intensity pf the treatment required:

Superficial peels: Since it is a superficial peel, it is limited to photoaging, scars, wrinkles and lining. It is fit for all skin types and a lower concentration should be used when treating black or brown skin people. The agents frequently used include 70% glycolic acid and 10% to 20% TCA, mostly

Medium depth peels: It usually requires trichloroacetic acid peels and is used in conditions of dyschromia and multiple solar keratosis along with the usual skin textural changes

Deep peels: This is used for the correction of coarse and fine wrinkles, pre-malignant skin tumor and acne scars along with dyschromia. The agents include a mixture of croton oil and phenol in different concentrations.

Cost of the treatment: 

This may cost anywhere from $600 to $1000 while on an upper limit it may be as high as $6000.

Deep chemical peels are costlier than the lighter ones.

However, it must be noted that this treatment is largely considered cosmetic surgery and hence insurance companies are reluctant to bear the cost of the treatment.

Benefits and possible side effects of chemical peels

The benefits attributed to this treatment are as follows:

  • Reduce lines from the face
  • Treat wrinkles caused due to sun damage and aging
  • Treats certain types of acne
  • Removes dark patches and scars

Side effects of undergoing this treatment:

Though the side effects of chemical peeling have rarely been reported, it might cause effects that have been enumerated below:

  • Chemical peeling might cause hyperpigmentation though it is more likely in people with dark skin. The risk of hyperpigmentation as well as discoloration increases in case you are taking birth control pills and have a family history of discoloration
  • In rare cases, it might cause scarring
  • Chances of reactivating cold sores are rare if you have a history of herpes breakouts. It might reactivate the herpes simplex infection
  • The procedure might cause redness and scaling. However, this is temporary and will get normal in 3 to 7 days
  • Mild or deep peel may cause blisters and swelling
  • Phenol peels are cardiotoxic and are excreted by hepatic and renal routes. It must therefore not be used with patients having the cardiac or renal complication
  • Toxic shock syndrome has been reported in certain cases
  • Milia and epidermal cysts have also been reported

Precautions while using chemical peels

The following precautions must be observed while undergoing this treatment:

  • It makes your skin sun sensitive and therefore care must be taken to protect the skin after the procedure by using a sunscreen or not exposing it to the sun whenever possible and as much as possible
  • The doctor must be informed if you have been on isotretinoin
  • The doctor must be informed about all the medications you take including oral and topical medication
  • The doctor should be aware of all the surgeries you have had in the past

Do chemical peels work for acne - what users are saying?

We did an analysis of the review of online consumers who have undergone this treatment to see what their experience has been like.

Here is a summary of what they liked or disliked about it:

What they liked about it:

  • Acne control: While most consumers underwent this treatment to heal their acne scars, they also noticed a positive change in acne breakouts. The breakouts were less frequent and also less severe.
  • Reduces redness: Most consumers were happy with the impact it had on the redness of their skin caused due to the acne inflammation. It was very effective in reducing the redness in general and toning down the skin
  • Time effective: A lot of consumers found this treatment very time effective. Unlike other treatments, this requires, mostly, only one session and there is no need to go over and over again for rounds. It saves a lot of time and gives results quickly

What they did not like about it:

Expensive: The one problem that a few consumers faced was that it is a fairly expensive treatment. Even more, because insurance companies are mostly not willing to cover the expenses of this treatment because of it being more of a cosmetic fixation.

In the end..

Chemical peels have been in use since decades and have proved to be rather effective.

It gives your skin a new texture making it smooth, even and more youthful.

If you are going for deep peels, the effect of youthful skin is likely to last for more than 20 years in one treatment.

It might be a bit expensive but the effect it has on your skin, definitely makes it worth all the money.

If you are troubled by the stubborn scars, this might offer you a solution.

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