Acne scarring can persist long after the blemishes have disappeared. Fortunately, rapid advances in skin technology have enabled professionals to successfully use chemical peels for acne scars.Depending on your acne scars and type will ultimately decide which chemical peel is right for you. Read on to learn more about using chemical peels for acne scars.
What Are Chemical Peels?
Chemical peeling is a popular, relatively affordable, and generally safe method of treatment of some skin disorders and to refresh and rejuvenate skin. A solution is applied to the skin and then peeled off. These peels can be done to the face and neck in an effort to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, eliminate acne scars and hyperpigmentation, and more.
Most procedures are performed at either a dermatology office or a medical spa. There are variety of chemicals used in the peel as well as different levels of strength. Ultimately, every procedure is personalized for a myriad of skin types and issues.
Chemical Peels for Acne Scars (Atrophic)
Even when acne has cleared up, it can often leave atrophic scarring in its place. This unfortunate blemish can pose a challenge to sufferers wanting to be rid of it for good. Over the years of research and development, a variety of chemical solutions have been found to be effective for varying degrees of atrophic scarring. The most effective solution for your particular issue will be dependent on the strength of the chemicals used and how deeply they penetrate the skin.
Chemical Peels for Dark Scarring (PIH)
In addition to treating atrophic scarring, chemical peels have also proven effective in the treatment of dark scarring. Also called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or PIH, this issue is most receptive to alpha-hydroxy peels. As a superficial or medium-depth peel, this type of treatment can reduce the appearance of dark spots without resulting in significant downtime or side effects. In most cases, the peel is used in small doses initially with the strength being increased incrementally with the subsequent sessions. This gives the skin time to heal while also improving the effectiveness of the treatment.
Best Chemical Peels for Acne Scars
As one of the most popular chemical peels for acne scars, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is extremely versatile because of its ability to be used in different concentrations depending on the severity of the case. A solution of 10 to 20% TCA is best for superficial peels. While 35% TCA is best used as a medium-depth peel. Professionals do not recommend using concentrations higher than 35% because the results are less predictable and the potential for scarring is higher. When treating ice pick scars, a TCA peel is most successful when combined with the CROSS technique. Also known as dot-peeling, this process uses a small toothpick to stretch the skin and apply a concentrated amount of TCA to the bottom of the ice pick scar.
Best Chemical Peels for Dark Scarring
Considered an adjuvant therapy for acne hyperpigmentation, chemical peels are best used as a supplementary measure. By adding chemical peels to more standard routes of treatment, you increase the odds of reaching your desired goals. In the treatment of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, there are two primary acids that are used in the solution for the chemical peels:
1. Glycolic Acid
As the alpha-hydroxy acid most popular for use in chemical peeling, glycolic acid is typically used in concentrations of 20 to 70 percent for all skin types. This solution can also be combined with other treatments to deliver better results. Glycolic acid can assist in fading the effects of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation by peeling away dark marks and scars and leaving a layer of fresh and unblemished skin.
2. Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid works by breaking down the bonds that hold the skin’s cells together. This process will gradually cause the cells to shed and peel away. As the skin begins the new regeneration process, a clear layer of skin will appear. This acid has the added benefit of having a whitening effect on the scars, making it a more effective treatment solution for those people with darker skin tones.
At Home Alternatives to Chemical Peels:
Generally speaking, the alternatives to chemical peels that are safe for use at home are created for discolored acne scarring. If you suffer from deep scars as a result of acne or other skin conditions, you should see a dermatologist to schedule more invasive procedures. Here are four recommended at home alternatives if you are simply looking to lessen the appearance of discolored acne scarring:
1. Paula’s Choice SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel
Boasting the highly effective AHA ingredient, this exfoliant is a good choice for removing the excess layers of dead skin cells that lead to clogged pores and blemishes. Alpha hydroxy acids are best for discoloration related scarring as they deeper scars do not respond well. The gentle and weightless gel texture of this product will work to revitalize the surface of the skin, leaving a fresh look in its place. The skin-soothing plant extracts and antioxidants work in tandem to deliver much-needed moisture to the skin. The no-rinse formula should be applied once or twice daily for optimal results. When used consistently, you should also expect to see firming of the skin.
2. DHC Renewing AHA Cream
Containing the magic formula of AHAs, this creamy lotion contains 10 percent lactic acid designed to slough away dead skin cells. Once the cream gets to work, you will be left with younger looking and refreshed skin. Because of the strength of this alpha hydroxy acid, it is only recommended for use once or twice per week. The product should be applied at nighttime.
3. Timeless Skin Care Vitamin C & E Ferulic Acid Serum
With an impressive 20 percent concentration of L-ascorbic acid, this serum contains the ingredients that you need to see noticeable results. With this high concentration of vitamin C, the serum works to build collagen and even out skin tone. Users are instructed to apply two or three drops of the serum to the fingertips and smooth into clean and dry skin every morning and night. The no-rinse formula also contains vitamin E and ferulic acid, working to extend the life and effectiveness of the active vitamin C.
4. SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5
This cream contains 0.5 percent pure retinol designed to help diminish the appearance of redness and acne scars. The product will also reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles, giving skin an overall better tone and freshness. This night cream will refine the look of large pores by promoting skin cell turnover. The strength of the product necessitates that it only be used once or twice per week at first. Once the skin can tolerate the retinol safely, usage can be increased to every night. The cream is safe for all skin types, making it a great all-around product.
Always Use Sunscreen
The single most preventative measure that you can take to protect your skin is to wear sunscreen. Especially since chemical peels make the skin more sensitive to the sun. Study after study has demonstrated the importance of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Even those individuals with a higher skin phototype may not realize the darkening effects that UV irradiation can have on postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Proper sun-protective measures such as avoidance or protective clothing combined with the daily use of sunscreen can help to keep skin looking young for years to come.
Take Before and After Pictures
Like any major transformation, it is advised to take pictures before you start the treatment process so that you have a visual representation of the starting point. Taking pictures along the way of the journey will yield concrete evidence of how the treatment is working, aiding you in making further decisions about what to continue doing and what to stop. The pictures will also prove useful if you later consult a professional.
Consult With a Dermatologist
If you are thinking that a chemical peel may be in your future, it is important to first consult with a professional dermatologist. A consult should be had with an expert in the field before taking on this procedure yourself at home. If the acne scarring is already killing your self-esteem, a dermatologist can help you to devise a skin care regimen that will work, giving you hope for the future.
How to Find a Chemical Peel Professional Near You
The internet is an amazing resource to finding local professionals. These experts are the best choice when seeking a chemical peel treatment. Search engines such as Google, Yelp, and RealSelf.com are invaluable sources of information about chemical peels in your area. After verifying that the dermatologist does perform chemical peels, schedule a consultation to ask any questions you may have. Calling a few different practices will help ensure you’ve found the best price, as well as a professional you trust.
1. How often can you get chemical peels?
If you are relying on chemical peels to treat acne and its associated effects, the recommended time between procedures is approximately four to six weeks. You will want to wait enough time to let the effects take hold and for your skin to recover from the previous procedure.
2. Is it safe to do chemical peels at home?
It is only recommended to perform chemical peels at home if you have experience in doing so. Before you attempt the procedure yourself, it is advised that you see a professional a few times. Watching and learning from the experts will ensure that you have a better grasp on how to do the peel yourself and will also make sure that your skin will tolerate the procedure well.
3. Are over the counter chemical peels safe?
Although it is strongly encouraged to use a professionally trained expert, it is possible to find safe OTC solutions. If you decide to go the OTC route for your chemical peel needs, take care to ensure that the acid is purchased from a well-known and reputable vendor. Be sure to choose a supplier who has an established business with many positive reviews.
4. How much do chemical peels cost?
The cost of the peel largely depends on the depth and intensity of the procedure. The area of the country that you live in also dictates the average price range. A one-time chemical peel can start as low as $100 but creep up to $600 depending on the ingredients used in the solution. Many patients choose a package rather than paying for each peel separately. Chemical peel packages start at about $600 and can go upwards of $5000 depending on the number of sessions included in the package and the type of acid that is used in the procedure.
5. How long do chemical peels take?
Due to the plethora of chemical peels and strengths it’s hard to determine and average. Most chemical peels take an average of 30 minutes to complete. The less invasive peels will not take as long but will need to be applied over multiple sessions in order to achieve the desired results. Certain types of procedures such as the phenol peel should be expected to take longer. The deeper and more invasive chemical peels should always be done in an office setting by a professional.
6. Are chemical peels painful?
Most people describe the feeling that accompanies a chemical peel as a mild stinging. The gentlest of peels cause less stinging than those solutions that use stronger chemicals. After the stinging subsides, you may be left with some lingering redness and irritation. However, these effects are generally short-lived and disappear in a few hours. For those patients who tend to have more severe reactions, a doctor can prescribe medicine to help with the discomfort.
Chemical Peels for Acne Scars: Summary
- Chemical peels are a tried and true solution for acne scars
- Different acids work better depending on the type of acne scar
- There are many alternatives for chemical peels (AHAs, Vitamin C, Retinol)
- You should wear sunscreen after a chemical peel
- There are many skincare professionals that administer chemical peels for acne scars
- You should wait four to six weeks between sessions
- Is is strongly encouraged to seek a professional
- You can do chemical peels at home once you become familiar with the process
- Chemical peels cost anywhere from $100 to $600, with packages in the $5000 range
- An average chemical peel session takes 30 minutes to complete.
- Chemical peels are not painful, people describe the feeling as a mild stinging