Chemical Skin Peels for Acne & Acne Scarring

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Chemical skin peels (or derma-peeling) is a popular cosmetic surgery. They are also thought to be an effective treatment for both acne and acne scarring. Essentially, the way they work is very similar to the ways that laser resurfacing and dermabrasion work. By removing the upper layers of damaged, scarred skin the procedure encourages new, unblemished skin to grow which reduces the appearance of scars and active acne. Scars will appear less deep and less pronounced around the edges while active acne may look visibly better with fewer ‘spots’ and less redness. Any discolouration of the surface layers of the skin, caused by previous acne, may also be improved with a chemical peel.

The best candidate for chemical skin peels has either mild-to-moderate acne or ice pick and boxcar scars. Chemical peels will not have the best results upon patients with severe, active acne or rolling and hypertrophic scars. If you have lighter skin you may experience better results as darker skin can become discoloured by hyperpigmentation, causing darker marks to appear on the skin. Your doctor or dermatologist should be able to advise you about whether or not chemical skin peeling will improve the appearance of your skin.

Chemical peels come with quite a long list of side effects. Initially, the procedure can be painful. Depending on the strength of the peel you are using you may require a local anaesthetic, sedative or general anaesthetic. Recovery is not normally less than a week in all cases. During recovery your skin can be sore, red, flaky, peeling, irritated, swollen and sensitive to sunlight. Once the skin has recovered and healed during the first fortnight, your skin can look red for a number of months.

There are three key chemical peels that are suitable for use on acne or acne scarring. These are very different in their strength and overall effect upon the skin. It is important to have the right peel for you, so be sure to discuss your options thoroughly with your practitioner. The three peels are:

AHA (alpha hydroxy acid)

This is also known as glycolic acid peel and it the most mild and least painful of the three treatments. They may, in fact be too weak to dramatically improve the appearance of your acne or acne scars but will certainly improve the quality of your skin. In low concentrations these peels can be purchased for home use and at slightly higher concentrations they do not necessarily have to be performed by a medical professional, although often you will see better results if the procedure is performed by a qualified medical practitioner. The highest concentrations of AHA must be administered by a medical professional.

TCA (trichloroacetic acid)

TCA is stronger than AHA and is considered a fairly moderate treatment. This is the peel that some claim is most effective on ice pick scars. It can be quite a painful treatment and can cause sensations of burning or stinging. A sedative is often used to help you with the pain.

Phenol peels

This kind of peel is extremely strong. It has a serious effect and should not be considered lightly. It can even cause heart problems. The support and guidance of an experienced doctor is pivotal to the success of the use of this peel and, if used badly, it can have extremely bad consequences. Many patients are given a general anaesthetic to avoid the pain of this treatment.

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Guide to Chemical Skin Peels for Acne & Acne Scars