Chemical Peels for Scars

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Scars occur as a natural consequence of the body’s healing process. When the skin is wounded and there is a break within the tissue, the body responds by producing more collagen (a type of protein).  The collagen builds up within the wound replacing the lost section of tissue and this process continues for years after the skin has originally been wounded.  Collagen is built up and is then broken down within the original wound site.

Over time the area of skin becomes softer and smoother and after two years the scar may have completely faded. However, after this two-year period the scar is unlikely to fade anymore and therefore it can be considered to be permanent, unless further reductive measures are considered.  Chemical peels are one of these measures.

Types of scars

Abnormal scars are produced as a consequence of an over-exaggerated healing process, whereby either a hypertrophic scar, atrophic or a keloid scar is formed.  Hypertrophic scars are formed through the overproduction of collagen and appear as a raised bump upon the skin. A keloid scar is a variant of the hypertrophic scar, with the difference between the two being that the growth of a keloid scar is not restricted to the original wound are. Keloid scars can grow infinitely larger as collagen is still being produced even after the wound has been healed.

Conversely, atrophic scars appear to be sunken into the skin and their pitted appearance is commonly associated with such diseases as acne and chickenpox.  Atrophic scars are formed as a result of tissue damage or loss, rather than increased tissue formation (keloid and hypertrophic scars).

Effect of chemical peels on scars

Chemical peels can drastically improve the appearance of certain types of scars such as superficial scars, whether they are small, depressed or large. Thus they are often used to help reduce the appearance of acne scars.   No scar can be completely removed but it can be treated and the visibility may be lessened.

Extensive superficial atrophic scars may respond particularly well to either medium depth or superficial chemical peels. The expected result is mild blistering and redness of the treated skin followed by normal epidermal and papillary dermal regeneration. 

Chemical peels do not treat deeper scars, such as ‘ice-pick’ scars (type of atrophic scar) and deep fibriotic scars, effectively. Moreover, they are usually not used to treat keloid scars.

If you have dark skin chemical peels can result in the formation of keloid scars, rather than their eradication, therefore it is important to fully consult with your practitioner prior to receiving the treatment.

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