What is an Acne Chemical Peel?

Chemical peels for acne may not be appropriate for severe acne or severe acne scarring. Those who are pregnant or have skin sensitivities should seek alternative methods.

Chemical peels, whether for acne or other skin issues, involve applying chemicals, usually acids, onto the skin. These chemicals cause the skin to blister, and eventually, peel. It can take several days for the process to complete. Once the “old” skin peels away, new, smoother skin is revealed underneath. As an extreme form of exfoliation, chemical peels can remove acne blemishes and mild scarring. These treatments can be performed with a dermatologist, at surgery centers, or in some cases, at home with a chemical peel kit. These at-home treatments may be gentler, and in some cases, less effective.

Patients are advised to use extreme caution when purchasing over the counter chemical peel treatments. They could lead to injury, or they could also be too weak to help severe acne.

Who Needs Chemical Peels for Acne?

Since chemical peels are harsher than other acne treatments, they are usually not recommended for those with conditions that can be treated with other methods. Despite the dramatic nature of chemical peels, they are not recommended for those with active, ongoing, severe acne. These treatments are most effective for those with superficial acne and mild to moderate acne scars. Deep scarring may not show results after a chemical peel. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not undergo chemical peels.

Aside from acne, chemical peels help smooth the skin and reduce the appearance of mild scars, wrinkles, fine lines, and other minor skin imperfections.

Long-term results are usually very good, according to DocShop.com. At-home treatments can be performed to keep the skin looking its very best, however.

What are Side Effects of a Chemical Peel?

Upon initial application, many patients report feeling a burning sensation, according to WebMD. After this subsides, the skin may continue to sting. Cool rags or compressions may be placed to reduce these symptoms. Once the more severe symptoms ease up, many patients report having a burn similar to a sun burn, with mild soreness and redness for up to seven days.

Peeling occurs during the week following use. This is what removes the top layer of skin, allowing the layers underneath to show through. The underlying skin may be very sensitive to the touch, and it will also be quite sensitive to sunlight. Using sunscreen during this time is even more important than usual, as getting a sunburn on delicate new skin would be especially painful and damaging to the skin overall. Sensitivity to the sun will continue for several months after treatments, so avoiding prolonged outdoor exposure is necessary, even with sunscreen. Wearing protective clothing, such as hats and sunglasses, is also a good idea when you need to be outdoors.

In some very rare cases, scarring may occur after a chemical peel. This will depend on the types of acids used and the sensitivity of the skin. Discoloration can also occur. People with tan or darker skin may be more likely to experience discoloration, as well as those who take birth control pills, become pregnant shortly after treatment, or who have a family history of skin discoloration.

Those who have herpes outbreaks may experience more frequent or reactivated outbreaks following a chemical peel.

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