Chemical peels are a type of stronger exfoliation technique. Originally a popular technique for reducing wrinkles, chemical peels are widely used nowadays and are know. as an effective method in the dermatological treatment of acne-prone skin and scars. This is definitely now known to be one of the best scar treatments for acne related scars. Read on for a useful breakdown of everything you need to know before you opt for a chemical peel procedure.
What Is a Chemical Peel and How Does It Help for Acne?
First, let’s explain where does the “chemical” in chemical peels come from – especially since it sounds rather scary and may put off natural skincare fans from considering the method at all.
Chemical here simply means the opposite of physical – the other type of peels out there. Physical peels involve the use of ingredients with a sandy, abrasive texture. These physically exfoliate the skin’s upper layer when you gently massage the area with them. Chemical peels, on the other hand, make use of certain substances with acidic properties to strip off dead cells and impurities on your skin that they come in contact with. A mixture can be made at home from all-natural ingredients such as milk and this will be a chemical peel since the lactic acid causes precisely chemical skin exfoliation.
When it comes to using chemical peels as a tool in healing acne, the acidic substance needs to be stronger. Your dermatologist has a range of different acids prepared in varying degrees of concentration to be used according to the severity and the type of acne.
How Does a Chemical Peel Help with Acne
Regardless of the type of chemical peel, they all rely on the same mechanism to reduce or eliminate acne. Ultimately, a peel aims to increase skin cell turnover. Old cells in the body constantly shed and get replaced by new ones in a natural process of regeneration. We call this cell turnover. So, when the chemical peel mixture comes in contact with your skin, it removes the upper skin layer of a certain area by damaging the bad skin. In this way, it makes way for your skin’s natural regeneration to happen and create a new skin layer, with a blemish and scar-free appearance. That’s why chemical peels are a type of so-called skin resurfacing techniques.
Promoting skin cell regeneration is not the only way in which chemical peels can help acne-prone skin. In the process, chemical peels also clean healthy pores of excess sebum and other impurities and thus prevent new acne lesions to develop there.
In contrast to some other dermatological acne treatments, chemical peels are applied to a larger area of your face or body. The action of the acid discriminates between almost dead and healthy skin, damaging only the first. This makes them good for treating acne and scars that are spread over a larger area of the face or body. Bear in mind that this damage we are talking about is not anything nasty – it refers to the artificially-caused damage on a cellular level. You won’t be experiencing pain.
Types of Chemical Peel Acne Treatments
Chemical peels can be performed either in a dermatological clinic or at home. Over-the-counter kits for home use usually treat lighter cases of acne, blemishes and shallow scars using not so strong acid combinations. If you decide to
In many cases, a dermatologist will suggest you sit for a so-called medical acne extraction prior to the chemical peel procedure. For a medical acne extraction, your face or other skin area is first steamed to enlarge pores. This allows your doctor to easily clean comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). Later, the opened up pores make it easier for the chemical peel’s main substance to penetrate the skin.
The most gentle form of chemical peels are usually based on alpha-hydroxy acids, so they’re known as AHA peels. Also used for reducing fine lines and wrinkles, AHA peels are good for acne-induced discoloration and lighter cases of acne. They can either be glycolic acid peels, made of this AHA acid found in sugar cane, or they can use a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) such as salicylic acid peel. The latter is good for oily skin types. Most peels for home use belong to this group of light peels.
Keep in mind that even the lightest peels will cause a slight burning or tingling sensation during the procedure, as soon as the acidic substance makes contact with your skin. Most people have found this to be only mildly uncomfortable, even rather pleasant.
This is a group of peel solutions based on trichloroacetic acids, so they are also known as TCA peels. Dermatologists most often suggest TCA peels as acne treatments. They have quite short recovery times compared to deep peels but are less shallow than AHA and BHA peels, which increases their range of effectiveness. TCA peels are known to be effective in reducing and removing more serious forms of acne-caused discoloration. Quite often, multiple TCA peel treatments with several months in between are better than one deep peel.
The harshest form of chemical peels uses a chemical substance called phenol. Phenol peels penetrate the skin on a deeper level and should only be performed once. They are beneficial for old acne scars and severe cases of acne-prone skin. While you get all the corrective benefits in one seating, this also means longer recovery time. They carry an increased risk of skin bleaching, so people with darker skin pigment should be careful what they opt for. Deep peels are usually recommended for aging skin and for people over forty.
There is no such thing as the best chemical peel. Certain acid combinations work better for certain cases of acne. Your dermatologist will choose a tailored chemical solution based on your specific case.
The duration of chemical peel application varies quite a bit. It can last anything from several minutes to several hours in the case of some deep peels.
What Happens after a Chemical Peel
Post-treatment care will differ based on the specific acid combination used in your case, but also, best practices can vary from doctor to doctor. Most likely, you won’t be able to wash your face for least one day after a peel. This is in order to leave enough time for your skin to heal.
Unlike with some other clinical acne treatment procedures, you can’t see immediate results from a chemical peel. If you went for one done by a skin expert, you can see the actual results in 7-9 days. Naturally, healing takes longer after stronger chemical peels. Some forms of lighter peels have a very short recovery time or none at all.
Expect to experience anything from dry skin to blisters and skin shedding in the first days after a chemical peel. This shedding can be much worse than usual flaking. Don’t worry – it’s supposed to happen. Be sure not to touch or do anything to your skin that’s not in line with your doctor’s instructions.
To properly take care of your skin after a chemical peel, there is a simple rule of thumb: moisturize! Consult your dermatologist on the best ointment to use, or simply go with the moisturizer you usually trust as part of your skincare routine.
The new, regenerated skin will be extra sensitive in the period after the peeling. Make sure to avoid direct sunlight exposure for longer hours. Definitely apply high-SPF sunscreen when going out, no matter the time of the year or the weather forecast.
Are There Side Effects of Chemical Peels for Acne?
Chemical peels are much less invasive than some other types of acne-clearing interventions. Generally, when performed expertly, they carry little risk of complications. Most of the commonly experienced side effects are not permanent.
Most likely, you will experience severe redness. It usually lasts up to about two weeks after the treatment, but sometimes, it can stay for months. This is a natural result of acid treatment. The same goes for the skin shedding, flaking or itching. After the damage caused by the acid to the skin’s upper layer, your skin’s working hard to replace it with new skin cells.
Potential undesired consequences fall mainly within your control and most often appear during the aftercare phase. You have to follow your skin aesthetician’s instructions closely. Do not touch or scratch the treated skin as it may result in scars. This is why it’s very important to make sure you are given very clear instructions about what to expect after the peel application – what is normal and what isn’t, and how to properly take care of your skin.
Change in skin color is the only undesired side effect that may occur, especially with deep chemical peels. It usually affects people with darker tans, which is why it’s also referred to as skin bleaching. However, the risk for this is low when you use the services of an experienced and qualified dermatologist.
Finally, it’s very important to make sure you trust your doctor fully. In some unlucky cases, permanent scars from chemical burns or permanent change in skin pigment are possible.
In principle, the effects of all chemical peel types are permanent. However, the new skin will continue to undergo the same processes, such as aging for example. For acne-prone skin, it is very important how you treat your skin on a daily basis.
Regular exfoliation has been famed for its positive impact on the regulation of acne-prone skin. As you’re both keeping your pores clean and helping your skin regenerate, you are preventing pores from getting blocked and turning into pimples.
In case you are using other exfoliation methods as part of your skincare routine, you need to stop prior to a chemical peel. Needless to say, in the period after a chemical peel treatment, while your skin is recovering, you should stay away from any, even mildly aggressive skin care products. Consult your dermatologist when it will be safe to return to regular use of home-use exfoliants in your skincare routine.
Chemical Peels in a Nutshell
Chemical peels are similar to cosmetic exfoliators used in regular skincare. They can be useful in reducing and removing acne breakouts and acne scars. Unlike physical peels, or scrubs, which use an abrasive substance to peel off dead skin cells, chemical peels rely on an acidic agent. But unlike chemical exfoliators, which can be used as often as every other day, chemical peels usually make use of stronger acid solutions for more dramatic results. Depending on the type of acid used, peels can be light, medium or deep. Your dermatologist will choose the best option depending on your needs. They all work to remove the affected skin in acne lesions or scars and promote cell turnover for new skin, blemish, and acne-free.
You might also want to read the following articles: