Chemical Peels for Treating Acne Scars

You can choose across different types of treatments for getting rid of your acne scars. Some treatments are rather invasive and expensive, such as Surgical Treatments while some are non-invasive and affordable, like Chemical Peels.

Introduction to Chemical Peels

Chemical Peeling was introduced as a means of rejuvenating the facial skin. It is a topical treatment, i.e. its action is limited to the outermost surface on the skin only. With the introduction of more potent chemicals, chemical peels were later introduced for treating typical conditions like hyperpigmentation, wrinkling and acne scars. Chemical peeling is now among the most common of acne scar treatments, along with natural treatments, Microdermabrasion and Laser treatment.  Since chemical peeling doesn’t affect the skin underlying the acne scar much, it is also called Superficial Chemical Treatment.



Chemical Peeling Basics: How Does Chemical Peeling Treat Acne Scars?Chemical Peel for Acne Scars

The overall principle of Chemical Peels is quite similar to that of Microdermabrasion. Just like Microdermabrasion, Chemical Peeling is categorized as an Exfoliation Treatment, i.e. it yields results by inducing comprehensive exfoliation of the skin.

Chemical Peeling is aimed at scraping-off the outermost layer of the skin. Within acne scar tissue, the maximum amount of scar tissue, including the tissue debris, collagen and keratin are deposited along the outermost layers of the skin. Once, this part of the scar tissue is scraped-off via Chemical Peeling—the acne scar is eradicated.

The process allows the underlying, new and healthy layer of skin cells to rise. The removal of older, dead skin cells means that the new skin cells can multiply with ease. This is responsible for the even skin texture and youthful sheen associated with Chemical Peeling. Slowly, the acne scar site is replaced by new tissue. Chemical Peel also helps to lighten the pigmentation caused by acne scars.




Chemical peeling is often defined as a process of inducing a very restricted, minimal dose of ‘surface injury’ to the skin. This catalyzes a process of skin cell regeneration in the treated areas. The controlled exfoliation also stimulates the synthesis of more collagen. With increased collage fibers, the skin develops a younger, tightened appearance.

Thus, Chemical Peeling offers additional cosmetic benefits, minimizing signs of aging and any other kind of scarring, lesions or discoloration.

Common Types of Chemical Peels:

  • Blue Peels—these are the latest, among chemical peels aimed at Acne Scars. Other chemical peels recommended for acne scars include Beta Hydroxy Acid peels.
  • Glycolic acid peels are the most common chemical peels. These are essentially a kind of Fruit Acid Peels that are regarded among the safest. This category also includes Lactic Acid Peels.
  • Phenol Acid Peels—this is not the best option for acne scars. It is more suited for removing signs of aging.
  • TCA (trichloro-acetic acid) Peels—these are more suitable for people with darker skin.

How is Chemical Peeling done?

  • Chemical Peeling usually takes less than one hour.
  • The entire treatment is usually done in a series of sessions. Among modern chemical peels, the deeper peels need just one or two sessions.
  • It begins with comprehensive cleaning of the skin.
  • This is followed by applying the chemical compounds. Here, the patient is most likely to feel a bit of stinging sensation or pricking.
  • The amount of discomfort depends upon the kind of chemical blend used. For basic chemical peels, the stinging might be non-existent. For high-strength peeling, stronger chemicals are used that might induce a needle-like pricking sensation.
  • Usually, topical anesthetics are used for high-strength chemical peeling.
  • Some cosmetologists used cold compresses to minimize discomfort to the patient.

The stronger or deeper chemical peels are more suited for treating acne scars. Sometimes, medium or stronger chemical peels are used in the first phase of treatment to eradicate acne scar tissue. This is followed by lighter, superficial peels using milder chemicals. This is done to even-out the skin’s texture and for removing discoloration or hyperpigmentation.

Longevity of Results

Results derived from chemical peeling can last for many months or even years. Longevity of results depends upon future episodes of acne or development of other skin problems. If the patient can ensure a proper skin-cleansing regimen, protection from the sun and doesn’t suffer from severe acne, the results might be sustained for nearly two years. Results of deeper chemical peels are longer lasting. However, repeated sessions or follow-ups sessions are required in most cases to sustain the results.

Limitations of Chemical Peels

People with deeply-pitted acne scars, like ice-pick scars, might not get satisfactory results with Chemical Peels. However, chemical peeling can reduce the visibility of such scars to some extent also.

Risks Associated with Chemical Peeling

  • People with sensitive skins are at high risk to suffer severe inflammation or textural damage to the skin due to the use of chemicals.
  • In worst-case scenarios, chemical peeling might induce scarring. This happens when the chemical burns through the outermost layer of the skin. This can cause discoloration spots too.
  • Redness, slight inflammation and swelling of skin after treatment are expected to a certain level. However, sometimes these symptoms might linger-on for many days.
  • Deeper or high-strength chemicals peels recommended for acne scar removal requires follow-up care with occlusive bandages. Here, the recovery lasts up to a few weeks.

Despite being a popular acne scar removal treatment, Chemical Peeling doesn’t offer permanent results. Chemical Peels can temporarily remove acne scars but they cannot stop acne from resurfacing.



About DrGoel 29 Articles
Doctor by profession and more than a decade of practice behind her Dr Goel occasionally writes to bring awareness on various diseases and conditions.

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