A chemical peel is one of the many treatment options that can effectively minimize the appearance of acne scars. When compared to other methods that either eliminate or reduce the severity of acne scarring, a chemical peel is one of the least invasive procedures.
The treatment process involves an application of a chemical solution, which damages the outer layers. After the chemicals penetrate the skin layers, the damaged layers of skin begin to peel and fresh, healthy skin is gradually revealed. This new skin is improved in texture and is smoother in appearance. The three types of chemical peels that are available include light, medium and deep. This article discusses how each peel is applied to the skin, the recovery process and the results that can be expected when treating acne scarring.
• Gently removes the epidermis
• Light exfoliation
• Combination of alpha-hydroxy acids
• Can be repeated once a month
• Subtle results
When receiving a light chemical peel, the practitioner applies a mixture of alpha-hydroxy acids, including salicylic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid. These acids provide a gentle exfoliation of the skin as they remove the epidermis, which is the outer layer of skin.
Before applying the alpha-hydroxy acids, the skin will be cleansed to remove surface oils. Following cleansing, the exfoliating acids will be brushed onto the skin and left on for up to 20 minutes. Very minor stinging is expected during this period of time. The acids are generally neutralized with water before they are washed off the skin. Some minimal redness and minor flaking will occur for a few days after the light peel.
While this chemical peel produces results that are relatively subtle, it can be repeated on a monthly basis, with more noticeable results achieved after each treatment. This treatment is recommended for individuals with minimal acne scarring and can also help to reduce the frequency of acne breakouts.
• Removes the dermis and epidermis
• Deeper exfoliation
• Contains trichloroacetic acid
• Can be repeated once a year
• Significant results
During a medium chemical peel, trichloroacetic acid is applied to the skin. Some practitioners may also add glycolic acid to the mixture. The medium chemical peel deeply penetrates the skin, as it removes both the dermis and epidermis. This action leads to a greater reduction in acne scarring and a smoother skin texture in comparison to the light chemical peel.
After cleansing the skin, the trichloroacetic acid mixture is applied and left on the skin for up to 30 minutes. It is highly likely that burning and stinging will be felt during the application process. After the chemicals are neutralized with a saline compress, it is normal for the skin to turn extremely red. This redness often closely resembles a severe sunburn and can be compared to second-degree burns. The skin will remain red for some time during the healing process, and it may take up to six weeks for the skin to return to normal.
The medium chemical peel produces noticeable results and will reveal skin that is noticeably vibrant and healthy, with a significant reduction in the appearance of acne scars. While the recovery process is longer when compared to a light peel, this procedure will produce favorable results for individuals with moderate acne scarring.
• Penetrates to the deepest layers of skin
• Strong exfoliation
• Contains phenol
• Results last for 10 years
• Dramatic results
A deep chemical peel penetrates to the lowest dermal layer of skin and produces the most dramatic results of the three types of chemical peels. The deep peel works by dissolving layers of skin cells, which results in skin that is considerably smoother and improved in texture.
Phenol is a chemical that is applied to the skin during a deep chemical peel. Before anyone receives a deep peel, their practitioner will recommend that they follow a pre-treatment for eight weeks that typically involves a daily application of Retin-A. This helps to prepare the skin for the phenol treatment and ensures that the chemical deeply penetrates the layers of skin.
Since the deep chemical peel can cause extreme discomfort, a local anesthetic, pain relievers and sedation are often required before the procedure begins. Depending on the areas of skin that are treated and the results desired, phenol is left on the skin for a period of 30 minutes to two hours. The skin will begin to form a crust when the phenol is removed, which is then covered with a substantial layer of petroleum jelly.
While the deep chemical peel provides dramatic results, there are significant risks associated with this type of peel. The recovery period is extensive and it may take up to two months for the skin to fully heal. Redness may be excessive and can last longer than three weeks.