The Best Chemical Peels for Acne Scars

Acne scars can be the unfortunate remnant of acne lesions that damage the collagen layers of skin. The result is a depressed or raised portion of skin that can mar an otherwise healthy complexion. One of the treatments for acne scars is a chemical peel, in which a concentrated form of chemicals is applied to remove scarred skin cells, allowing healthy cells to grow in their place. Different types of chemical peels exist, and each has its benefits in treating acne scars.

Young woman with a chemical peel on her face. (Image: Aksakalko/iStock/Getty Images)

Phenol Peel

A phenol chemical peel is one of the deepest peels available and must be used under a physician's supervision. This deep peel penetrates deeper into the layers of skin, beyond the epidermis to the dermis layer underneath and requires between one and two hours to apply, according to DocShop.com. This type of peel has been shown to improve the appearance of atrophic acne scars, which are pitted scars on the face, according to Derma Network. However, because this peel requires major damage of the skin, it is important to be aware of the side effects, including discoloration and infection.

Glycolic Acid

A glycolic acid peel is a superficial chemical peel that does not penetrate beyond the epidermal, or outer layers of skin, according to Derma Network. These types of peels are derived from sugarcane. The small nature of the glycolic acid molecule allows for deeper penetration into the skin's pores and then encourages the release of dead skin cells, thus improving the appearance of the skin. According to DermaDoctor.com, this superficial type of peel may help to reduce only minor acne scars and can also reduce some of the redness associated with acne scarring.

Trichloracetic Acid

Trichloracetic acid is used for medium facial peels, which require less recovery time than deeper chemical peels, according to DocShop.com. However, this is able to penetrate more deeply than a superficial peel, working to reduce the appearance of fine lines, blemishes and pigmentation irregularities, such as spots from sun damage. This type of peel also is effective in removing acne scars and can prove a good option for those with darker skin, as the peel is less likely to have the side effects of pigmentation irregularities, which can be associated with deeper peels, such as a phenol peel.

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