Chemical peels help to treat acne scars by using acid to quicken the removal of old dead cells from the skin surface. This stimulates new cell growth. There are three types of chemical peels – superficial, medium and deep.
You can use these peels around the eyes or mouth, and on the face and neck for up to 30 minutes. Before using any of these three types of chemical peels, you need to apply some pre-treatment products at home.
a) Superficial Peels
Superficial peels are performed by qualified beauty therapists or a dermatologist. A combination of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid ad maleic acid is used. Salicylic acid is especially useful as it has anti-inflammatory effects and may penetrate into the sebum-heavy follicles more easily since it is fat soluble. Treatment takes only a few minutes.
The skin may turn pink and feel tight for a couple of hours after treatment. You may need six weeks of treatment before seeing any visible results. The video below demonstrates how a superficial peel is applied.
b) Medium Peels
Medium peels penetrate the skin deeper, removing the skin cells from the epidermis and the upper dermis (the middle layer of skin). Medium peels have to be performed by a dermatologist. Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) in concntrations ranging between 5% and 20% is normally used in these peels, and is sometimes combined with glycolic acid.
The peel remains on the skin for a few minutes and is then neutralized. A burning or stinging sensation may be felt during and after treatment. The skin can be very red or even go brown afterwards.
It may take six weeks for the skin to go back to normal after a medium peel. Treatment may have to be repeated every six to twelve months to sustain results.
c) Deep Peels
Deep peels penetrate the dermis, and are only performed by a dermatologist or surgeon. Unlike superficial and medium peels, a deep peel is a one-off treatment.
Phenol is the main ingredient, and a local anaesthetic may be given before the procedure takes place. The results can be dramatic. The peel is applied to the face and left for approximately 30 minutes.
With the help of an experienced dermatologist, a chemical peel can remove acne scarring by more than 50 percent. Your dermatologist may add hydroquinone to your peel to correct melasma, sun damage and pigment discolorations of many kinds. Hydroquinone will inhibit active acne and correct post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (brown-spotting) from acne.
The skin may turn pink or red after treatment. Your skin may feel tight. You may also feel a burning sensation. The use of trichloroacetic acid (TCA) may cause scarring if it is allowed to penetrate too deeply into the skin.
With deep peels, your skin may feel like it is “freezing”. After treatment painkillers may be required. There may also be peeling and redness. The skin needs to be protected from the sun and the UVA rays after treatment.
Be sure to consult your therapist or dermatologist on matters concerning side effects and post treatment support.