Chemical Peel for Acne Scarring
After acne has run its course, your formerly pristine complexion may be pocked with depressed scars. Severe acne is more likely to cause scarring, says the American Academy of Dermatology, or AAD, especially deep cysts and nodules that are likely to rupture. A chemical peel is one treatment you doctor can deliver that may reduce the appearance of acne scarring.
About Chemical Peels
Chemical peels employ various substances that are applied in different strengths: superficial, medium and deep. Information from the AAD lists various ingredients that can be used for chemical peeling, from glyclolic and salicylic acid for superficial "lunchtime" peels to potent phenol, an acid used in deep peels.
During a chemical peel, you may experience a hot sensation on your face for 5 to 10 minutes, says the AAD, followed by stinging. Deeper chemical peels are more uncomfortable and involve a longer recovery time. The AAD states that before you have a chemical peel, have a consultation with your doctor first to determine which type of peel is best for you.
Light peels that use glycolic or salicylic acid may be helpful in improving your skin if you currently have acne, says the Mayo Clinic. These get rid of dead skin cells and clogged pores, as well as remove comedones--whiteheads and blackheads.
The AAD states that these types of chemical peels, often called "lunchtime" peels, remove the outer layer of skin only, which results in an exfoliating effect. Healing time is short, between one and seven days, says the AAD. The skin on your face may flake for up to seven days. Typically, a series of superficial peels are recommended to get best results.
Medium peels reach deeper into your skin, into the layer of skin underneath the epidermis. Glycolic acid and trichloroacetic acid, or TCA, are two substances that may be used in this type of peel, says the AAD. Healing takes up to two weeks.
Your skin may initially be red and swollen, including your eyelids. You may also experience blistering, after which your skin scabs over and peels. During this time, special care must be taken to prevent infection. The AAD indicates that you may have to soak your skin each day and apply an ointment afterward. Complete sun avoidance is advised until your skin is healed.
Deep chemical peels give you the most pronounced results. TCA and phenol are two chemicals that may be used for this type of peel, says the AAD. Phenol is the strongest chemical that can be used for cosmetic purposes, says the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. These potent peels, which reach deep into the middle layer of skin, result in a long healing time of up to three weeks. The ASPS says that you won't require an anesthetic, but your doctor may give you a sedative to help you relax.
Your face will be bandaged after a deep peel. Frequent daily soaks, as well as application of ointments and other moisturizers are necessary, along with the use of oral antiviral medications. It may be two weeks before you can put on makeup again, and you may be required to stay out of the sun for up to six months. Deep peels are a one-time treatment, says the AAD. Follow-up treatment from your dermatologist is required.
Cautions and Concerns
A chemical peel is generally safe when administered by a medical professional, states the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, but the procedure does come with risks, such as infection and scarring. These treatments are cosmetic in nature and probably won't be covered by your insurance plan if used to address acne scarring. There are other ways of tacking scars than chemical peeling. The AAD advises talking to your doctor to see which treatment is best for you, given your medical history and expectations.
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