Glycolic Acid Peels & Acne
Acne strikes almost every teenager, and potential treatments--ranging from over-the-counter cleansers to dermatologist-provided procedures and surgery--abound. Glycolic acid peels show promise in helping to clear pimple-laden skin by removing blackheads, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
Acne results when the skin's sebaceous glands, which produce an oil called sebum, actually make too much sebum. The sebum clogs up pores, which then erupt into whiteheads, blackheads and pimples. In addition, the sebum oil creates the perfect atmosphere for bacteria to flourish, leading to additional inflammation. Glycolic acid peels free the clogged pores, resulting in fewer acne lesions, according to the AAD.
Glycolic acid peel kits can be purchased over the counter at well-stocked drugstores. Start with a 20 percent glycolic acid solution and only bump up the percentage if you easily tolerate 20 percent; although stronger glycolic acid peel products are available, some people have severe skin irritation from them. Plan to give yourself at least six to eight treatments, one treatment per week, to see the best acne clearing.
Dermatologists also offer glycolic acid peels for acne as part of a comprehensive acne treatment strategy, according to the AAD. Depending on your skin type and condition, your dermatologist may elect to try a stronger product than you might have at home. During the chemical peel procedure, patients may feel some stinging or a warm sensation, and a very deep peel may necessitate pain medication afterward. However, dermatologists generally don't use deep glycolic acid peels to treat acne.
Studies show that glycolic acid peels are an effective treatment for acne. In one study, published in 2008 in the medical journal Dermatologic Surgery, researchers compared glycolic acid with salicylic acid in 20 patients, and concluded both were effective in curbing acne on the face. In another study, published in 1999 in the same journal, researchers treated 20 patients with a 70 percent glycolic acid solution and said acne began to clear in three treatment sessions.
At-home glycolic acid peels for acne will be much less expensive than treatments from a dermatologist. But because clearing acne often requires several different concurrent approaches, some of which are prescription-only, patients with moderate and severe acne should consider consulting with a dermatologist, especially if their acne doesn't clear after a few home-based glycolic acid peels.
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