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Acne Scars & Chemical Peels

Acne Scars & Chemical Peels Acne Scars & Chemical Peels


Acne is caused by blocked pores that develop into inflamed pustules on the skin. This can result in scarring when the pustules rupture and fail to heal properly. Chemical peels are a common method of removing the scar tissue caused by acne. The skin may then grow back without the scarring.

Glycolic Acid

A chemical peel typically uses glycolic acid as its active ingredient. It's a simple but powerful organic acid with the molecular formula (C2H4O3.) Glycolic acid is found in small quantities in sugar cane, although it's most often made in commercial quantities by synthesizing it.


The acid in a chemical peel has several properties that make it useful for removing acne scars. It must be highly soluble in water so that that a solution of the desired strength can be easily made. The resulting solution must be easily absorbed by the skin. This allows the chemical peel to remove more than just the top layer of skin.

Home Strength

A chemical peel intended for home use typically has a concentration in the range of 10 to 20 percent. This means that glycolic acid comprises 10 to 20 percent of the total weight of the chemical peel. Home chemical peels will only be able to treat the lightest levels of acne scars.

Physician Strength

Physician strength chemical peels have a concentration of up to 70 percent. This is the strongest possible liquid solution of glycolic acid at room temperature. This concentration is sufficient to completely dissolve the upper layers of skin and can effectively treat many types of acne scars.


The dermatologist applies the liquid solution to the skin with acne scars. The solution remains on the skin for a specific period of time while it dissolves the skin to the desired depth. The chemical peel dries to a semi-solid consistency which allows it be peeled away from the skin.


The most common side effects of chemical peels are irritation redness and an increased sensitivity to the sun. The skin on the treatment area may also become darker in rare cases. Some patients may also be unusually sensitive to one of the ingredients in the chemical peel.

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