Dermabrasion or Chemical Peels for Acne Scars
You may not have had an acne outbreak in years, but those pitted or lumpy scars remain on your face, making you feel self-conscious about your appearance. Scarring occurs when the skin becomes inflamed and damage occurs to the fibrous protein in the skin called collagen. Chemical peels and dermabrasion can reduce scarring by removing the top layers of the skin containing the scars.
Types of Scarring
Hypertrophic acne scars are thick, lumpy scars that are raised about the skin's surface. They commonly occur on the chest or back. Ice pick scars are deep, indented scars with steep edges, while atrophic scars may also be slightly indented, but are smoother and not as deep as ice pick scars. Acne can also cause skin discoloration. Brown, purple or pink spots may appear on the skin at the site of a healed acne lesion. African Americans, Hispanics and people of Middle Eastern descent are more likely to experience skin discoloration, formally called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, and African Americans are at a higher risk of scarring, according to DermaNetwork.
Comparison of Two Procedures
The top layers of the skin peel away after treatment with a chemical peel, revealing smoother skin. Strong chemicals are applied to the skin to facilitate peeling. A chemical peel is effective in treating surface imperfections, discoloration and mild acne scars. Dermabrasion is a procedure used to resurface the skin with an abrasive device that removes more layers of skin than chemical peeling. Doctors use dermabrasion to remove deep acne scars.
You may be given a local anesthetic and a sedative before undergoing dermabrasion. During the procedure, your doctor removes layers of the skin with a motorized burr or brush that contains tiny diamond particles. Skin layers are removed until scarring is less visible. In some cases, it may be impossible to completely remove the acne scar, but dermabrasion makes it less noticeable.
Chemical Peel Procedure
If you have a deep chemical peel, you may require anesthesia before the procedure begins. Anesthesia is not usually required for lighter peels, according to the Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery. After the skin is cleaned, your doctor applies the chemicals to your face. The type of chemicals used depends on the level of the acne scarring and the depth of the peel needed. You may feel some stinging or a warm feeling in your face when the chemicals are applied.
You may notice redness or swelling on your skin following a chemical peel or dermabrasion for acne scarring. After a chemical peel, you may notice skin peeling for a few days or weeks. If you have had dermabrasion, scabs may form on your face, and your skin may feel itchy. If you are male, your doctor may advise you to avoid shaving while your skin is still sensitive. Using sunscreen is an important precaution after undergoing dermabrasion or a chemical peel. The new skin revealed by the procedures is particularly sensitive to sun damage.
There is an increased risk of skin discoloration after a chemical peel or dermabrasion procedure if you have dark skin, according to DermaNetwork. It is important to discuss this possibility with your doctor before undergoing either procedure.
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