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The Best Peels for Acne Scars

The Best Peels for Acne Scars The Best Peels for Acne Scars

Chemical peels are used to treat sun-damaged skin, remove precancerous skin growths and even out skin tone, as well as treat acne and its scars. During a chemical peel, a doctor applies a chemical solution to the skin in order to remove portions of the skin's outer layers. Peels can be effective, but they do come with some risks. There are two basic types of peels generally used for acne.

Superficial Peel

During superficial peels, an acid solution is applied to remove a portion of the outer layer of the skin, or epidermis. The Mayo Clinic performs these mild peels with glycolic acid and salicylic acid. They are designed to give patients smoother skin and a healthier, more refreshed look. At Mayo Clinic, patients may be given an oral sedative for the procedure, which can last three to 20 minutes, and patients go home the same day. A series of peels may be necessary to get the desired results, and maintenance peels may be done each month. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that this type of peel may cause stinging, redness, irritation, crusting and dryness. It also warns that it is important to protect skin from the sun following a chemical peel.

Medium-Depth Peel

If a doctor feels it's necessary to go deeper into the skin to improve your look, she might suggest a chemical peel using trichloroacetic acid. The Mayo Clinic states that these medium-depth peels remove the epidermis and a little bit of the dermis, or middle layer of skin. These procedures usually take 30 to 60 minutes, and may be done with an oral sedative or local anesthesia. You can go home that day. Expect some pain for the first few hours after the procedure that can be controlled with over-the-counter pain medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, the results of these medium-depth peels can last a few years or indefinitely. Possible risks from the procedure include scarring, pigmentation changes and infection. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that TCA-peel patients should avoid sun exposure for several months.


Microdermabrasion is another procedure used to treat acne scars. It doesn't use chemicals to peel away skin. It uses a handheld device that essentially polishes the skin to improve its look. The Mayo Clinic notes that with microdermabrasion, crystals are blown onto the skin to gently abrade the surface. A vacuum tube is then used to remove the crystals and skin cells. The procedure can exfoliate skin and help unclog pores.

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