Chemical Peel for Acne Scars

I've got scars due to pimples but not too much. I want permanent solution to get rid of the scars. Is chemical peel a permanent solution? If not, what are treatments are available without any side effects?

Doctor Answers 25

Peels for Scars

Chemicals peels can be a permanent solution if medium to strong peels are performed. They cause the skin to exfoliate and produce fresh new skin cells. There are different peels of varying strengths based on the results that you want. Usually a series of peels are needed and gradual improvement is noted. Remember, mild or even weaker moderate peels are often not sufficient scarring and are better for skin texture, tone, or pigment changes.
Other options for treating scars include: microdermabrasion, microneedling, subcision, and laser resurfacing. Consult with a board certified dermatologist who treats acne scarring on what procedure would work best with your needs.

Salt Lake City Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews

Chemical Peel for Acne Scars

Dear Shahzad, 

When treating acne scarring it is often necessary to build a treatment regimen that incorporates several modalities to help lessen the appearance of acne scars.  First, It is of utmost importance that you have a skin care regimen built to maintain the health of your skin that will aid in reducing future breakouts(since this is the root cause of the scarring). A series of chemical peels will offer some correction, but incorporating collagen induction therapy(microneedling) and/or laser resurfacing into the clinical treatment plan will promote an optimal result. Unfortunately, there is no permanent solution when it comes to skin. However, maintenance will be key to retaining the correction you achieve. 

Larry C. Leverett, MD, FACS
Phoenix Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Acne scars: chemical peel , fractional

Hi There and thank you for your inquiry!

Chemical peels like salicylic acid can help to clear any active acne and help to lighten any post inflammatory pigmentation.
There will be slight redness, tightness and peeling which usually last 5-7 days depending on the depth of the peel being used.

Another option to treat acne scars is laser resurfacing or non-ablative fractional laser, in which this will treat any textural issues, such as icepick or boxcar acne scars (depressed scars). There is minimal downtime with fractional, usually 2-3 days of redness and 6-8 treatments are usually required to improve the appearance of acne scars.

Hope this has helped!

Mansour Bendago, FRCSC
Toronto Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 80 reviews

Acne Scars

Chemical peels are good treatments for acne scarring. Peels such as salicylic acid and TCA can help clear existing acne and lighten any hyperpigmentation due to scarring. Side effects are minimal and temporary. Things that people normally experience after a peel are redness, tightness, and sloughing of the skin. Peeling of the skin usually lasts for 2-5 days, depending on the person and the depth of the peel.

Additionally, treating your skin with a pre- and post-peel home care regimen will enhance your results from the peel. Multiple peels may be needed and not all peels are suitable for all skin types. It is best to be evaluated by your skincare professional to better assess your needs and goals.

Steven H. Williams, MD
San Francisco Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 49 reviews

Acne scars

Peels and laser can be effective for smoothing acne scars, but it's rarely a one time treatment. The less aggressive/risky the procedure, the more times it generally needs to be repeated to get a complete response. The way peels and lasers work is to mildly injure the skin. In the weeks to months after the procedure, your skin builds collagen which helps smooth the appearance. It usually takes 3-6 months to see final results after a single treatment. 

Dana Goldberg, MD
Jupiter Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

Chemical Peel for Acne Scars

Chemical peels like salicylic acid can help to clear any active acne and help to lighten any post inflammatory pigmentation. Chemical Peels are a great choice to minimize the appearance of acne scars; I would recommend a series of medium to deep medical grade peel. Hope this was helpful.

Hardik Soni, MD
Summit Emergency Medicine Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 45 reviews


The only treatment I have seen to be most effective is microneedling. If done properly, you will see a vast improvement, however it will take multiple treatments depending on the depth of scaring. Expect 3-5 sessions at the minimum. Even a physician's surgical option of dermabrasion, (not to be confused with micro-dermabrasion) will not give a better result. The recovery for dermabrasion is long and painful, and an old surgical option. Do not expect to ever have perfectly flawless skin, but you can get smoother, tighter, firmer, less shadowing, more attractive skin.

Justin Harper, MD
Columbus Physician
5.0 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Chemical peels and microneedling for acne scars

Hello Shahzad Ahmad,

Chemical Peels are a great choice to minimize the appearance of acne scars, I would recommend a series of medium to deep medical grade peel. 

Depending on the scar you may benefit by alternating peels with Microneedling. Microneedling is an excellent treatment for acne scars. It suits both thin and sensitive skin, and does not pose any risk of hyperpigmentation and scarring. Microneedling has minimal downtime and is also safe for dark as well as ethnic skin.
Unlike laser resurfacing, with microneedling the epidermis is not affected in any way, which means the procedure can be safely repeated multiple times until the desired results are achieved. Another advantage is that the treatment doesn’t create a demarcation between the treated and untreated skin surfaces. So, the focus can just be on the scarred area without the need to blend in at the treatment edges.
Hope this helps, Dr Faraz

Patricia Faraz, MD
Ladera Ranch OB/GYN
4.7 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Peel might be one of the options

A series of clinical strength peels (on average, 3-6 peels) may help to reduce scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Unfortunately, a permanent solution does not exist. The best approach is to take control of the situation with corrective products, peels, Acleara, etc. When your acne becomes well managed, consider alternating with microneedling treatments or Fraxel to further improve texture and reduce scarring.

Gregory Turowski, MD, PhD, FACS
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 61 reviews

Chemical Peels for Acne Scars

Chemical peels can be a permanent solution depending on the severity of the scarring and the strength of the peel.  Chemical peels can also be combined with laser and microneedling treatments to improve results as well.  We've also had a lot of great results with microneedling treatments, such as SkinPen, to permanently remove acne scars.  Best of luck and I hope this helps!

Thomas McFadden, MD
Greenville Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 64 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.