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 29

Peels for Scars

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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

Chemical Peel for Acne Scars

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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. 

Acne scars: chemical peel , fractional

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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
4.9 out of 5 stars 93 reviews

Acne Scars

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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.

Acne Scarring and chemical peels

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Chemical peels can definitely help improve any acne scars. It will take time and often multiple treatments. I would recommend combining it with another therapy such as microneedling to help stimulate collagen formation. Another alternative would be ablative CO2 laser resurfacing which like a chemical peel can help with skin pigment issues and fine lines/ wrinkles, but will stimulate collagen formation as it directs heat down to the mid to deep dermis. Both CO2 laser resurfacing and medium to deep chemical peels will have similar side effects of potential for hyper/hypopigmentation, scarring, and need for repeat procedure. Treatments that don't have any side effects will be much less aggressive and are unlikely to yield as aggressive of results in improving acne scarring.

Sapna A. Patel, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Chemical Peel for Acne Scars

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There are many different chemical peel solutions available which vary in strength based on their active ingredients. These peel solutions are selected for use depending on the particular skin concern to be addressed. The lighter, more superficial peels have the least amount of downtime and lowest risk for complications, but also are not typically as effective for more severe skin issues. These peels also often need to be repeated multiple times to achieve and/or maintain the desired result. A medium or deep depth chemical peel can be a great tool for resurfacing the skin in patients who have acne scars or other irregularities, and these can provide a permanent result. However, depending on the strength of the peel, these often need to be performed under anesthesia and may require several days of "social" downtime. Other options for treatment of acne scars include laser resurfacing, microdermabrasion, microneedling, or a combination of multiple therapies. I recommend that you seek consultation with a board-certified physician who has special expertise in skin care and facial aesthetics, and who can recommend the best solution for your particular concerns. Best of luck!

Jordan Cain, MD
Frisco Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

We use a controlled depth peel but C02 laser ablation

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Depending on the type of acne scar- a chemical peel may or may not be able to correct the issue. This is where having a formal evaluation by a cosmetic dermatologist is vital. For patients with scars not amenable to correction via chemical peel, we combine C02 laser with the chemical peel to level the skin. This is a very novel technique and produces exceptional results. 

Sameer Bashey, MD
Beverly Hills Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 9 reviews

Acne scars

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Chemical peels are an option to improve acne scars, particularly if your scars are not severe.  Medium depth peels are a good option as the recovery time is reasonable and discomfort minimal.  Deeper stronger peels can be done, buy may require anesthesia and require more down time.  We perform the VI peel in my office.  A special booster can be added to the peel for acne and acne scarring.  Laser resurfacing is another option to treat acne scars.  It is a little more expensive and the down time can be similar to peels, depending on the strength and type of the laser.  Whenever treating skin for any type of improvement - wrinkles, dark spots, acne scars, acne - it may take a series of treatments to obtain the results you desire.  It is also important to continue with a daily skin care regimen consisting of quality dermatologic products.  Good luck and I hope you found this helpful.

Amy Klein, DO
Gainesville OB-GYN
5.0 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Acne scars

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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
4.9 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

Chemical Peel for Acne Scars

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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 (not currently practicing)
Summit Emergency Medicine Physician

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