20% Salicylic Peel for Mild Acne?

I have regularly used over the counter (Neutrogena) salicylic acid to treat my acne (my skin is not sensitive at all and I have never had irritation using this daily for my acne in the past). This past winter, I had flare-ups of acne due to stress. They are now mostly gone, and I have some red marks or mild acne scars left (nothing more than superficial ones). Would a 20% Salicylic acid peel would be safe for me to try out?

Doctor Answers 3

Salicylic peels are very effective and safe for mild to moderate acne

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Salicylic acid 20% or 30% is generally safe for most people and can be very effective in clearing up mild to moderate acne.

They are generally spaced 2 weeks apart, and I usually recommend 3-6 peels initially, depending on the severity of acne.

For the red marks from old acne, I would recommend the pulsed dye laser, which can help them to clear up more quickly. I would recommend seeing a dermatologist who performs peels and laser therapy on a regular basis.

Good luck!

Lutherville Dermatologist

20% Salicylic Acid Peel for Acne

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20% Salicylic Acid peels work well for resolving mild-moderate acne. Best results are seen when these peels are performed in a series (3-5 treatments). Most over-the-counter skin care products contain 2% salicylic acid. To diminish the red marks/acne scars, I would recommend the Fraxel Laser for any pitted scars or the Vbeam Laser for the scars that are red.

John Soderberg, MD, MPH
Raleigh-Durham Dermatologic Surgeon

Salicylic acid peels are excellent for acne!

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Salicylic acid peels have been shown in scientific studies to be helpful in the treatment of acne.  Compared to glycolic acid, which is also helpful, salicylic acid seems to be better at getting into the hair follicles where acne occurs.  They are also helpful in clearing up the blemishes that can accompany acne in patients with darker skin.  If the acne is very mild, sometimes a  monthly peel is enough to keep things under control but usually it should be paired with an acne medicine regimine.

Dina D. Strachan, MD
New York Dermatologist

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.