Chemical Peel for Acne
Although the procedure can be used to treat a range of factors, notably skin discoloration or wrinkles, it is also commonly undertaken to improve the appearance of acne.
If you are considering a chemical peel for acne or acne scars, then we would suggest you read our comprehensive guide first. We’ll take you through the entire end-to-end process, detailing the factors that you need to consider before, during and after the procedure.
There is a variation in the way that the chemical peel procedure is performed, which ultimately will be ascertained by the surgeon once your individual circumstances have been assessed. However, to give you an idea of what to expect, we have outlined the three most common below.
Light Depth Chemical Peel:
With the view of treating acne, a light chemical peel targets the epidermis, which is the most outer layer of the facial skin. This particular depth is usually performed on a regular basis, with most patients repeating the process every 2-5 weeks.
Medium Depth Chemical Peel:
If the surgeon deems it necessary to perform a medium depth chemical peel, then it is possible that you require treatment for acne scars. Although in most cases the procedure is repeated more than once, it is less frequent than a light chemical peel. In order to maintain results, you may need to repeat the process every 3-9 months.
Deep Depth Chemical Peel:
If your individual circumstances are more severe, then you might be required to under-go a deep depth chemical peel. Unlike the aforementioned depths, a deep chemical peel is only performed once.
New skin grows back, resulting in a smoother, more radiant facial appearance.
Although the chemical peel procedure is suitable for both men and women of all ages, certain factors might prevent you from undergoing the process. If you suffer from any of the below, the surgeon will need to consider whether your expectations can be met.
- Your natural skin colour is of a dark complexion
- You suffer from abnormal skin pigmentation
- You are currently or have recently taken certain forms of acne medication, notably Isotretinoin
- You suffer from overgrown skin tissue
- You are a frequent sufferer of cold sores
Preparing for a chemical peel
Before undergoing a chemical peel, you will first need to visit the practice for a one-on-one consultation. Initially, the surgeon will be keen to review your medical history. They will ask a range of questions regarding any medication that you have previously taken, or are currently taking.
They will also need to be made aware of any pre-existing medical conditions, or any cosmetic procedures you have previously undergone. Next, the consultation period will see the surgeon perform a brief physical examination. This will focus on the thickness and tone of your skin, amongst others.
Finally, you will then be given the opportunity to discuss your overall aims and expectations from the chemical peel process. On top of explaining the end-to-end process, the surgeon will also discuss the potential risks.
Things to consider prior to arriving for your chemical peel
Upon completing your consultation with the surgeon, you will be advised to make some considerations in the weeks prior to the procedure.
This might include taking a retinoid cream, which will aim to accelerate the post-surgery healing process. In order to alleviate the threats of skin darkening, the surgeon may also recommend taking a bleaching agent. You should most definitely avoid spending prolonged periods in the sun prior to the procedure, as well using certain cosmetic treatments, such as hair-removal products.
It would also be a good idea to pre-arrange transportation prior to arriving at the practice, as the after effects of undergoing a chemical peel for acne are not conducive for driving.
The chemical peel procedure
When you first arrive at the practice, you will initially have your faced cleaned and in some cases, have your eyes covered with goggles or a gauze. Unless you are having a deep chemical peel, then it is highly unlikely that you will need a round of anaesthesia. However, you might be given the opportunity to take a painkiller.
The actually chemical peel process can differ depending on the depth required. If undergoing a light peel, then you will most probably have a chemical solution applied to the affected area that contains either salicylic or glycolic acid. Once the affected area begins to whiten, then you may feel a slight stinging sensation. In order to remove the solution, the surgeon will apply a neutralizing solution.
A medium chemical peel usually utilizes a chemical solution that contains trichloroacetic acid. In some cases, this might be combined with glycolic acid. As a medium peel is deeper, you will most likely have a cool compression applied. A burning and/or stinging sensation will usually be experienced.
If the surgeon deems it necessary to perform a deep chemical peel, then you will initially be provided with intravenous fluids. In terms of the solution itself, this will most likely contain carbolic acid. Due to the strength of the acid, a deep chemical peel will need to be performed in intervals of approximately 15 minutes.
After a chemical peel for acne
Once again, depending on the depth of the chemical peel you underwent, you need to make some considerations for the after effects of the procedure. Red and/or slightly irritated skin is a possible effect of a light peel. If this is the case, the surgeon will apply an ointment to sooth the affected area. In most cases, the affected area will being to heal within a week. You might notice that the newly grown skin is either darker or light than expected.
Some patients experience a tight and swollen feeling around the skin upon completing a medium peel, so the application of an ointment will also be necessary. In order to reduce the discomfort, it is a good idea to regularly apply an ice pack when you get home. Pain killers, of which the surgeon will suggest, might also be necessary. Most patients begin to heal in 1-2 weeks, however redness around the affected area might last for months.
If undergoing a deep chemical peel for acne, then the effects of swelling and redness will be more severe than a light or medium procedure. Moreover, you might also experience a throbbing/burning sensation, and possibly swelled eyelids. Painkillers, along with a dressing, might be applied to assist.
A deep peel usually results in the development of new skin within 2 weeks. Although redness around the affected area might last for months, any white spots that appear should clear within a few weeks. Due to the strength of the chemical solution, you might need to recover at home for a couple of weeks, post-surgery.
Common Concerns (Risks)
Although the associated risks of a chemical peel for acne will be discussed in full by your surgeon during your consultation, below are some of the most common.
- Scarring: Although a rarity, some people experience scarring after undergoing a chemical peel. In order to reduce their appearance, medication may be required.
- Redness: The affected area will most likely experience redness, which can last for a few months.
- Skin colour: Most commonly a risk for those undergoing a deep peel is a change in skin colour. This can either be darker or lighter, and is most common in patients that have a darker skin complexion.
- Liver and/or kidney damage: A rare risk of a chemical peel is damage to the liver and/or kidney. This is why a deep peel is usually restricted to intervals of 15 minutes.
If we have failed to explain a particular question or concern regarding the chemical peel for acne process, please contact the practice for further guidance.