The Best Chemical Peel For Acne Scars: What Is It And How Does It Work?

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Scarring from acne usually stems from lesions that disrupt the skin’s collagen layer. When this damage takes place, the skin can become raised or indented. Among the top treatments for these acne scars is a chemical peel. This method involves using potent chemicals to remove the affected skin cells.

This then allows the growth of healthy cells to take place. The chemical peel procedure can be used to treat scars, wrinkles [1], and discoloration of the skin. There are different types of chemical peels available, and it is important to know which chemical peel for acne scars is appropriate for your needs.

What are Chemical Peels? 

girl with blue eyes and white facial mask and chemical peel for acne scars

These are resurfacing procedures that cause the top layer of the skin to peel off for a smoother appearance. Most peels have a gel-like consistency and are mostly used on the face, hands, chest, and neck. Once applied to the skin, these chemicals cause the skin to blister and then peel. The purpose here is to get rid of dull surface skin cells.

How Chemical Peels Help with Scars

Even after acne has cleared, there will always be scars left behind. While they can clear with time, there are several tricks you can use to eliminate them quickly. A chemical peel is one of the expert-approved methods. Some of its proven benefits include:

  • Dark spot lightening
  • Smooth tone and texture
  • Unclog pores to prevent future breakouts

Peels have been found to be more effective at eliminating scars than physical exfoliators such as topical scrubs. Not only do these procedures remove dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, but they also stimulate the natural response of the body to produce collagen necessary for filling the scars. However, do not mistake microdermabrasion for topical scrubs, as microdermabrasion for scars works tremendously well for a lot of people as well.

How a Chemical Peel Procedure Works

These procedures are used to treat various skin problems. Because they contain various acid combinations that penetrate the skin at unique levels, do not panic if you happen to experience some irritation or peeling. Discomfort is likely to be felt shortly after application, roughly 20 minutes later. Any of these three procedures can be chosen depending on the depth of the problem.

  • Light chemical peel: A light chemical peel is used to remove the epidermis. It can be used to treat acne, fine wrinkles, dryness, and uneven skin tone. Depending on the results you desire, it can be repeated every 2–5 weeks.
  • Medium chemical peel: Here, skin cells are removed from the outer layer of the skin and parts of the dermis. This procedure can treat acne scars, uneven skin tone, and wrinkles. Maintain the results by repeating this procedure every 3–9 months.
  • Deep chemical peel: This procedure removes cells from the outer layer of the skin and portions of the mid-layer of the dermis. If precancerous growths are found or your scars and wrinkles are deep, your doctor may recommend this procedure. It is only performed once.

Home Remedies to Resurface the Skin

If you want to try a chemical peel procedure at home, be sure to pick the right acids to avoid hurting your skin. Home procedures are best for light surface scars, not the depressed type. Avoid purchasing the peels from online outlets you are not familiar with. Instead, get them from a reputable source.

Here are some of the peels you can purchase:

  • Lactic acid: Ideal for all skin types and can fade dark spots
  • Glycolic acid: Good for oily and normal skin. It exfoliates the skin’s surface layer
  • Mandelic acid: Excellent for all skin types and darker skin tones
  • Salicylic acid: Best for oily and acne-prone skin types
  • Phytic acid: Best for sensitive skin

Other Types of Chemical Peel Treatments

guy on bath with bubbles face afloat and chemical peel for acne scarsPhenol

This is one of the deepest types of treatment and must be used under the supervision of a doctor. It penetrates the dermis and requires about 2 hours to apply. This type improves atrophic acne scars. Because of the intensity of this procedure, it is important that you be aware of the side effects it presents, including infection and discoloration.

Trichloroacetic Acid

This is effective for medium procedures because it requires less recovery time. It penetrates deeper than a superficial peel, reducing the appearance of blemishes, fine lines, and irregular pigmentation. This method is also used to remove acne scars and is often a great option for people with darker skin due to its side effects of pigmentation irregularities. The pigmentation irregularities may include deeper peels like the phenol peel.

Glycolic Acid

This is a superficial chemical peel derived from sugarcane. It does not penetrate beyond the epidermis but penetrates the pores, encouraging the release of dead skin cells. This then improves the appearance of the skin. Glycolic acid is used to reduce minor acne scars and can also minimize the redness normally associated with scarring.

Benefits of Chemical Peels

  1. Exfoliation

The reason these procedures are chosen is because of their capacity to leave smoother-looking skin. These procedures also produce silkier-toned skin, allowing it to absorb skin-care products better.

  1. Minimize Hyperpigmentation

The milder peels can be used to treat freckles, sun spots, and pigmentation problems. They can also minimize the appearance of fine lines caused by the sun, leaving younger-looking skin.

  1. Reduced Blemishes

Some peels can be used to control breakouts and reduce scarring. These peels are great at unclogging pores. Lactic and salicylic acids, for example, are the best for clearing acne.

Potential Side Effects of Chemical Peels

Just like any other form of medical treatment, there are several negative effects that may occur. Glycolic peels, for instance, may present complications such as hyperpigmentation and crusting.  Some of the side effects you are likely to experience include:

  • Skin peeling
  • Numbness, burning, or numbness of the skin
  • Crusting
  • Redness
  • Dermatosis or scarring in people with sensitive skin

These side effects may only last for several days. The recovery time depends on several factors, including your age, the type of peel used, and past reactions you may have experienced with other treatments. For a milder and more convenient treatment, you can also consider checking out the benefits of microdermabrasion at home. There are benefits to microdermabrasion for hyperpigmentation, acne, stretch marks, and more.

Chemical Peel Costs

When it comes to getting professional treatment for your skin, you’ll need to visit a dermatologist’s office. While there are some over-the-counter options available, they might not be as effective as the procedures performed by a professional. The cost can vary depending on the specific type of procedure that works best for you. Keep in mind that if multiple procedures are required to achieve the desired results, the overall cost can be on the higher side. On average, you can expect the treatment to cost anywhere from $500 to $700.

If you happen to have oily, combination, or acne-prone skin, you might want to consider replacing your usual creams with one of the top-rated chemical peels currently available on the market.

Woman applying face mask and chemical peel for acne scars

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a chemical peel, and how does it help with acne scars?

A chemical peel is a resurfacing procedure that involves the application of concentrated chemicals to the skin, causing the top layer to peel off. This process removes dull surface skin cells, leading to a smoother appearance.

A chemical peel for acne scars is beneficial as it lightens dark spots, improves skin tone and texture, and unclogs pores to prevent future breakouts. It also stimulates collagen production, helping to fill in the scars and improve skin texture.

Can chemical peels be used to treat other skin concerns besides acne scars?

Yes, chemical peels are versatile treatments that can address various skin problems. They are commonly used to treat wrinkles, fine lines, sun damage, uneven skin tone, and other forms of skin discoloration. Depending on the depth of the issue, there are three types of chemical peels: light, medium, and deep peels.

Are there any home remedies for chemical peels?

While some milder chemical peels can be attempted at home, it’s essential to choose the right acids and follow proper instructions to avoid skin damage. Home procedures are generally best suited for light surface scars and not for more severe, depressed scars. It is crucial to purchase chemical peels from reputable sources to ensure safety and effectiveness.

What are the potential benefits of chemical peels?

Chemical peels offer several benefits, including exfoliation, smoother-looking skin, and improved absorption of skincare products. They can also help minimize hyperpigmentation, reduce blemishes, and control breakouts by unclogging pores. Milder peels are effective in treating freckles, sun spots, and pigmentation problems, while deeper peels can address more pronounced issues like atrophic acne scars.

Are there any downsides or side effects of chemical peels?

Like any medical procedure, chemical peels may have some negative effects. Common side effects include skin peeling, redness, crusting, and temporary numbness or burning sensations. Individuals with sensitive skin may experience dermatosis or scarring. However, these side effects usually subside within a few days. It’s essential to discuss potential risks and complications with a dermatologist before undergoing a chemical peel.

Portrait of a woman smiling and chemical peel for acne scars


Chemical peels have proven themselves to be one of the most effective treatments for acne scars. With incredible results in improving skin texture, tone, and overall appearance, the procedure involves removing damaged skin cells and stimulating collagen production. There are many types of chemical peels available, and you can choose the type of chemical peel you need based on the depth and severity of your acne scars.

However, before opting for a chemical peel, remember to consult with a qualified dermatologist to determine which type of peel is suitable for your specific skin concerns.

Also, check out the other comparison review I did below for more options on facial care procedures: