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Chemical Peels: Can Chemical Peels Make Acne Scars Worse?

Acne scars are more than just unwanted reminders of previous breakouts – severe acne scarring can take a major toll on one’s self-esteem and mental health. If you, like so many others, suffer from acne scars, you’re probably eager to find any solution that can minimize these markings, if not eliminate them altogether. Though there is no surefire way to remove all of your scars, certain cosmetic treatments can greatly reduce their appearance. As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, chemical peels are one such procedure that helps to minimize scarring over time by getting rid of dead skin cells and encouraging new cell production.

Of course, as is the case with any procedure, some risks and side effects are on the table. Still, some of the potential risks associated with chemical peels might be worth it to you if your main concern is improving your acne scars. On the other hand, the possibility that a chemical peel could exacerbate acne scarring could concern you. So, can chemical peels make acne scars worse in some cases? Let’s discuss.

What to Know About Scars and Chemical Peels

Scar Type and Matter

First, it’s imperative to understand that acne scars come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Mild acne scars create some discoloration, but they don’t typically change the skin’s texture in any meaningful way, and they often fade on their own over time. More severe acne scars, on the other hand, can depress or raise the areas of skin in question. Hypertrophic scars protrude as a result of too much collagen production during healing, whereas atrophic scars push inward, indicating a loss of tissue. Different types of scars require different approaches to treatment. Additionally, scars that are significantly raised or depressed might not respond to a chemical peel. It’s also worth considering that those who undergo severe scarring from acne might have sensitive skin and/or other underlying skin problems that might cause a chemical peel to have an adverse effect (e.g., irritation, inflammation, etc.).

There Are Many Kinds of Peels Available

Just as not all scars are created equal, neither are all chemical peels. Some peels are more intense than others due to their chemical composition and duration. These different peels are all designed to rejuvenate the skin, but a particular type might be better suited for a particular situation. Lactic acid peels, for instance, are on the gentler end of the spectrum and are usually beneficial for all skin types. Glycolic acid peels are a bit harsher and usually best for normal to oily skin types. The list goes on. Ultimately, if you’re searching for a chemical peel for your acne scars, you want to go with one that penetrates your skin deep enough to make a difference without causing extreme irritation. Everyone has a different threshold in this regard, which is why it’s important to go over the details with a trusted dermatologist before undergoing such a procedure.

Chemical Peels Are Just One Possible Way to Improve Scarring

As a brief aside, understand that chemical peels don’t offer the only solution for reducing acne scars. Other methods for improving acne scars include laser therapies, dermabrasion, retinoids, microneedling, injections, and more. While all of these procedures also come with their share of risks and potential complications, some of them might be better for your skin than others. Finding the right solution(s) for you depends on working closely with your dermatologist.

The Verdict

So, despite their potential benefits, can chemical peels actually worsen acne scars? In some cases, yes, usually due to a mismatch between the type of peel and your skin type/severity of your scarring. In most cases, however, chemical peels provide one of many ways to diminish acne scarring, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, and other issues. At Premier Dermatology Partners, we’re here to give patients the best advice and care for their unique skin types. To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.

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