I Have Acne. Can Chemical Peels Help?

Mar 08, 2023
I Have Acne. Can Chemical Peels Help?
Chemical peels are great for treating problem skin. Learn more about how chemical peels might affect your skin when you have acne.

chemical peel is a cosmetic procedure that applies one of a variety of mild acids to your skin. All of the acids we use are low concentrations, although your doctor can decide which is the most appropriate for you so you can achieve your desired results.

Chemical peels are very effective in treating several different skin conditions, including acne. The providers at Integrated Dermatology of 19th Street in Washington, DC, explain more about what you can expect when you get a chemical peel for treating acne.

What are chemical peels?

Chemical peels use a variety of different acids applied to your skin. They vary in intensity, which makes some chemical peels more effective than others. The acids may include the following:

  • The Vi® peel, a medical-grade peel that we use at Integrated Dermatology of 19th Street
  • SkinMedica® products, which we also use at our facility
  • Salicylic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Lactic acid
  • Mandelic acid, which tends to work better on darker skin
  • Trichloroacetic acid

Whichever option you choose, we can help you select the most appropriate option to address your particular skin’s needs.

How chemical peels work

First, we clean your skin before applying the chemical peel. The acid solution is usually only left on your face for 5-30 minutes. However, even this short length of time is enough to exfoliate the dead skin from the outer layers of your skin (called the epidermis.)

Some people choose to get deeper peels, which can prevent breakouts from happening.

Side effects and cautions

Although chemical peels are very safe for most people, there are some conditions under which we don’t advise it. In general, the best candidates for chemical peels are people with light hair and skin, although they can work on other skin tones as well.

You shouldn’t get a chemical peel if you have used isotretinoin (Accutane® or similar products) in the past 12 months. In addition, if your skin is darker, we may have to apply a greater concentration of these products, which may increase your reactions to them. People with darker skin are also more likely to experience uneven skin tone after a chemical peel.

It’s very normal for most people to experience some side effects from a chemical peel, which are most intense in the first few days after the procedure. These may include the following:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Sensitivity, especially to the sun
  • Dry skin
  • Tightness
  • Burning sensations, much like a sunburn

Of course, your skin also begins to peel within a couple of days after the procedure. This is normal and expected, but it shouldn’t cause significant pain.

Most people choose to get more than one chemical peel procedure to treat their acne on an ongoing basis. However, the side effects are usually greatest after the first procedure and lessen with subsequent follow-up visits.

Things to do after a chemical peel

We perform chemical peels in the office, so you won’t need to stay overnight, and most people can return to work the next day. However, your face can turn red and your skin often peels, so you should try to schedule it for a time when you don’t have a lot of social commitments.

You also want to avoid wearing makeup while your skin is still peeling. And you should also wear sunscreen whenever you go outside because the chemicals used in a peel make your skin much more susceptible to sunburns.

If you are considering getting a chemical peel, schedule a consultation to find out what it can do for you. Contact the providers at Integrated Dermatology of 19th Street in Washington, DC, or request an appointment online.