Chemical peels can be administered by doctors in up to 70% strength, or in up to 30% strength by estheticians in spas and salons. Chemical peels are acids which are applied to the skin about once every two weeks.1-2 These acids chemically exfoliate the top layers of skin. This exfoliation signals the cells inside the skin to produce more rapidly, which can help hasten skin turnover and prevent pores from becoming clogged.1,3 At this time there is no evidence showing whether any one type of peel works better than another. From the data we currently have, they all appear to have similar efficacy.1,3,4-7 Chemical peels are also sometimes used to help lessen the appearance of acne scars.
Studies show about 45-50% reduction in acne lesions after a series of 4-6 peels.3-5 Most study participants report a "fair" to "good" result.4,8 Results tend to last for 1-2 months, with acne beginning to reassert itself at this time.
Most people experience a sun burnt look with obvious peeling of the skin in the days after their first peel. This redness and peeling tends to be less pronounced with each consecutive peel.3-5 Temporary darkening of the skin has been reported, and some people with darker skin have experienced skin lightening which can be permanent.1,3 It is vital that people with darker skin and people who are prone to keloid scarring consult with an experienced dermatologist before embarking on chemical peels. A 2012 article published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery sums it up: "Usually, complications are minor and more common in dark-skinned individuals. They are seen more in medium and deep depth peels."9
Because chemical peels peel away the protective layers of the skin, your skin will be much more sensitive to sunlight and UV rays.2 It is extremely important to keep your skin out of the sun after a peel and to use an adequate SPF.
$100 - $300 per peel, depending on the type of peel and where it is administered.
Most chemical peels appear to help clear most types of acne. However, the dermatological community's consensus is that other medications and treatments must be used in conjunction with peels to achieve a satisfactory level of clearance.
In my 20+ years of experience working with people with acne, chemical peels can be a fun adjunct to an anti-acne regimen for people who enjoy them, but they are unnecessary, somewhat costly, and present major challenges with preventing sun damage. Most people can achieve complete clearing of their acne with a properly applied benzoyl peroxide regimen and do not require the assistance of a peel. If a peel is desired, over-the-counter alpha hydroxy acids provide the same ingredients at more moderate dosages and with less potential for severe side effects."Dan Kern