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Chemical Peels For Acne Scars? The Cost Is High, But Doctors Say They Make A Difference … Here’s Why


Chemical peels for acne scars? You bet!

One of the most frustrating things about acne is the reminder left on your face a month later. You finally get rid of those annoying pimples and there are still tiny indentations all over your face.

“The skin can appear smoother, firmer with fewer lines and discolorations,” Dr. Michelle Copeland, a NYC plastic surgeon and skincare specialist, tells Many dermatologists also say peels can shrink pores, improve acne and scarring, stimulate elastin and collagen production.

In fact, there are a million types of peels, and countless places to get them. Patients can get peels in doctors’ office, spas and some ultra-light versions are even sold in the drugstore. So what’s the best option?

Dr. Copeland strongly recommends going to a doctor’s office first. “A doctor can calibrate and customize treatment,” she explains. “When I do even a light treatment in my office I have to monitor the patient’s skin very closely as penetration depths can vary.”

But peels aren’t all created equal. Get the details here:

Light peel. Alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (including glycolic acid) are derived from fruit, plants, milk and other natural sources that jump-start cell turnover and tighten the skin.  “They produce a gentle peel and are very effective and safe for regular use,” says Dr. Copeland. “After the acids are applied, the skin may be a little red, and moderate sloughing may occur a few days later, but they do not produce the “paint-chip” flaking that results from deeper peels.”  AHAs and BHAs are quick, reliable fixes that may be done frequently. Cost: $150 and up.

Medium peel. TCA (Trichloroacetic acid) gives a medium-depth peel that is often recommended for treatment of acne ice-pick scars. However, “TCA peels can leave the face raw and red,” says Dr. Copeland. “It can make skin flake profusely and it may take two weeks to feel comfortable going out.” Cost: $300 to $1,000.

Deep peel. Phenol is the strongest of the solutions used for chemical peels and penetrates so deeply that skin peels abundantly for days after treatment. “Phenol carries a risk of scarring, hyperpigmentation and skin whitening. So it’s never used on darker skin tones,” cautions Dr. Copeland. “Most doctors choose lighter acids unless a very deep peel is desired.”  Cost: $3,000 to $4,000.

There are also some super-light peels sold in drugstores. But, Dr. Copeland says, “they are not nearly as effective.”

Want to try one? Start slow with a light formula in a doctor’s office, and go from there.