Chemical peels for acne – what is beneficial and what is TOO MUCH!

I have had blemishes all of my life so my dermatologist recommends chemical peels. I am noticing that wrinkles are appearing on my cheeks. How often should I get chemical peels? What products do you suggest I use after a chemical peel? I got severely scarred last December and my whole face is discolored. My derm says it will take a lot of peels to get rid of it. What do you suggest?

Peels are that two edged sword. On the one hand, it’s true that chemical peels or microdermabrasions done well and at the right intervals can help with keeping pores unclogged, bacteria counts down, and oil better controlled. Peels also thin the outer layer dead layer (stratum corneum) and can inflammation in the epidermis (barrier layer) right under the dead layer. When inflammation starts then the pigment making cells get activated in ways that can cause blotchy discoloration. I’m guessing this discoloration that you mention above, could be related to that. Your doctor should be able to tell you!!

I have a bias toward microdermabrasion for people with acne, INSTEAD of peels.

3 reasons why you should consider microdermabrasion instead of chemical peels to treat acne:

  1.  Microderms are more predictable when done by the same person. Peels done by the same person are not as predictable because of how much peel solution is absorbed. This depends on many other factors that you can’t predict by just looking at the skin.  An example would be; say you started using Retin A 3 weeks ago. The same peel solution that you had 2 months ago, will now absorb very differently.  Not so much for the microderm.
  2. Microderms in experienced hands, rarely cause the kind of discoloration you are describing because they rarely cause inflammation.
  3. It’s easier to overstrip the skin with peels and cause the dryness which is probably causing the little wrinkles you see on your cheeks.

We still use peels in our office but for specific problems.

Bottom line: I would recommend a second opinion in your situation from another dermatologist. Ideally one who has both peels and microdermabrasions in their office. In general, in my opinion, peels and microdermabrasions should be every 4-12 weeks depending on the problem. In rare instances we might use them every two weeks for a month or two.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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