How effective are the various types of chemical peels for acne scars?

Doctor's Answers 2

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Dr Joanna Chan

General Practitioner, Aesthetic

In the treatment of acne scar, the most commonly used peel is TCA (trichloroacetic acid). This peel, like most chemical peels, can be used at different concentrations, varying from 35% to 100% for acne scars. Lower concentrations are useful for atrophic box car scars and rolling scars while higher concentrations (eg 100% TCA Cross) can be used for ice pick scars which are more difficult to treat.

Salicylic acid and glycolic acid peels have been shown to be effective in reducing both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne (active acne). These are useful for treatment of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) after acne as well. As PIH and acne scars are often found together, they are also commonly used when discussing the treatment of acne scars.

However, all procedures carry a certain degree of risks and so do chemical peels. This is why I strongly recommend doing them at a medical clinic with a doctor trained in performing chemical peels and who is able to best advise you on which peel, if at all, is most suitable for your acne condition. You should also consult your doctor regarding other treatments for acne scars, such as injectable PNs (Rejuran) and lasers. Hope this helps!


Dr. Joanna Chan

Medical-grade Chemical Peels are highly effective treatments for Acne Scars.

It is proven that TCA Cross 70% alone can give you good to excellent improvement (> 50% improvement) of atrophic acne scars, especially severe boxcar scars.

I routinely perform TCA Cross for ice pick scars and deep box acne scars.

TCA Cross, which stands for Trichloroacetic acid, is a medium to deep chemical peel. There is a wide range of concentrations of TCA cross (from 35% to 100%). I usually combine this with subcision, Lasers and Rejuran injections for enhanced results in treating ice-pick scars.

Superficial chemical peels are used for treating active acne - comedones (blackheads/whiteheads) and pustules.

Examples of superficial chemical peels include: glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Unfortunately, they do not improve acne scars significantly.

Doctor-performed chemical peels are of higher potency (due to higher concentration of acid) and are more effective as compared to spa or home chemical peels.

Do note that TCA cross peels must be performed by a certified doctor!

All the best!

Warmest regards,

Dr. Justin Boey

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