Acne... you think you're through with the redness and the uneven texture, but oh that’s not the case. All acne lesions leave a spot of some kind behind, especially big cystic pimples that leave permanent dents that really toy with our confidence. It was bad enough having red dots scattered like chicken pox over my face. After clearing most of my pimples, now I look like a cheese grater smacked me in the face.
I was left with red marks, post inflammatory erythema, and a couple of pock marks on my forehead and cheeks. Every time I would look in the mirror I wanted to cry at my continued struggle with my skin. I started researching acne scar treatments and I came across chemical peels.
Chemical peels are supposed to burn off the top layer of your skin revealing new baby smooth skin essentially promoting healing of the skin. I was really interested in any treatment that wouldn’t require me to go under a laser. There are many different types of peels: superficial, medium, and deep chemical peels. Superficial peels gently exfoliate the skin, like certain percentages of glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acid. Medium chemical peels require more downtime and risks, some examples would be a TCA peel (trichloroacetic acid). A deep peel such as the phenol peel is so dangerous, a dressing is required over the face and healing time could take months.
I was mostly interested in lactic acid for acne scars, a gentler peel, an acid found in dairy and fermented vegetables. I’ve heard that TCA peels were best for scarring but I also heard of horror stories of those who ended up looking like burn victims. Chemical peels on average are five hundred dollars and several treatments are needed from the dermatologist. Since the treatments were so expensive, I decided to take the risk of doing at home.
I know, not the safest route throwing acid on your face without the guidance of a professional. However, I was desperate and websites sold quality chemical peels along with step by step instructions. I made sure to quit acne medication before the treatment and I had done several 5% malic acid peels before to prepare my skin. I did this exfoliation treatment in the evening to avoid as much sun exposure as I could. The first step was to cleanse my skin gently but efficiently to remove surface oils to allow better penetration of the product.
I got my peel from Perfect Image, a 50% lactic acid chemical peel from their level two options. I applied a light coat over my entire face and let it sit for three minutes and rinsed it multiple times with cold water to neutralize the acid. Keep in mind that most chemical peels don’t need a special solution to neutralize the acid, a lot of water should do the trick. I then went back to spot treat some areas of my face, which you should never do, because applying the product to the same area just peeled can damage the skin. After my peel, I remember applying a bland moisturizer. The morning after, my face looked red and irritated and all my scars looked darker and larger. I was so upset!
Unlike the lactic acid, the light 5% chemical peels made the skin looks smooth after a good night’s rest. For the next seven days, I pampered my skin with Vaseline and aloe vera gel. Slowly, my skin started to look better and my skin appeared smoother and more even toned than before the treatment. However, after this treatment, my scars had very little improvement. I struggled with dry skin for about two weeks after the treatment before falling into my usual oil spill.
In conclusion, I would recommend lactic acid for acne scars especially to those looking for gradual improvements but I do believe there are better treatments out there.