Chemical Peel for Acne: A Guide

Acne is a common skin problem that many experience, as you probably already know from your teenage years. While hormones play their hand in causing breakouts, other factors like stress and genetics can cause acne to form. Even as you leave those teenage years behind and start your adult years, you may still be experiencing breakouts

Chemical peels can be an effective way to achieve smooth, clear, and bright skin.”

  • Shani Darden, Celebrity Esthetician

Products for acne line the shelves of your stores (and maybe even your bathroom cabinet), and you may have tried different cleansers, toners, and serums to no effect. In the meantime, your breakouts may have gotten worse. 

You have likely researched multiple treatments for helping reduce the appearance of acne on your face, and the subject of chemical peels has come up. Read on to learn about using chemical peels to help clear your breakouts.

What Is a Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel treatment where chemical solutions are used to remove the top layers of the skin for resurfacing skin tone and skin texture benefits on the top layer of skin. Alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids like glycolic acid, mandelic acid, salicylic acid and trichloroacetic acid are commonly used as peeling agents in superficial peels.  

While it is called a “peel,” it is a method of exfoliation using chemicals. While it may sound a little intense our skin has multiple layers that can withstand these treatments. The skin that is now revealed is younger and brighter, and the tone and texture are commonly improved. This includes helping the appearance of fine lines, dark spots or darker skin patches, age spots, deep scars, and any other discolorations or pigmentation issues.

Chemical peels use different chemicals that will affect how deep the peel goes. The deeper the peel, like a medium-depth peel, the more downtime required afterward for recovery. 

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, and you’ll be advised to avoid certain topical products, makeup, and going out into the sun prior to and for a period of time after the peel. Avoiding sun exposure is key in order to avoid getting sunburns or sun damage on your vulnerable skin.

During the recovery process, the old skin that the chemical was applied to will start to peel, and the process may take as long as a week for deeper peels. After all the peeling has occurred, you will see the fresh and younger-looking skin underneath.

While deep chemical peels are best reserved for the dermatologist's office, less invasive peels can be just as effective and can be done at home. At-home peels are less concentrated but, when used correctly, can give you favorable results. A prime example of an at-home chemical peel is my Triple Acid Signature Peel, which harnesses the power of glycolic acid, lactic acid, and mandelic acid to gently refresh and exfoliate.

Can I Use Chemical Peels During a Breakout?


Incorporating a chemical peel as part of your anti-pimple routine may help lessen the appearance of blemishes like blackheads as well as blemish scars. Since chemical peels exfoliate the skin, your face will be relieved of any dead skin cells that could have clogged pores that would have resulted in additional blemishes. As the chemicals gently exfoliate your skin, the appearance of any blemish scars may start to fade. 

While those deeper treatments will need to be done in-office, treatments that are light can be done in the convenience of your own home. The Alpha-Beta Peel Pads are the perfect addition to your weekly routine. This treatment contains exfoliating and brightening acids that help to target uneven tone and texture, as well as enlarged pores.

While these lighter-powered peels can be used more than on a weekly basis, your skin will have to become acclimated. This may take some time, but if you rush the process, your skin may become irritated. 

What Should I Know About Chemical Peel Prep and Aftercare?

With any skin routine, you’ll want to ensure that you are preparing your skin so that the product is best absorbed and you can experience the most optimal results. 

When prepping your skin for chemical peels, even lighter peels, you’ll want to take some steps as well as precautions to ensure that your skin does not become too irritated:

  • Avoid sun exposure and tanning beds!
  • If you are using any retinoids, you’ll want to discontinue their use prior to using a peel. Depending on the strength of the peel, you may need to start discontinuing the use up to a few weeks ahead. Refer to the instructions included in the peel.
  • Make sure that your skin is free of any open sores or lesions (no picking at acne!)
  • You’ll want to start with a clean and dry face.

During the peel, it is normal for your skin to feel warm. You can use a handheld fan to blow cool air on your face. The at-home peels typically come in double packets, where you apply the first solution and then follow with a neutralizing solution after a predetermined amount of time. With the lighter packets, you’ll likely feel minimal warmth. After the peel is finished:

  • You’ll likely experience reddening of the skin, this is completely normal and will generally fade in a few hours if you are using a lighter strength peel. The deeper the peel is, the longer it will likely take for your skin to heal from the side effects
  • Moisturize your skin as needed. It will likely feel wonderful to apply a soothing lotion or serum. Consider my Hydra-Cool Serum for lightweight, cooling moisture. 
  • Use sunscreen! Your skin will be more sensitive to the elements, so wearing sunscreen is a must. The Supergoop Play SPF plus moisturizer is lightweight, hydrating, and protects you from UVA, UVB, and IRA rays. 

Consistency Is Key

As you go through the motions to rid your face of any blemishes, you won’t find your regime of ideal products overnight. Skincare requires consistency, and making sure you are following through the steps of your routine each morning and night is key to clearing your face.

For acne-prone skin, a foaming cleanser with salicylic acid may be beneficial in clearing up blemishes. It can take six to eight weeks for you to notice a change when adding a new product to your routine, so don’t give up!

My simple and effective solutions will leave your skin glowing.


Chemical peel | Mayo Clinic

What Can Chemical Peels Do For Acne and Acne Scars? | Leonard Hochstein, MD

Chemical Peels: Types of Peels, Conditions Treated, What to Expect | Cleveland Clinic