best chemical peel for acne scars and large pores

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Many companies say that their over-the-counter (OTC) chemical peels treat acne scarring. Different products may suit different skin types, and how well the peel works may depend on the depth of the scarring.

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This article looks at what chemical peels are, describes some OTC options, and answers some frequently asked questions.

Learn more about acne scars here.

About chemical peels

A chemical peel is a type of skin treatment that can help address different skin conditions. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), these include:

Chemical peels can also help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and smooth the skin’s texture.

A peel for acne typically contains glycolic, lactic, or amino fruit acids. A healthcare professional can apply the chemical solution to a person’s skin once every 2–3 weeks. The acid only stays on the skin for a few minutes.

A person might opt for chemical peel products that are available without a prescription. A person can use these regularly, but OTC peels may be slower to work than professional ones. They may also not treat acne scarring as effectively, or at all.

How to choose

When looking for a nonprescription chemical pee, a person should consider:

  • Skin type: The product’s label or description online should list which skin types it is suitable for. Checking this is especially important for people with sensitive skin.
  • Price: Chemical peels are available in a range of prices.
  • Company background: A person can check the manufacturer’s testing and sourcing to see whether it adheres to ethical, sustainable, and cruelty-free standards.
  • Ingredients: Chemical peels can contain a wide range of ingredients. As research from 2013Trusted Source reports, consistently using peels that contain glycolic acid may help reduce the appearance of acne scars and cystic lesions. Lactic acid and mandelic acid are also common ingredients in acne products. Like glycolic acid, they cause the top layer of skin to peel away, which may help treat pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads.

Learn more about how well chemical peels may work.

Product list 

Below, we look at some of the best chemical peels for acne scars.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information is purely research-based and was correct at the time of publication.

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Best for oily skin

Pricearound $8
Main ingredientsglycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, and hyaluronic acid

This peeling solution is water-based and may suit people with clogged pores.

It is free from:

  • fragrances
  • alcohol
  • gluten
  • sulfates

The Ordinary recommends using this product in the evenings, and not more often than twice a week. Make sure the skin is dry, leave the product on the skin for up to 10 minutes, then rinse it off with lukewarm water.

Some customer reviews suggest that this peel may benefit people with large pores and oily skin, and that it helps reduce oil production.SHOP NOW

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel

Best vegan

Pricearound $17 for a box of 5 packets
Main ingredientsglycolic acid, lactic acid, chamomile, retinol, and green tea extract

This chemical peel may help freshen the skin’s appearance as it exfoliates the outer layer. The company says it also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and provides hydration. It adds that the hyaluronic acid calms the skin and acts as an antioxidant.

A person can apply this product in the morning or evening. The company recommends massaging the product into dry skin until the pad is dry and letting it sit for 2 minutes before rinsing.

According to reviews, this peel can reduce acne scars and improve the appearance of blackheads and rosacea. Dr. Dennis Gross’ products are vegan, cruelty-free, and free from parabens and phthalates.SHOP NOW

Bliss That’s Incredi-peel Glycolic Acid Pads

Best for all skin types

Pricestarting from around $10
Main ingredientsglycolic acid, licorice root extract, calendula flower extract, witch hazel, and glycerin

Bliss advertises that this product suits any skin type, helps smooth the skin, and protects against environmental damage.

The company recommends wiping the pads gently over dry skin, taking care to avoid the eye area.

Reviewers report that these pads can also make acne scarring less noticeable, and some customers saw immediate results.SHOP NOW

GloSkin GlyPro AHA Resurfacing Peel

Best non-irritating

Pricearound $85
Main ingredientsglycolic acid, retinol, and niacinamide

This at-home peel kit includes gauze pads, a headband, a peel neutralizer, and retinol drops.

The company says that the ingredients help calm, exfoliate, and retexture the skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines.

It recommends that people avoid exercising for 24–48 hours after using this product and avoid waxing or using other hair removal products for 7 days after the treatment.

Some customers aged 50 years or older reported a reduction in acne scars and signs of aging after the first use of this product. Others also wrote that it did not irritate their skin.SHOP NOW

Makeup Artist’s Choice 5 Acid Body Peel

Best for dark spots

Pricearound $16
Main ingredientslactic acid, glycolic acid, citric acid, and licorice root extract

Makeup Artist’s Choice says that this product can exfoliate the skin, clean pores, and fade acne scars.

A person can apply the serum to their legs, arms, torso, chest, neck, back, and hands. Leave the product on the skin for 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and moisturize.

Some reviewers report that it lightened dark scarring and reduced the appearance of wrinkles.SHOP NOW

Glytone Rejuvenating Mini Peel Gel

Best for skin tightening

Pricearound $65
Main ingredientsglycolic acid

Glytone says that this product is suitable for all skin types and helps exfoliate the skin and improve its texture.

A person should read the instructions before applying the gel. The company recommends using it on the face and neck after cleansing, 2–3 times a week.

According to reviews, this product reduces blackheads, tightens the skin, and is non-irritating and gentle.SHOP NOW

SkinCeuticals Retexturing Activator

Best anti-aging

Pricearound $80
Main ingredientskombucha and hyaluronic acid

This oil-free serum is a hydrating exfoliant that balances moisture levels, reduces the appearance of lines, and helps restore the skin’s external barrier, its makers say, adding that it is suitable for all skin types.

A person can apply 4–6 drops to their face, neck, and chest twice a day.

The many positive reviews report that it reduces acne scars, redness, and signs of aging.

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