Treatments for Mild to Moderate Acne

Modern dermatology offers mild to moderate acne sufferers a number of treatment options to address the root causes of their condition. This can help bring relief for what was once considered a painful, but inevitable, fact of life for adolescents and young adults.

One of the more effective acne treatment procedures to date is the use of chemical peels to deep clean the skin, removing deposits of keratin, sebum, and dead skin cells which aggravate the condition.

Acne starts with clogging and inflammation of your sebaceous glands, often causing whiteheads, blackheads, hyperpigmentation, and unsightly scarring. The root cause is often a combination of keratin, sebum, and dead skin cells, which block up and enlarge the glands into pimples and comedones. If left untreated, infected pustules and lesions can form in the dermis surrounding these comedones, leading to damaged skin, scarring, and hyperpigmentation.

Chemical peels are an excellent and cost-effective treatment for mild to moderate acne, as they provide a procedure for addressing the core cause of the condition while alleviating complications and generally improving the health of a patient's skin. Many are formulated from natural ingredients and require little downtime or post-procedural care.

Supporting the new skin with a health and maintenance regimen is usually sufficient. Additionally, chemical peels can address a number of other skin problems by cleaning the skin and pores, which is of immediate benefit to patients with sensitive skin or who are at risk for common dermatological conditions.

Common Chemical Peel Treatments
The six most common chemical peels are almost all naturally-occurring substances; only one, trichloroacetic acid, is a synthesized chemical, and it is only employed to treat the most severe conditions. These products gently clean and exfoliate the outer layers of skin, addressing the root causes of acne while offering relief from its most common complications.

Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is very useful in the treatment of acne, photodamage, fine lines and wrinkles, in-grown hairs, and melasma. Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is the safest form of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) used in chemical peel treatments. It gently and easily penetrates the outer layers of skin, removing the dead skin cells which are instrumental in the formation of comedones and the progressive worsening of acne symptoms. Additionally, glycolic acid lightens areas of discoloration, such as age or sun spots, and so can help address hyperpigmentation resulting from complications from acne.


Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is naturally formed in the bark of willow trees and is the main metabolite of Aspirin. Applied directly to the skin, in higher concentrations, salicylic acid is a highly recommended chemical peel treatment for oily skin, acne,acne-rosacea, melasma, PIH, freckles, solar spots, and through textured skin.

As a skin care product, salicylic acid works by softening the skin and opening the pores, thus increasing the effectiveness of follow-up care products and skin care regimens. For acne sufferers specifically, however, salicylic acid removes one of the key causes of sebaceous gland blockage: excess keratin. A keratolytic agent, salicylic acid chemical peels dissolve keratin concentrations and support normal functioning of your sebaceous glands.

Lactic Acid
Another alpha-hydroxy acid, lactic acid is a milk product with a number of useful benefits to acne sufferers when applied as part of a chemical peel procedure. It is particularly gentle and will not irritate existing skin conditions, such as rosacea, while supporting the growth of collagen and moisturizing the skin to encourage healthy growth. Lactic acid chemical peels also act to reduce wrinkles, fine lines, and acne scarring.

Mandelic Acid
Mandelic acid is extracted from bitter almond; the name derives from the German word for almond, mandel. It is distinct from other AHA products for its slow absorption time. Individual molecules or mandelic acid are large and complex, relative to either lactic or glycolic acid, which leads to slower, gentler, and more through infiltration through the skin.

This presents a real advantage to patients with sensitive skin or a history of irritation. Mandelic acid eases into the tissue, decreasing inflammation reactions, and making it useful in a broad range of skin care applications. Individuals with acne, wrinkles, or hyperpigmentation are all excellent candidates for mandelic acid chemical peels.

Jessner Solution
Created by Dr. Max Jessner, the Jessner Solution is a combination of  lactic and salicylic acid – with resorcinol. In combination, these three agents create an extremely effective chemical peel product for the treatment of acne, as well as a number of other conditions.

Resorcinol is created either through the distillation of Brazilwood extract or through melting any one of several common plant resins in potassium hydoxide. It is a natural disinfectant, commonly used in the treatment of chronic skin conditions such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis.

Jessner Solution is particularly effective in the treatment of acne, combining the keratolytic properties of salicylic acid with the gentleness and rejuvenating benefits of lactic acid. The addition of resorcinol helps tame populations of Propionibacterium acnes, a normally beneficial bacterium, which makes up part of the commensal human microbiome. In acne outbreaks, however, the bacteria can trigger inflammation, surrounding sites of sebaceous blockage. Bringing their population under control removes the irritant and returns skin to its normal balance.

Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)
Of the six best wholesale chemical peel products for the treatment of mild to moderate acne, TCA is the only entirely synthetic agent. It is a powerful acid and must be used under the supervision of a dermatologist; misuse of TCA can create permanent scarring or other complications.

As a chemical peel treatment, however, TCA is incredibly powerful. It penetrates much deeper than AHAs, and as such is even broader in its possible application. TCA is used in the treatment of melasma, age spots, hyperpigmentation, acne, lines, and wrinkles. It can even be used to remove some tattoos, scars, or skin conditions such as warts, moles, skin tags, or precancerous lesions.

Purchased wholesale, TCA is a white solid. It dissolves easily in water for use in chemical peel procedures, usually at concentrations from 20-50%. In most cases, skin care formulations maintain a concentration of 35% or less, as higher concentrations increase the risk of scarring.

Typically, TCA is not available as a chemical peel treatment in salons and is only employed by dermatologists in controlled conditions.