The 16-year-old boy was attacked at a Bristol shopping centre with an "unknown substance" after arguing with another man.
He was rushed to hospital, with serious but not life-threatening injuries.
It happened close to a Pizza Express restaurant, off Merlin Road, at about 8.45pm.
DI Richard Marsh said: “This is a very concerning incident in which a bottle containing an unknown substance, possibly a type of corrosive, has been sprayed into the face of a teenage boy.
“The victim is being looked after in hospital by medical experts but has some serious injuries which may be permanent.
“There would have been many people around the Pizza Express restaurant and neighbouring venues who would have seen or heard what happened and we’d ask to them to get in touch as soon as possible.
“A cordon will be in place while we carry out further enquiries today.
“We’d also like to advise the public the bottle used in the incident hasn’t been located so if anyone finds a discarded bottle containing liquid in the immediate area, we’d ask them not to pick it up, but please alert one of the police officers at the scene.”
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