Chemical peels in the treatment of acne: Patient selection and perspectives

David E. Castillo, Jonette E. Keri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Acne vulgaris is the most common skin disorder in adolescents and young adults. It carries a significant psychological and economic burden to patients and society. A wide range of therapeutic options are available, including topicals and systemic therapies. Chemical peeling is a skin resurfacing procedure intended to regenerate normal skin from the application of exfoliative agents. It has been used for the treatment of acne vulgaris and other skin disorders for decades. There are several chemical agents with variable mechanisms of action, usually classified as superficial, medium, and deep peels. When selecting the patient and the appropriate peel, the dermatologist individualizes therapy, and performs an extensive interview, including past medical history and physical exam. Several host factors can affect the outcome of this procedure, including current psychological state, medications, history of surgery, and immune system, among others. The physician must also be confident that the peel is safe and effective for the target patient. The Fitzpatrick skin type scale is a useful tool to classify patients based on skin color and ability to tan, but also can be used to evaluate preoperative risk of postpeel response and complications. Dark-skinned patients (Fitzpatrick skin type IV–VI), including blacks, Asian, and Hispanic/Latino, are at higher risk of postinflammatory/postpeel hyperpigmentation. When treating these populations, deep chemical peels should be avoided, and preoperative preparation emphasized. There are many studies available in the literature supporting the use of superficial to medium depth peels as adjuvant therapy for acne vulgaris. This review article aims to present the most important factors when selecting a patient for a chemical peel, the evidence behind its safety and efficacy, and special considerations when choosing a specific agent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-372
Number of pages8
JournalClinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology
StatePublished - 2018


  • Acne
  • Chemical peels
  • Patient perspective
  • Peel complications
  • Specific population

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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