AHA and IPL More Effective for Acne When Combined

Laser unwanted hair cosmetology procedure. Beautiful young girl. Blue glasses. Face treatment. IPL machine.
The effectiveness and safety of alpha hydroxy acids in combination with IPL in the treatment of acne vulgaris is investigated.

Combining alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) with intense pulsed light (IPL) was a safe and significantly more effective treatment for patients with acne vulgaris, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.

Investigators conducted a systematic review of previously published randomized controlled trials studying AHA combined with IPL as a treatment for patients with acne vulgaris. The primary efficacy endpoint was the rate of reduction of skin lesions before and after treatment, and the secondary safety outcome was the incidence of adverse events. Investigators used I2 to assess heterogeneity and a fixed-effects model to calculate the odds ratio (OR).

There were 18 Chinese publications that included a total of 1514 patients with acne vulgaris in the analysis: 631 in the test cohort and 834 in the control cohort.

When AHA and IPL were combined, there was a higher overall efficacy for patients with acne compared with control participants (OR, 4.24; 95% CI, 2.66-6.74; P <.01). Compared with AHA alone, AHA plus IPL was significantly more effective (OR, 4.10; 95% CI, 2.12-7.91; P <.01). Compared with IPL alone, AHA plus IPL was also significantly more effective (OR, 4.02; 95% CI, 2.25-7.16; P <.01).

In addition, AHA plus IPL therapy had a similar safety profile to that of control groups. Common AHA-associated adverse events included facial tingling, erythema and swelling, which were transient. IPL-associated adverse events included burning sensations and erythema.

The study was limited by the small sample sizes of the included studies, and that the overall quality of the literature was low with a moderate risk of bias.

“The complementary effects of [AHA and IPL] can be developed in the treatment of acne vulgaris,” the study authors wrote, adding that clinicians should use their discretion to adjust the treatment dose appropriately for each patient based on acne severity and skin type.


Huang Q, Chen D, Pan S, et al. Efficacy of alpha hydroxy acid combined with intense pulsed light in the treatment of acne vulgaris: a meta-analysis. J Cosmet Dermatol. Published online June 28, 2022. doi:10.1111/jocd.15186