Superficial chemical peels have a relatively low rate of complications when performed in a standardized fashion in patients with darker skin types, with side effects reported less often in the winter months and more common in patients with skin type VI, according to the results of a 5-year single-center retrospective analysis published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The investigators sought to determine the frequency of complications and adverse effects linked to the use of superficial chemical peels in patients with skin types III to VI. A total of 473 chemical peel treatments were included in the study.

Of these, 3.8% (18 of 473) were associated with short-term (≤2 weeks) or long-term (>2 weeks) complications. The most common complications reported included crusting (2.3%), post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (1.9%), and erythema (1.9%).

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All of the side effects resolved within 8 months of treatment. Moreover, all of the complications reported were on the face.

When stratified according to calendar season, most adverse effects occurred less often during the winter months. In the adjusted model, Fitzpatrick skin type VI was linked to a significantly higher risk for the development of side effects (odds ratio 5.14; 95% CI, 1.21-21.8; P =.0118). Side effects were more common with single peels (n=14; 4.7%) and with the use of glycolic acid 20% to 50% peels (n=12; 6.03%)

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The investigators concluded that additional studies on the use of chemical peels in this population are warranted in order to elucidate the significance of the reported trends. Of note, none of the side effects reported in this study resulted in any permanent sequalae.


Vemula S, Maymone MBC, Secemsky EA, et al. Assessing the safety of superficial chemical peels in darker skin: a retrospective study [published online March 5, 2018]. J Am Acad Dermatol. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2018.02.064