Derm Topics

Using Superficial Chemical Peels to Treat Pigmentary Disorders

Next Steps in Derm, in partnership with Pigmentary Disorders Exchange Symposium, interviewed Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, director of the Skin of Color Division for the University of Miami Department of Dermatology. Watch as Dr. Woolery-Lloyd outlines the role of superficial chemical peels in treating pigmentary disorders. Learn how chemical peels impact other treatments. Find out her chemical peel protocol, including concentrations and frequency. Plus hear why patient communication about expectations is a must.

Further Reading

If you want to read more about using chemical peels, check out the following articles published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology:

Combination of In-Office Chemical Peels With a Topical Comprehensive Pigmentation Control Product in Skin of Color Subjects With Facial Hyperpigmentation


Dyschromia is one of the primary complaints for patients with skin of color. Treatments need to achieve a balance between tolerability and efficacy to address existing hyperpigmentation without causing additional damage that could trigger post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). An open-label, single-center study was conducted to assess the efficacy of a novel comprehensive pigmentation control serum (LYT2) combined with a series of three very superficial chemical peels (VP) in skin of color subjects. Seventeen female and male subjects aged 36 to 69 years with Fitzpatrick Skin Types III-VI and moderate to severe facial hyperpigmentation were enrolled in the 12-week clinical study. Subjects identified as Asian, Hispanic, African American, or Caucasian ethnicities. Subjects received a series of 3 VP treatments every 4 weeks. LYT2 was applied twice-daily in between VP treatments. Investigator assessments for overall hyperpigmentation, overall photodamage, and skin tone unevenness, as well as standardized digital photography and subject self-assessment questionnaires were conducted at all visits (baseline and weeks 4, 8, and 12). In vivo reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM) of a target lesion was conducted (in a subset of subjects) at baseline and week 12. Fourteen subjects completed the study. The treatment regimen provided statistically significant improvements in all efficacy parameters at weeks 8 and 12 (all P less than equal to 0.03, student’s t-test). Standardized digital photography and RCM images support the improvements in overall hyperpigmentation observed by the investigator. At the end of treatment, the regimen was highly rated by subjects with 100% of subjects (strongly agree/agree) that the combination decreased the appearance of uneven skin tone and discolorations and reduced the appearance of sun damage. In addition to this clinical study, independent case studies with this combination treatment regimen at a separate study site were also conducted with results that corroborate the formal clinical study findings. The comprehensive results from these studies suggest that the combination of a comprehensive pigmentation control serum with a series of 3 very superficial chemical peels may provide an effective treatment approach for hyperpigmentation in skin of color patients.

Clinical Role and Application of Superficial Chemical Peels in Today’s Practice


Chemical peeling is a popular, relatively inexpensive, and generally safe method to refresh and rejuvenate skin. This review focuses on superficial chemical peels and their use in routine clinical practice. A wide variety of peels are available, utilizing various actives and concentrations, including a recently introduced salicylic acid derivative, β-lipohydroxy acid, which has properties that may expand the clinical use of peels. Superficial peels can be used to enhance treatment within a variety of conditions, including acne, melasma, dyschromias, photodamage and actinic keratoses. In addition, peels can be combined with other in-office procedures to optimize outcomes and enhance patient satisfaction, and allow clinicians to tailor the treatment to individual patients’ needs. Successful outcomes are based on a thorough understanding and application of correct chemical peel procedures, including history-taking, pretreatment, preparation, peel selection, patient communication and maintenance regimens. Used properly, the superficial chemical peel has the potential to fill an important therapeutic need in the treatment armamentarium of dermatologists and plastic surgeons.

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