Comparison of α- and β-Hydroxy Acid Chemical Peels in the Treatment of Mild to Moderately Severe Facial Acne Vulgaris


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Dee Anna Glaser, MD, Department of Dermatology, St. Louis University School of Medicine, 1402 South Grand Boulevard, ABI, 4th Floor, St. Louis, MO 63104, or e-mail:


BACKGROUND Chemical peels are used as adjuvants for treatment of facial acne. No well-controlled studies have compared α- and β-hydroxy acid peels in the treatment of mild to moderately severe facial acne.

OBJECTIVE To compare the efficacy of α- and β-hydroxy acid chemical peels in the treatment of mild to moderately severe facial acne vulgaris.

MATERIALS AND METHODS Twenty patients were recruited in this split-face, double-blind, randomized, controlled study. An α-hydroxy acid (30% glycolic acid) was applied to one-half of the face and a β-hydroxy acid peel (30% salicylic acid) was applied contralaterally every 2 weeks for a total of six treatments. A blinded evaluator performed quantitative assessment of papules and pustules.

RESULTS Both chemical peels were significantly effective by the second treatment (p<.05) and there were no significant differences in effectiveness between the two peels. At 2 months posttreatment, the salicylic acid peel had sustained effectiveness. More adverse events were reported with the glycolic acid peel after the initial treatment.

CONCLUSION The glycolic acid and salicylic acid peels were similarly effective. The salicylic acid peel had sustained effectiveness and fewer side effects. α- and β-Hydroxy acid peels both offer successful adjunctive treatment of facial acne vulgaris.