Chemical Peels

Chemical Exfoliation

What Is It?

Chemical peels are strong acids applied by a professional in high percentages to the skin for a few minutes at a time. They remove the top layer of skin cells and are thought to help promote the growth of fresh new skin cells.


Strength of Evidence
Average 57% reduction in acne after 3 - 6 sessions
  1. Dayal, S., Singh, S. & Sahu, P. Efficacy and safety of 25% trichloroacetic acid peel versus 30% salicylic acid peel in mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris: a comparative study. Dermatol Pract Concept 11, e2021063 (2021).
  2. How, K. N., Lim, P. Y., Wan Ahmad Kammal, W. S. L. & Shamsudin, N. Efficacy and safety of Jessner’s solution peel in comparison with salicylic acid 30% peel in the management of patients with acne vulgaris and postacne hyperpigmentation with skin of color: a randomized, double-blinded, split-face, controlled trial. Int J Dermatol 59, 804–812 (2020).
  3. Dayal, S., Kalra, K. D. & Sahu, P. Comparative study of efficacy and safety of 45% mandelic acid versus 30% salicylic acid peels in mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris. J Cosmet Dermatol 19, 393–399 (2020).
  4. Abdel Hay, R., Hegazy, R., Abdel Hady, M. & Saleh, N. Clinical and dermoscopic evaluation of combined (salicylic acid 20% and azelaic acid 20%) versus trichloroacetic acid 25% chemical peel in acne: an RCT. J Dermatolog Treat 30, 572–577 (2019).
  5. Aneesh, B. et al. Effect of 30% salicylic acid peels in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a hospital-based nonrandomised clinical study. Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists 28, 146–151 (2018).
  6. Dayal, S., Amrani, A., Sahu, P. & Jain, V. K. Jessner’s solution vs. 30% salicylic acid peels: a comparative study of the efficacy and safety in mild-to-moderate acne vulgaris. J Cosmet Dermatol 16, 43–51 (2017).
  7. Alba, M. N., Gerenutti, M., Yoshida, V. M. H. & Grotto, D. Clinical comparison of salicylic acid peel and LED-Laser phototherapy for the treatment of acne vulgaris in teenagers. J Cosmet Laser Ther 19, 49–53 (2017).
  8. Kaminaka, C., Uede, M., Matsunaka, H., Furukawa, F. & Yamomoto, Y. Clinical evaluation of glycolic acid chemical peeling in patients with acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, split-face comparative study. Dermatol Surg 40, 314–322 (2014).
  9. Bae, B. G. et al. Salicylic acid peels versus Jessner’s solution for acne vulgaris: a comparative study. Dermatol Surg 39, 248–253 (2013).
  10. Levesque, A., Hamzavi, I., Seite, S., Rougier, A. & Bissonnette, R. Randomized trial comparing a chemical peel containing a lipophilic hydroxy acid derivative of salicylic acid with a salicylic acid peel in subjects with comedonal acne. J Cosmet Dermatol 10, 174–178 (2011).
  11. Garg, V. K., Sinha, S. & Sarkar, R. Glycolic acid peels versus salicylic-mandelic acid peels in active acne vulgaris and post-acne scarring and hyperpigmentation: a comparative study. Dermatol Surg 35, 59–65 (2009).
  12. Lee, H.-S. & Kim, I.-H. Salicylic acid peels for the treatment of acne vulgaris in Asian patients. Dermatol Surg 29, 1196–1199; discussion 1199 (2003).

Side Effects

Medium side effects and adverse reactions's Real World Take

Common sense might tell us that chemical peels seem like such a great idea for acne, but in the real world, acid alone just doesn’t seem to completely take care of acne. They can also be expensive and leave the skin red and peeling for a few days every time you get one.


371 Reviews