Clinical evaluation of glycolic acid chemical peeling in patients with acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, split-face comparative study

Dermatol Surg. 2014 Mar;40(3):314-22. doi: 10.1111/dsu.12417. Epub 2014 Jan 21.


Background: Glycolic acid (GA) peels are frequently performed as adjuvants to the treatment of facial acne. There have been few clinical trials reported of GA peels for acne in people with darker skin.

Objectives: To determine the safety and efficacy of GA peels in the treatment of moderate acne vulgaris in Asian skin.

Methods: In this prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, split-face clinical trial, 26 patients with moderate acne were treated with 40% GA (pH 2.0) on half of the face and placebo on the other half. The procedure was performed five times at 2-week intervals.

Results: The GA sides had statistically significant reductions in acne lesions at each time point from baseline values. There were statistically significant differences between the GA and placebo sides. The GA sides had better responses for noninflammatory lesions than for inflammatory lesions. In bioengineering measurements, sebum levels were statistically significantly reduced after the initiation of therapy on both sides at weeks 8 and 10, but there were no statistically significant differences between the two sides.

Conclusion: Forty percent GA peels significantly improved moderate acne in this study. It is effective and safe in Asians.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Adult
  • Asian People
  • Chemexfoliation / methods*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Glycolates / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Keratolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Placebos
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glycolates
  • Keratolytic Agents
  • Placebos
  • glycolic acid