Chemical Peel for Asian Skin?

I am Filipino. I am planning on getting a Chemical peel soon for my acne. Is it good for Asian skin? I've looked at before and after pictures, but they are all Caucasian, so I don't know if i should go through with it. I've never done them before. I'm worried about the pigmentation that people have said can happen to Asian skin afterwards. My acne isn't super bad. Its just the first layer of skin that needs to be removed. Any thoughts?

Doctor Answers 5

Chemical peels and Asian skin

Asians generally can tolerate light chemical peels including Jessners, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic acid and TCA 10%. I would only recommend these peels for you.

Deeper peels can create pigmentation problems in ethnic skin. Even with light chemical peels in Asians and Hispanics, I have uncommonly seen a splotchy darkening of the skin. You should be aware of the risk, but in all the cases I have observed, the pigmentation resolves with time.

Good luck.

San Diego Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Good questions about chemical peel

Dear Anjie

Skin color is classified clincally using the Fitzpatrick scale from I to VI:

Type I: Always burns easily, never tans, extremely sun sensitive.
Type II: Always burns easily, tans minimally, very sun sensitive.
Type III: Sometimes burns, tans gradually to light brown, sun sensitive.
Type IV: Burns minimally, always tans to moderate brown, minimally sun sensitive.
Type V: Rarely burns, tans well, sun insensitive skin.
Type VI: Never burns, deeply pigmented, sun insensitive skin.

This scale is widely used to classify skin pigmentation. So the lightest of skin with blonde or redish hair and blue eyes would be a type I and the darkest Africian skin would be a type VI. Most of us are somewhere in between. Many asians can be a Fitzpatrick IV or even V.

Skin type is very important in understanding how chemical peels and laser resufacing will effect the skin. In particular, chemical peels generally are very good for individuals of Fitzpatrick types II and III. By this I am refering to peels like trichoroacetic acid 35% or even phenol 89%. These stronger peels are used for skin tightening but in higher Fitzpatrick skin types, the peel can actually cause a depigmentation or stimulate post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Neither of which is a desirable thing.

However, for peels used to improve active acne, it is generally not necessary to peel with an agent so strong that it is likely to stimulate changes in pigmenation. This is because what is needed to help acne is keratolysis- an agent that helps exfoliate the outer most layers of the skin. This can sometimes be accomplished with mild glycolic acid peels, or very light tricholoracetic acid peels, even microdermabrasion. This very superficial peels help turn over the outer keratin layers of the face, open pores, and improve acne without disturbing the underlying skin pigmentation.

Kenneth D. Steinsapir, MD
Beverly Hills Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Wait and do your research on peels

Hi Anjie,

You are right to be concerned because asian skin is very sensitive and needs to be treated differently than caucasian skin. There are peels that are less likely to cause hyperpigmentation than others but all peels do have a certain amount of risk. It is often advised to pre-treat asian skin before a peel, and you will need to be very careful after the peel to stay out of the sun.

I suggest that you don't rush into anything. Take your time and research the peel completely. Also research the doctor completely to make sure that he or she is experienced doing this type of procedure on asian skin.

Good Luck!

Thomas T. Nguyen, MD
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
3.9 out of 5 stars 19 reviews

Be careful with skin resurfacing

In general, any resurfacing option (laser, peel, dermabrasion) will pose a higher risk of pigmentation changes (hyper and hypo pigmentation) in people with darker skin. Although it is possible to resurface Asian skin, you want to go to somebody experienced with this. A thorough preparation and after care will be important to minimize the risks.

Frank P. Fechner, MD
Worcester Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.6 out of 5 stars 48 reviews

Chemical Peels and Asian skin

Certainly, those of Asian background can, and do, benefit from mid level chemical peels.  Deeper resurfacing techniques are more tricky to do in the more darkly pigmented skin types.

Lawrence Kass, MD
Saint Petersburg Oculoplastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 131 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.