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Am J Clin Dermatol. 2000 Mar-Apr;1(2):81-8.

alpha-Hydroxy acid-based cosmetic procedures. Guidelines for patient management.

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  • 1Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Department of Dermatology, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.


alpha-Hydroxy acid (AHA) peels and home regimens have recently been recognized as important adjunctive therapy in a variety of conditions including photodamage, actinic damage, melasma, hyperpigmentation disorders, acne, and rosacea. Overall in our experience and in the literature, AHAs have a proven level of safety and efficacy in a variety of skin types. Although their exact mechanism of action is unknown, it has been demonstrated that AHAs improve these disorders by thinning the stratum corneum, promoting epidermolysis, dispersing basal layer melanin, and increasing collagen synthesis within the dermis. In patients with photodamage, AHA peels and topical products are often combined with retinoids and other antioxidants for maximum benefit. Similarly, synergistic effects of fluorouracil and glycolic acid are observed in the treatment of diffuse actinic keratoses. For patients with melasma, AHA peels and combination products containing bleaching agents such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, and glycolic acid seem to have increased efficacy. Acne and rosacea patients can see improved results when standard regimens like antibacterials and topical retinoids are supplemented with AHA peels and lotions. However, care should always be taken prior to commencing treatment with AHA peels and topical products. By obtaining a thorough history and physical examination, the physician will identify any specific factors like medications, prior procedures and medical conditions which can affect the outcome of the peel. During the interview, there should be open discussion of patient questions and concerns so that realistic expectations can be made. Pre- and post-peel regimens should also be reviewed in full as patient compliance is essential to ensure the success of a series of AHA peels.

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