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Dermatol Surg. 1997 Mar;23(3):177-9.

Glycolic acid peels in the treatment of melasma among Asian women.

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National Skin Centre, Singapore.



Melasma is a common disorder of facial hyperpigmentation among Asian women. Many modalities of treatment are available but none is satisfactory.


This study was undertaken to see if glycolic acid peels are effective and safe in the treatment of melasma and fine facial wrinkling.


Ten Asian women with moderate to severe melasma were recruited into the study. The women had twice daily applications of a cream containing 10% glycolic acid and 2% hydroquinone (Neostrata AHA Age Spot and Skin Lightening Gel) to both sides of the face, and glycolic acid peels every 3 weeks (20-70%) to one-half of the face using Neostrata Skin Rejuvenation System. All patients had to use a sunblock (SPF 15%). At regular intervals and at the end of 26 weeks (or after eight peels) the degree of improvement of pigmentation and fine facial wrinkling on each side of the face were assessed. Any skin irritation or side effects were also noted. Assessment was by an independent dermatologist, the patients themselves, and the use of the Munsell color chart and photographs. The nonparametric Wilcoxon Rank-Sum test was used for statistical analysis.


The melasma and fine facial wrinkling improved on both sides of the face. The side that received glycolic acid peels did better but the results were not statistically significant (P > 0.059).


A cream containing 10% glycolic acid and 2% hydroquinone (Neostrata AHA Age Spot and Skin Lightening Gel) improved melasma and fine facial wrinkling in Asian women. In combination with glycolic acid peels at 3-week intervals the lightening of melasma is subjectively much better. This improvement does not reach statistical significance and the sample size is small (n = 10).

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