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Chemical peels safe in darker skin

A five-year, single-centre retrospective study conducted by the Boston Medical Center has found that superficial chemical peels performed on individuals with Fitzpatrick skin types III-VI were effective and had a relatively low complication rate.

The authors note that while having darker skin is a risk factor for complications during a chemical peel, no large-scale studies have looked into the long-term side effects of the treatment in a racially and ethnically diverse population.

Published online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (Mar. 5, 2018), the study looked at the results of 473 chemical peel treatments in 132 patients. All peel procedures were performed by the same physician, and the peels were applied to the whole face at once, rather than in sections.

Among the 473 treatments, 18 (3.8%) were associated with short-term (lasting two weeks or less) or long term (lasting longer than two weeks) complications. The authors note this is a lower rate of complications than has been reported in other studies of chemical peels conducted in populations that included all Fitzpatrick skin types.

The most frequently observed complications were crusting (2.3%), post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH, 1.9%), and redness. All side effects resolved within eight months after the treatments had been performed.

Investigators also found that side effects were less common in the winter, which they say could be related to reduced sun exposure during this period. They also found that Fitzpatrick skin type VI was associated with a higher risk of side effects than other skin types (odds ratio 5.14, 95% confidence interval 1.21–21.8, p=0.0118).

“These findings should give some assurances to people with darker skin who are considering getting a chemical peel,” lead researcher Dr. Neelam Vashi, a director of the Center for Ethnic Skin at the Boston Medical Center and at the Boston University School of Medicine, said in a press release. “People with darker skin have long been underrepresented in dermatological research, and it’s important to make sure we know how safe and effective these treatments are for them.”

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