Melasma Peels

  • Best Results1-5
  • Treatment Recovery0-10 days
  • Procedure Time5 to15 minutes
  • Skin SpecialistNurse, dermal therapist
  • Duration of ResultsVariable
  • AnaestheticNot required
  • Back to Work0-6 days
  • Cost$-$$

Melasma Peels

Chemical peels are useful adjunctive treatments for melasma. Peels can be tailored according to skin type, downtime & budget. Much like lasers, they are most useful for epidermal & mixed melasma. My favorite peeling agents for melasma include Dermamelan, lactic acid, retinoic acid & modified Jessner peels.

FactsFact on Chemical Peels for Melasma

  • Chemical peels are useful as adjunctive therapy for melasma. 
  • Peels have limited value in deep or dermal melasma
  • Jessner peels in low concentrations can be effective
  • Dermamelan & Cosmelan are useful adjunctive peels
  • TCA peels should not exceed 8-10%
  • Peels are adjunctive to pigment inhibitors & vascular modifiers
  • Pico lasers are more effective than chemical peels for the treatment of melasma

What peels are used for melasma?

Melasma Peels

Lots, but the safest peels are low strength glycolic, lactic, retinoic acid, modified Jessner & low concentration TCA. Novel peels including Dermamelan & Cosmelan can be useful.

Do BHA or salicylic acid peels work?

Salicylic acid is a BHA peel. This peel is anti-inflammatory & lipophilic, meaning it works better for acne. If you combine it with lactic acid, & add resorcinol, it becomes a Jessner. This can be more effective for melasma. 

Which AHA peel is the best for treating melasma?

According to the papers, lactic acid. I use both lactic & glycolic acids, ranging from 20-30%. I do go up to 50-70% short contact in some. These peels require neutralisation.

Peeling agents such as TCA, Jessner, AHA & retinoids are good treatment options for sun damage & melasma pigment. Overall we still prefer lasers over peels. Read more to understand how we approach melasma pigment.

What is a Jessner peel, & is it any good?

Jessner peel contains both AHA & BHA elements, namely lactic & salicylic acid, along with resorcinol. This peel is good for pigmentation, acne, & sun damage. It can be used for melasma (especially in lower concentrations).

Davin’s Viewpoint on Chemical Peels for Melasma

To cut through all the marketing hype with peels, let me distil down for you. If you are wanting a fast result & don’t mind the downtime of 5-10 days, & cost is not a problem, the answer is Dermamelan or the Cosmelan Peel. 

Skin irritation & peeling is proportional to the depth & intensity of the peel. Expect more downtime with Dermamelan compared to the weaker Cosmelan peel.

If you are after a conservative peel, retinoic acid is my pick for melasma pigmentation. It can exfoliate pigment & can help with other aspects of melasma such as background photodamage.

Dermamelan peels are more powerful than Cosmelan. Expect peeling for over one week.

Lactic acid is my third pick. It is more conservative than glycolic acid & has barrier restorative function. Though I love the tactility of peels, lasers are usually better. They are more effective, cost effective & have a much lower side effect profile than peeling.

Pico lasers are far better as they have no downtime, cost less and have a higher clearance rate as compared to peels. As always, these modalities are combined with topical creams, oral t.acid & of course SPF.

For Sydney melasma patients, please book in with my therapist at Dr Van Park’s Clinic in the Eastern Suburbs.

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