Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, 2013, 3, 32-35
Published Online November 2013 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/jcdsa)
Open Access JCDSA
Treatment of Active Acne Vulgaris by Chemical Peeling
Using TCA 35%*
Khalifa E. Sharquie1#, Adil A. Noaimi2, Entesar A. Al-Janabi3
1Scientific Council of Dermatology & Venereology—Iraqi Board for Medical Specializations, Department of Dermatology &
Venereology, College of Medicine, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq; 2Department of Dermatology & Venereology, College of
Medicine, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq; 3Department of Dermatology & Venereology, Baghdad Teaching Hospital, Bagh-
Email: #email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Entesar.email@example.com
Received September 4th, 2013; revised October 2nd, 2013; accepted October 10th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Khalifa E. Sharquie et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution Li-
cense, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Background: The pathogenesis of acne vulgaris is multifactorial, and therapy can be directed at many of these factors,
singly or in combination. There are different modalities of treatment of active acne vulgaris but they are often long last-
ing which could not be accepted by many patients. Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness, long term efficacy and
safety of chemical peeling using 35% TCA solution in the treatment of active acne vulgaris. Patients and Methods:
This clinical, interventional, therapeutic study was done at the Department of Dermatology—Baghdad Teaching Hospi-
tal during the period from January 2012 to March 2013. Eighteen patients with active acne vulgaris were included in
this study, 10 (55.6%) females and 8 (44.4%) males. Their ages ranged from 15 to 35 (21.56 ± 5.501) years. Twelve
patients were associated with acne scars. History and dermatological examination were performed for all patients re-
garding all demographic points related to the disease. Chemical peeling with 35% TCA used one session regarding ac-
tive acne vulgaris and three sessions in patients with associated scarring. Scoring for active acne vulgaris and acne scar
was done for each case before and after peeling to evaluate the severity of acne lesions and scarring. All patients were
with Fitzpatrick’s skin types III and IV. Patients were followed up every two weeks for 12 weeks after starting therapy
and every 4 weeks for 12 weeks after stopping the treatment to watch improvement, side effects and relapse. Results:
Scoring for active acne vulgaris including papules and pustules showed highly statistically significant reduction after 2
weeks of therapy (p < 0.0001), while in the acne scar scoring reduction ranged from 26% to 50% in 2 patients and 50%
to 75% in 2 patients while more than 75% in 8 patients were with statistically significant reduction (p = 0.000002). All
patients had full satisfaction with the results of operation. Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation was observed in two
patients few weeks after peeling but follow-up showed complete clearance of pigmentation with lightening and tighten-
ing of skin. No relapse of active lesion was recorded after twelve weeks follow-up. Conclusions: Chemical peeling by
TCA 35% is a cost-effective mode of therapy for active acne vulgaris and acne scar with low down time in patients with
Keywords: Chemical Peeling; TCA; Active Acne Vulgaris; Acne Scarring; Dark Complexion
Acne is a common chronic inflammatory skin disease
experienced by most adolescents and young adults. The
pathogenesis of acne vulgaris is multifactorial. The four
major identified factors that are involved in pathogenesis
of active acne lesion formation and scarring are as follows:
excess sebum production, follicular epidermal hyperk-
eratinization, the proinflammatory effects of propioni
bacterium acnes and other normal skin floras, and immu-
nological reactions [1,2].
Although there are many topical and systemic agents
that have been used in treatment of acne vulgaris, still
many patients don’t use these therapies and are consid-
ered as poor compliance, other patients have no time to
use drugs or they don’t like to use them or they have
phobia from side effects [3-8]. But acne vulgaris is one
of the cosmetic major problems among the youth and
*Disclosure: this study is an independent study and not funded by any
Treatment of Active Acne Vulgaris by Chemical Peeling Using TCA 35% 33
often needs long term therapy because it might often end
with complications like scarring [9-12].
Lasers have been used in treatment of active acne vul-
garis but there is controversy regarding their effective-
ness as one study showed using Diode laser is an effec-
tive therapy in clearing lesions using three sessions, two
weeks apart, and another study using Pulse Dye Laser
(PDL) showed clearance of inflammatory acne vulgaris
lesions using one session. While another study also using
Diode laser didn’t show significant improvement of fa-
cial acne [13-15].
As lasers are expensive therapy, have controversial
result and are not available in all centers, accordingly we
are looking for a simple available and less costly mode of
therapy than laser, which could be used in treatment of ac-
tive acne vulgaris like using acids as peeling agents [16,17].
Accordingly the present work was arranged to use
35% trichloracetic acid (TCA) as a peeling agent in
treatment of all severity grades of active acne vulgaris
with or without scarring in dark skinned patients.
2. Patients and Methods
This clinical, interventional, therapeutic study was car-
ried out in the Department of Dermatology and Venere-
ology—Baghdad Teaching Hospital during the period
from January 2012 to March 2013.
Eighteen patients were included in this study, 10
(55.6%) females and 8 (44.4%) males. Their ages ranged
from 15 - 35 with mean and SD of 21.56 ± 5.501 years
with active acne vulgaris, while twelve patients had asso-
ciated acne scars 8 (66.7%) females and 4 (33.3%) males.
The nature and target of this study were explained for
each patient and formal consent was taken for each pa-
tient before starting the therapy, after full explanation
about the nature of the disease, course, the procedure of
treatment, follow up, prognosis and the need for pre and
post treatment photographs by Sony-Digital, high sensi-
tivity, 16.1 megapixels, 5 × optical zoom camera in the
same place with fixed illumination and distance. Also,
ethical approval was given by the scientific committee of
the Scientific Council of Dermatology and Venereology-
Iraqi Board for Medical Specializations. Statistical analy-
sis was carried out using T test and Chi square.
The severity of acne was graded using the following
Mild acne in which the count of pustules is less than
20 and the count of papules is less than 10.
Moderate acne in which the count of pustules is rang-
ing between 20 - 40 and the count of papules is rang-
ing between 10 - 30.
Severe acne in which the count of pustules is more
than 40 and the count of papules is more than 30.
Patients who had scarring in addition to active lesions
the following score were used to evaluate the severity of
Score 0 = 0 NO change or baseline.
Score 1 = 1% - 25% Mild reduction.
Score 2 = 26% - 50% Moderate reduction.
Score 3 = 51% - 75% Marked reduction.
Score 4 > 75% - 100% Excellent reduction.
Patients satisfaction to response to therapy was evalu-
ated as follow: satisfaction of patients to treatment is
1) Full satisfaction.
2) Partial satisfaction.
3) No satisfaction.
In addition to active lesions, four patients had white
and black comedones. All patients were with Fitz-
patrick’s skin types III and IV.
The exclusion criteria are coexistence of: any other
dermatoses involving the face and allergy to medications,
plus patients who had used any topical and systemic
treatments in the previous one month, pregnant and lac-
tating women. Also, history of recurrent herpes simplex
infection, immune compromised patients, diseases or
drugs interfere with clotting systems, patients with medi-
cal diseases like diabetes mellitus, epilepsy and patients
with other types of acne like drug induced acne, cosmetic
acne, post-hair epilation acne, occupational acne, peri-
oral dermatitis, mechanical acne, and acne aestivalis
A solution of trichloracetic acid (TCA) 35% consisted
of 35 g (United States Pharmacopeia, USP, crystals) in
100 ml of distilled water was prepared and kept in amber
glass bottles to be ready for use.
Patients were prepared by cleansing and degreasing
the whole face by using acetone or 70% alcohol, then the
whole face was coated with TCA until get frost by a
wrung-out 4 × 4 gauze is generally rubbed in with pres-
sure, and number of coating ranged from 1 - 3 applica-
tions with mean 2 until uniform frosting occurred. Cold
wet compresses are applied immediately after the peel.
Patients are told that stinging will crescendo for 2 min-
utes and then subsides. Topical and systemic antibiotic
with antihistamine are prescribe for patients and asked
the patients to wash the face 3 - 6 times/day with potas-
sium permanganate solution (1/10000) in the first five
days following peeling, and after five days advised the
patients to use sun screen at morning and topical hydro-
cortisone at night and all patients were seen after 2 weeks
and every 2 weeks for 3 months and then monthly for
three months to report the improvement, side effects and
TCA peeling was used once regarding active acne lesions
and three times in patients with associated scarring.
Scoring for active acne vulgaris included papules and
Open Access JCDSA
Treatment of Active Acne Vulgaris by Chemical Peeling Using TCA 35%
pustules showed statistically significant reduction after 2
weeks (P-value < 0.0001) following peeling (Table 1,
The acne scar scoring reduction was ranged from 26%
- 50% in 2 patients (moderate reduction) and 50% - 75%
in 2 patients (marked reduction) while was more than
75% in 8 patients (excellent reduction).
TCA peeling for scarring was used three times 2
weeks apart and there months of follow up after peeling,
was obvious reduction response after 1st session but was
marked reduction after third session with statistically
significant reduction (P-value = 0.000002) following
peeling as illustrated in the Table 2 (Figure 2).
Also, there was clearance of comedones in four pa-
tients. All patients were fully satisfied regarding response
to therapy. Follow up for three months after peeling
showed no relapse in active acne vulgaris and the reduc-
tion in scarring was permanent.
Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation was observed
few weeks after peeling in two patients following three
sessions of peeling but follow up for 3 months showed
complete clearance of pigmentation with lightening and
tightening of skin.
There are many therapies for active acne vulgaris but all
of these need long term of treatment, at least 6 months
and the main aim of therapy is to prevent or minimize
scarring [2-6]. Still there are many non compliant pa-
tients for many reasons mainly because they are not
ready to use treatment for long time or they are afraid
from their side effects. Accordingly researcher are look-
Table 1. Showing patients with active acne vulgaris that
treated by 35% TCA peels.
Parameters 1st Visit 2nd Visit 3rd Visit Percent
Mean 44.72 11.78 2.50
SD 29.63 9.21 1.98
*P-value >0.0001 >0.0001
Mean 46.06 21.89 2.83
SD 25.701 14.54 2.0
*P-value >0.0001 >0.0001
*Percent Reduction = (A − B)/A × 100, A is an initial value, B is a final
Table 2. Showing patients with active acne vulgaris with
associated scarring treated by 35% TCA peels.
Reduction Rate No. of
Moderate Reduction 26% - 50% 2 16.7
Marked Reduction 51% - 75% 2 16.7
Excellent Reduction 75% - 100% 8 66.7
Total 12 100.0
Figure 1. Eighteen years old male with active skin lesions. (a)
Before treatment; (b) Showing clearance of active lesions
after 35% TCA peels.
Figure 2. Twenty three years old female patient. (a) Show-
ing active acne lesions, comedones and scarring; (b) The
same patient showing clearance of active lesion and reduc-
tion of scarring following three peels using 35%TCA.
ing for single therapy that used over short time in order
to induce recovery from active lesions and prevent scar-
Lasers have been used effectively in treatment of acne
vulgaris using Diode and PDL using one or three ses-
sions of laser but there is one study using PDL showed
no significant improvement of facial acne using single
The present work using 35% TCA showed significant
improvement of active acne vulgaris including papules
and pustules after one session of peeling while patient
with active acne lesion and scarring showed marked
clearance in active lesion and scarring.
Hence the present study is very cost effective with low
down time using one session of TCA that encouraged
non compliant patients especially associated with scar-
ring to have therapy that cleared their lesions without
Dermabrasion and peeling by lasers or acids are not
well advised in patients with dark complexion as post
inflammatory hyperpigmentation might be one of the com-
plications of these therapies. But we have noticed that
from daily clinically practice that postinflammatory hy-
Open Access JCDSA
Treatment of Active Acne Vulgaris by Chemical Peeling Using TCA 35%
Open Access JCDSA
perpigmentation is not a complication of dermabrasion or
peeling although all our patients have Fitzpatrick’s skin
types III and IV. In contrary, these patients will have
whitening and tightening of their skin [18,19]. This is an
agreement with present work as only two patients had
postinflammatory hyperpigmentation that resolved over
It is difficult to explain the mechanism of action of
TCA peeling but we can speculate it works through the
following mechanisms: might change the microflora of
skin by reduction number of bacteria mainly Propioni
bacterium acnes and other bacteria that causing acne,
also might reduce the size of sebaceous glands that’s
involved in acne pathogenesis & thirdly might change
the immunological reaction involved in the acne forma-
tion and scarring.
In conclusion, the present study strongly recommend
using TCA 35% peeling in treatment of active acne vul-
garis as a new cost-effective mode of with low-down time
especially cases associated with scarring and in non-
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