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Should I try a chemical peel for rosacea relief?

A dermatology provider can help prescribe the best treatment for your rosacea. Here’s what they have to say about chemical peels.

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
featuring Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
woman with symptoms of rosacea on her cheeks
Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
featuring Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 7 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

In this article

What is rosacea?
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Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that can cause discomfort for many individuals. While there are various treatment options available, chemical peels have emerged as one potential solution for rosacea relief. 

Chemical peels involve the application of specific chemicals to the skin, with the goal of exfoliating and rejuvenating its appearance. But are chemical peels truly a good option for managing rosacea? Here, our experts share what they know about chemical peels, explaining their benefits, considerations, and potential effectiveness in alleviating rosacea symptoms. When it comes to your skin health, knowledge is power—so we’re here to share what we know!

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that primarily affects facial skin. It’s characterized by persistent redness, flushing, and acne-like bumps. While the exact cause of rosacea is unknown, several factors are believed to contribute to its development. These factors include genetics, immune reactions, microorganisms, environmental triggers, and neurovascular dysregulation.¹ 

Rosacea can vary in severity and may also present with other symptoms such as stinging or burning sensations, visible blood vessels (telangiectasia), and thickening of the skin. It tends to affect adults, particularly those with fair skin, and it is more common among women. However, it can occur in individuals of any skin type or gender.²

If you suspect you have rosacea, consult a dermatology provider or healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. They can provide guidance on managing your symptoms, minimizing triggers, and tailoring treatment options to address your specific needs. Out of the several treatment options available, chemical peels are one that you may want to consider.

Understanding chemical peels 

Chemical peels have gained significant popularity in the United States, ranking as the third most commonly performed non-invasive procedure.³ While lasers have largely replaced deep peels, superficial peels have seen a surge in popularity.

When used appropriately and with proper technique, chemical peels have demonstrated excellent clinical efficacy and remain a valuable and cost-effective tool in a dermatologist's toolbox to help you target your skin concerns. Chemical peels work as an exfoliant by removing damaged skin, aiming to achieve consistent and predictable skin rejuvenation and improved appearance.⁴

Types of chemical peels? 

Chemical peels are categorized into superficial, medium-depth, and deep peels. Each serves a different purpose.

Superficial peels, which involve ingredients like glycolic and salicylic acid, primarily target the skin’s epidermis and upper dermal layers, promoting dermal collagen production and rejuvenating the skin's appearance. Medium-depth peels can be used to address discolorations such as solar lentigines, multiple keratoses, superficial scars, pigmentary disorders, and textural changes. These peels penetrate deeper into your skin, providing more significant results. Deep peels typically use phenol and are reserved for severe photoaging, deep or coarse wrinkles, scars, and occasionally precancerous skin lesions. They’re the most aggressive type of peel and require careful consideration and expertise.⁵

Donna McIntyre, a nurse practitioner at Curology, notes, “While chemical peels may offer skin rejuvenation benefits, their use in treating rosacea symptoms requires caution. Rosacea-prone skin tends to be more sensitive and reactive, so it’s important  to approach chemical peels with care and under the guidance of a dermatology provider.”

Chemical peels for rosacea 

The good news is chemical peels have shown promise in treating rosacea when used in appropriate concentrations. A retrospective analysis examined the treatment of papulopustular rosacea using oral minocycline and supramolecular salicylic acid (SSA) 30% chemical peels. The study resulted in a significant reduction in rosacea severity in just 12 weeks. Notably, no significant adverse reactions were reported during the study.⁶

Another study focusing on 30% SSA peels in rosacea patients found similar positive outcomes. The use of SSA peels alone led to a significant improvement in the overall appearance of their skin, demonstrating positive therapeutic effects, high tolerance, and a good safety profile.⁷

These studies suggest that chemical peels, particularly those utilizing supramolecular salicylic acid at appropriate concentrations, can be beneficial in managing rosacea symptoms. However, it’s important to note that only trained dermatology professionals should perform chemical peels. If you are considering a chemical peel for rosacea treatment, consult with a dermatologist experienced in treating rosacea. They can evaluate your skin, provide personalized recommendations, and ensure the safe and effective use of chemical peels in your rosacea management plan. 

General recommendations for rosacea management 

Treating rosacea should be a holistic approach, considering individual triggers, lifestyle modifications, and other targeted therapies in conjunction with any cosmetic procedures like chemical peels. So aside from considering SSA peels from a licensed professional, you can also try other conventional methods for rosacea management, including:⁸ Identifying and avoiding triggers: It’s important to identify and avoid triggers that can worsen rosacea symptoms. Common triggers include UV light, spicy foods, and alcohol. By minimizing exposure to these triggers, you can help reduce flare-ups.

Following a skincare routine: Universal skincare recommendations for rosacea management include using pH-balanced cleansers, broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and moisturizers

Avoiding irritating products: Stay away from skincare products that may cause irritation or exacerbate rosacea symptoms. Be cautious of ingredients that trigger sensitivity, and opt for gentle, non-irritating formulations.

Cosmetics for redness masking: Cosmetics with green pigments can help mask persistent redness associated with rosacea. These color-correcting products can provide temporary relief by evening out your skin tone.

Avoiding topical steroids: Topical steroids should be avoided in rosacea management, as they can potentially trigger flare-ups or lead to a condition called perioral dermatitis, which may resemble rosacea.

Medical treatments: Specific medical treatments may be required in some rosacea cases. These can include laser therapy or even surgical intervention if the skin begins to thicken and scar. These changes are often characterized by red lumps or irregularly-shaped growths on the nose and cheeks.

Topical treatments: Topical treatments can also be effective. Ingredients such as ivermectin, azelaic acid, brimonidine, oxymetazoline, or metronidazole gel/cream are commonly used to treat rosacea. Some of these ingredients are also offered in Curology's customized formulas.

Remember, it‘s important to consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional to assess your specific rosacea condition and determine the most suitable treatment options. They can provide personalized recommendations and guidance on incorporating these conventional methods into your rosacea management plan.

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Give your skin the care it deserves with Curology's Custom Formulaᴿˣ line. Our dermatology providers prescribe a personalized formula that may include ingredients like azelaic acid, metronidazole, and ivermectin to address your symptoms. Whether your concern is acne or rosacea, Curology has personalized solutions to address your specific skincare needs. 

Try our Custom Formula to get your rosacea under control

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FAQs

What kind of chemical peel is good for rosacea?

Superficial chemical peels with ingredients like supramolecular salicylic acid (SSA) have shown promise for rosacea management. These peels provide controlled exfoliation, improving the overall appearance of your skin.⁹ However, it’s important to consult with a dermatologist for a personalized assessment and recommendation regarding the appropriate type of chemical peel for your specific rosacea condition.

Can you do a skin peel with rosacea?

Yes, it is possible to undergo a skin peel with rosacea. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution and consult a dermatologist or skincare professional experienced in treating rosacea. A superficial peel using 30% SSA is often recommended for individuals with rosacea.¹⁰

Is microneedling or chemical peel better for rosacea?

Both microneedling and chemical peels, specifically SSA 30% peels, can be beneficial for managing rosacea. Microneedling may help improve redness (erythema) and telangiectasia associated with mild to moderate cases of rosacea by creating microchannels in your skin.¹¹ However, it’s important to consult with a dermatology provider to determine which treatment option is best suited for your specific condition.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don’t have to:

  1. Farshchian, M., and Daveluy S. Rosacea. StatPearls Publishing. (2023, April 19)

  2. Farshchian, M., and Daveluy S. Rosacea. StatPearls Publishing. Ibid.

  3. Soleymani, T,. and Lanoue J. A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels: A Review of Fundamentals and Step-by-step Algorithmic Protocol for Treatment. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (August 2018)

  4. Soleymani, T,. and Lanoue J. A Practical Approach to Chemical Peels: A Review of Fundamentals and Step-by-step Algorithmic Protocol for Treatment. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid

  5. Rendon, MI.,et al.Evidence and considerations in the application of chemical peels in skin disorders and aesthetic resurfacing. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (July 2010)

  6. Wang, L., et al. Retrospective analysis of 19 papulopustular rosacea cases treated with oral minocycline and supramolecular salicylic acid 30% chemical peels. Exp Ther Med. (August 2020)

  7. Xu, L.,et al. Assessment of the Efficacy and Safety of 30% Supramolecular Salicylic Acid Peeling for Papulopustular Rosacea Treatment. Indian J Dermatol. (September 2022)

  8. Farshchian, M., and Daveluy S. Rosacea. StatPearls Publishing. (2023, April 19)

  9. Xu, L.,et al. Assessment of the Efficacy and Safety of 30% Supramolecular Salicylic Acid Peeling for Papulopustular Rosacea Treatment. Indian J Dermatol. Ibid.

  10. Xu, L.,et al. Assessment of the Efficacy and Safety of 30% Supramolecular Salicylic Acid Peeling for Papulopustular Rosacea Treatment. Indian J Dermatol. Ibid.

  11. Oliveira, CMM., et al.Consensus on the therapeutic management of rosacea - Brazilian Society of Dermatology. An Bras Dermatol. Ibid.

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

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• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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