An Advanced, Physician-Strength Retinol Peel Improves Signs of Aging and Acne Across a Range of Skin Types Including Melasma and Skin of Color

September 2019 | Volume 18 | Issue 9 | Original Article | 918 | Copyright © September 2019

Neil Sadick MD,a,b Brenda L. Edison BA,c Gabriella John MS,c Krista L. Bohnert BS,a Barbara Green RPh MSc

ªSadick Research Group, LLC, New York, NY 

BWeill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY

cNeoStrata Company, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson Company, Princeton, NJ


Background: Facial chemical peels are highly sought after by patients with photodamage, acne, and melasma. An advanced, physician-strength superficial peel, containing 3% retinol with other firming and volumizing ingredients was developed to exfoliate, improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and plump and firm skin, while promoting a bright, even complexion.

Objective: A clinical study was conducted to evaluate the tolerability, safety, and efficacy of the 3% retinol peel with a supportive homecare regimen across a range of peel candidates, females aged 18-65 years, with photodamage, acne, hyperpigmentation or melasma, and skin of color, over a series of 2-4 peels.

Method: The 3% retinol peel formulation was administered under physician direction in 6-week intervals. Subjects with photodamaged skin, acne, hyperpigmentation/melasma, or skin of color (Fitzpatrick skin types IV-VI) received 2-4 peels along with a supportive homecare regimen. Dermatologist grading, self-assessment, and digital photography documented tolerability and efficacy parameters.

Results: 24 subjects participated in the study with a total of 78 peels administered (Photodamage group, n=14 [with an Acne subgroup, n=5]; Melasma group, n=5; Skin of Color, n=5). The 3% retinol peel along with the homecare regimen was well tolerated under physician direction in all skin types and conditions assessed. Obvious peeling was noticeable in many subjects 3 days post-peel and resolved by day 7. In the photodamaged group, dermatologist clinical grading of fine lines, wrinkles, pore size, laxity, mottled pigmentation, lack of clarity/radiance, and overall photodamage was significantly improved (P<0.05). Benefits were observed in all groups and supported by self-assessment. Digital photography demonstrated tolerability in the days immediately post-peel, along with benefits to photodamage.

Conclusion: The 3% retinol superficial peel was well tolerated and an efficacious cosmetic treatment under physician supervision in subjects of all skin types to firm skin, improve fine lines and wrinkles, and promote a bright, even complexion.

J Drugs Dermatol. 2019;18(9):918-923. 


Physician-strength chemical peels are consistently the third most common cosmetic procedure next to neurotoxin and soft-tissue filler injections.1 Superficial chemical peels are common and safe peeling procedures.2 Facial chemical peels are highly sought after by aging patients who desire improvements to fine lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, clarity, and laxity, as well as patients with acne, hyperpigmentation, or melasma. As a complementary procedure to hydroquinone homecare products, patients have used chemical peels to improve hyperpigmentation or melasma.3 While chemical peels are considered safe for all skin types, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can be a concern of higher strength chemical peels, particularly in those with darker skin.2

Retinol is a proven ingredient for the management of acne and is used as adjunctive care for photodamage due to its ability to enhance exfoliation, increase epidermal thickness, and reduce matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity (collagenase) while increasing collagen.4-7 Studies have demonstrated that topical prescription retinoids are safe and effective in patients with dark skin for the treatment of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.8 Cosmetic retinol products have been shown to affect hyperpigmentation and provide a more even skin tone.5

An advanced, physician-strength superficial peel containing 3% retinol was developed to exfoliate and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, plump and firm skin, and reduce hyperpigmentation while promoting a bright, even complexion. Formulated with bisabolol to help calm the skin, and Vitamin E as an antioxidant, this peel provides additional benefits to overall skin appearance with the addition of triethyl citrate and acetyl tyrosinamide to enhance the skin’s matrix for plumping and firming effects.9-11