BACKGROUND. Glycolic acid peels and microdermabrasion are widely recommended by dermatologists and others for facial skin rejuvenation, but few studies have assessed their clinical efficacy. OBJECTIVE. To compare the relative efficacy of glycolic acid peels and microdermabrasion for facial skin rejuvenation. METHODS. An unblinded, randomized controlled trial was used. Each of 10 patients received paired treatments with glycolic acid peels (20%) and microdermabrasion (mild setting) for 6 consecutive weeks. The right and left sides of the face were treated with different modalities. Once a patient was assigned to receive a particular modality to a particular side of the face, all subsequent treatments were delivered in the same manner. Patient ratings, investigator ratings, and photographs were obtained before the first treatment and 1 week after the last treatment. RESULTS. In terms of overall preference for a given type of treatment, seven patients chose glycolic acid peels, one selected microdermabrasion, and two had no favorite treatment. The relative preference for glycolic acid peels approached significance (P = .0578). Investigator ratings and photographic comparisons did not reveal treatment-specific differences or significant improvement from baseline. No serious side effects were seen with either treatment, and even mild effects were seldom reported. CONCLUSION. In this study, patients appeared to prefer low-strength glycolic acid peels to low-intensity microdermabrasion for facial rejuvenation. Differences in patient satisfaction were subtle and may be technique dependent.
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