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Why can topical medications cause peeling of the skin?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Certain medications increase the rate of cell turnover in the skin, making it shed faster and possibly leading to peeling. Some acne medications, such as topical retinoids, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide preparations may lead to very mild peeling of the skin, which helps to unclog pores. Tretinoin and other retinoids used to reverse signs of aging can also have a peeling action on the skin. Chemical peels, performed by a doctor, use more potent forms of peeling agents such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid to remove the top and middle layers of skin, which can reduce or remove signs of aging including wrinkles, skin discoloration, and age spots.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.