May 1, 2020 Is Glycolic Acid Effective For Melasma Treatment?
There are dozens of ways to lighten the dark patches on your skin caused by melasma, including glycolic acid. Today, we talk about the effectiveness and safety of this ingredient.
What Is Glycolic Acid?
Glycolic acid is a natural compound that is derived from sugar cane, beets, and unripe grapes. This ingredient has several uses within the beauty and skincare realm, including getting rid of dead skin cells, clearing acne and blemishes, and having an overall anti-aging effect on your complexion.
Glycolic acid works well for skin care for many reasons. Firstly, it is the alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that is the simplest in structure and has the lowest molecular weight, meaning that it is absorbed well by the skin. This ingredient is also known to be compatible with any skin type, including normal, combination, and oily skin.
Using glycolic acid for melasma treatment has become widely popular over the course of the last decade due to its ability to lighten dark patches on the skin (Bandyopadhyay).
Is Glycolic Acid For Melasma Effective?
Glycolic acid is most effective when combined with other ingredients. Studies have demonstrated that the addition of glycolic acid can enhance the effectiveness of melasma treatments (Dayal). As a priming agent for chemical peels, glycolic acid has been similarly found to enhance the effectiveness of other treatments, and potentially even be a superior type of peel for some skin types (Sarkar).
Glycolic acid has also been found to have photoprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, both of which are important to the melasma treatment process since both sunlight and inflammation are known triggers of melasma (Perricone).
What Side Effects Can I Expect?
As with all medications, glycolic acid may cause side effects in some individuals. Most side effects are mild and are a normal part of melasma treatment.
The side effects of glycolic acid include:
- Skin redness
- Skin peeling
- Burning or stinging sensations
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- Bandyopadhyay D. Topical treatment of melasma. Indian J Dermatol. 2009;54(4):303‐309. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.57602. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2807702/.
- Dayal S, Sahu P, Dua R. Combination of glycolic acid peel and topical 20% azelaic acid cream in melasma patients: efficacy and improvement in quality of life. Journal of cosmetic dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27500896/. Published March 2017.
- Perricone NV, DiNardo JC. Photoprotective and antiinflammatory effects of topical glycolic acid. Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8634805. Published May 1996.
- Sarkar R, Arsiwala S, Dubey N, et al. Chemical Peels in Melasma: A Review with Consensus Recommendations by Indian Pigmentary Expert Group. Indian J Dermatol. 2017;62(6):578‐584. doi:10.4103/ijd.IJD_490_17 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5724304/
About the author
Brandon Kirsch, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in clinical drug development and medical innovation. He is the founder of Kirsch Dermatology in Naples, Florida and is also the Chief of Dermatology at the ...