Is Glycolic Acid Effective For Melasma Treatment?

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
  • Itching
  • Burning or stinging sensations

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Brandon Kirsch

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 Naples Community Hospital. Kirsch Dermatology Website Dr. Kirsch started his career as a lawyer and holds law degrees from the University of Western Ontario (LL.B.) and Georgetown (LL.M. Securities and Financial Regulation). Dr. Kirsch completed his pre-medical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, medical school at Brown University, internship at the Mayo Clinic (Florida) and dermatology residency at the University of North Carolina. In partnership with the Mayo Clinic, he filed to patent a novel topical composition for the treatment of skin hyperpigmentation that he co-developed and also oversaw a successful pilot study of the formulation. Dr. Kirsch has experience with therapeutic drug development programs from pre-clinical to Phase 3 studies. He is licensed to practice medicine in California, Colorado, Florida, and North Carolina and law in New York and Ontario.

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