Glycolic acid versus Jessner's solution: which is better for facial acne patients? A randomized prospective clinical trial of split-face model therapy

Dermatol Surg. 1999 Apr;25(4):270-3. doi: 10.1046/j.1524-4725.1999.08251.x.


Background: Many clinicians perform glycolic acid peels for facial acne patients, but there has not been a well-controlled study to compare this new therapy with other conventional modalities.

Objective: To compare the effectiveness of treatment and side effects in the treatment of facial acne by two agents, 70% glycolic acid and Jessner's solution.

Methods: Twenty-six patients with facial acne were treated simultaneously with 70% glycolic acid and Jessner's solution biweekly on each side of the face. The treatment sides were randomized and the evaluation of treatment was done biweekly by a blinded evaluator who did not know the randomization code. Dr. Cunliffe's acne grading system was used for objective comparison. All patients were also asked about the improvement of facial acne and about the side effects experienced. Finally, the patients answered the preference test between the 2 peeling methods.

Results: Acne grading of both treatments improved after 3 treatment sessions. However, there were no significant differences in treatment effects between the 2 methods. As far as side effects were concerned, sites treated with Jessner's solution showed a significantly increased degree of exfoliation compared to glycolic acid (p < 0.01).

Conclusion: Glycolic acid is less widely used than Jessner's solution due to its inconvenient application technique. But considering the equal treatment effect and lesser degree of exfoliation in glycolic acid, we would recommend the use of glycolic acid over Jessner's solution for acne patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / pathology
  • Acne Vulgaris / therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chemexfoliation*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use*
  • Facial Dermatoses / pathology
  • Facial Dermatoses / therapy*
  • Female
  • Glycolates / pharmacology
  • Glycolates / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Keratolytic Agents / pharmacology
  • Keratolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Lactic Acid / pharmacology
  • Lactic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Resorcinols / pharmacology
  • Resorcinols / therapeutic use*
  • Salicylates / pharmacology
  • Salicylates / therapeutic use*
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Drug Combinations
  • Glycolates
  • Jessner's solution
  • Keratolytic Agents
  • Resorcinols
  • Salicylates
  • glycolic acid
  • Lactic Acid
  • Ethanol