A 10% glycolic acid containing oil-in-water emulsion improves mild acne: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial

J Cosmet Dermatol. 2011 Sep;10(3):202-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1473-2165.2011.00572.x.


Background: Acne is characterized by hyperseborrhea, follicular hyperkeratosis, and growth of propionibacteria. Alpha hydroxy acids depending on the pH of the finished product exhibit comedolytic as well as antimicrobial properties.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate an oil-in-water emulsion-containing 10% glycolic acid (pH 4; Dr. August Wolff GmbH & Co. KG Arzneimittel, Bielefeld, Germany) as monotherapy in mild acne regarding clinical efficacy and tolerability for 90 days.

Patients and methods: Patients (n = 120; 73 f, 47 m) suffering from mild acne (Leeds score 0.25-1) aged ≥12 (mean 21 ± 5.8) were included in this double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, monocentric trial. The cream was applied once daily in the evening. No additional products were used. Cleansing was standardized by supplying the same product to all patients.

Results: The number of patients (n = 115) in the per-protocol and intention-to-treat analysis was the same. Acne improved significantly in the verum group up to day 90. Already at day 45, there was a statistical significant (5% level) difference against placebo. The subjective evaluation of the verum by physicians and patients regarding clinical efficacy and tolerability was favorable. Regarding reported adverse effects, there was no statistically significant difference (5% level) between verum and placebo.

Conclusions: The 10% glycolic acid containing oil-in-water emulsion improved mild acne applied as monotherapy in this study significantly, already after 45 days of treatment. Regarding tolerability, there was no objective or subjective difference between the 10% glycolic acid containing oil-in-water emulsion and the corresponding placebo.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Emulsions / administration & dosage
  • Emulsions / adverse effects
  • Emulsions / therapeutic use
  • Erythema / etiology
  • Female
  • Glycolates / administration & dosage
  • Glycolates / adverse effects
  • Glycolates / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Intention to Treat Analysis
  • Keratolytic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Keratolytic Agents / adverse effects
  • Keratolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Placebos
  • Pruritus / etiology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Emulsions
  • Glycolates
  • Keratolytic Agents
  • Placebos
  • glycolic acid