Clinical improvement of photoaged skin with 50% glycolic acid. A double-blind vehicle-controlled study

Dermatol Surg. 1996 May;22(5):455-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.1996.tb00347.x.


Background: Although there is increasing interest in the use of glycolic acid in the treatment of photoaged skin, to our knowledge, no controlled study has been done to assess the efficacy or the mode of this agent.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether 50% glycolic acid can improve photoaged skin and to study the histological basis for this improvement.

Methods: Forty-one volunteers were recruited into this double-blind vehicle-controlled study. Glycolic acid (50%) or vehicle was applied topically for 5 minutes to one side of the face, forearms, and hands, once weekly for 4 weeks. Punch biopsies were taken at pretherapy and at 5 weeks for histologic study.

Results: Significant improvement noted included decrease in rough texture and fine wrinkling, fewer solar keratoses, and a slight lightening of solar lentigines. Histology showed thinning of the stratum corneum, granular layer enhancement, and epidermal thickening. Some specimens showed an increase in collagen thickness in the dermis.

Conclusion: The results of this study demonstrate that the application of 50% glycolic acid peels improves mild photoaging of the skin.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biopsy
  • Chemexfoliation*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Glycolates / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin Aging / drug effects*
  • Skin Aging / pathology
  • Time Factors


  • Glycolates
  • glycolic acid