The effect of glycolic acid on the treatment of acne in Asian skin

Dermatol Surg. 1997 Jan;23(1):23-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.1997.tb00003.x.


Background: Glycolic acid has become important and popular for treating acne.

Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of serial glycolic acid peels with glycolic acid home care products on facial acne lesions and other associated skin problems.

Methods: We collected 40 Asian candidates with moderate to moderately severe acne. They were divided into two groups according to the degree of greasiness of their facial skin. The two groups' members were treated with four series of 35% and 50% glycolic acid peels, respectively. They also used 15% glycolic acid home care products during this study period. The improvement of acne as well as other associated problems were assessed by both the physicians and the patient themselves.

Results: Significant resolution of comedones, papules, and pustules was found. The skin texture of each candidate was dramatically rejuvenated. Consistent and repetitive treatment with glycolic acid was needed for the apparent improvement of acne scars and cystic lesions. The follicular pores also became comparatively smaller. Furthermore, most of the candidates had much brighter and lighter looking skin. Only small percentage of patients (5.6%) developed side effects.

Conclusion: Glycolic acid has considerable therapeutic value for acne with minimal side effects even in Asian skin. It may be an ideal adjunctive treatment of acne.

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy*
  • Acne Vulgaris / ethnology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asia
  • Chemexfoliation
  • Cicatrix / drug therapy
  • Cysts / drug therapy
  • Erythema / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Glycolates / adverse effects
  • Glycolates / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin Diseases / drug therapy
  • Skin Pigmentation / drug effects
  • Surface Properties
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glycolates
  • glycolic acid