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Glycolic acid, an active ingredient against hyperpigmentation.

Glycolic acid, an active ingredient against hyperpigmentation.

Of natural or synthetic origin, glycolic acid, formerly known as hydroxyacetic acid, is the shortest of the alpha-hydroxy acids (A.H.A.). Its keratolytic and sebum-regulating properties make it an ally for skin with imperfections and/or dull, tired complexions. Does glycolic acid also work against hyperpigmentation? If so, how and against what types of spots? In focus.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Pigmentation defects are disorders of skin pigmentation, i.e. hypopigmentation, depigmentation and hyperpigmentation.

Hypopigmentation corresponds to a disorder manifested by a decrease in melanin.

Depigmentation refers to the complete absence of melanin on the surface, which leaves a white spot.

Hyperpigmentation refers to the excessive production of melanin.

These dark spots can be found on the hands, face, neckline or arms, but can also be diffuse. There are different types of hyperpigmentation:

  • “Age spots” or “sun spots”, which result from prolonged and repeated exposure to the sun combined with a slowdown in cell renewal;

  • The “pregnancy mask”, “chloasma” or “melasma”, due to hormonal fluctuations that stimulate melanocytes and therefore the overproduction of melanin;

  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which occurs after a trauma or a skin injury, which is common in people with acne-prone skin;

  • Freckles, of genetic origin, generally associated with fair skin.

The Effects of Glycolic Acid on Dark Spots.

Glycolic acid peels stimulate skin cell renewal. Glycolic acid targets the corneosome, which is responsible for the cohesion of the cells in the stratum corneum. It promotes its degradation by reducing its cohesion, which causes desquamation. By breaking the links between the dead cells of the horny layer, this active ingredient makes it possible to eliminate them, and thus to obtain a smoother and luminous complexion. 

According to several studies, glycolic acid is effective in reducing the three main types of hyperpigmentation: sun spots, melasma and post-inflammatory spots.

By absorbing deep into the skin, this small acid inhibits the overproduction of melanin. It thus regulates the action of the melanocytes to prevent the pigments responsible for the dark spots from marking the skin.
Note: the intensity of the peel is determined by the concentration of the acid, the consistency  and the amount of product applied to the skin. In the majority of studies conducted on the action of glycolic acid against dark spots, this active ingredient was concentrated at over 20%. Even though the cosmetic regulations do not indicate a maximum threshold of use for glycolic acid, it is rare to find a concentration higher than 20% in a skincare formula, due to the irritating potential of this fruit acid.

Find Two Typology Treatments With Glycolic Acid to Reduce Your Hyperpigmentation.

We have developed three glycolic acid-based skincare products to reduce hyperpigmentation, available in different concentrations: 

  • The exfoliating serum contains 10% glycolic acid. This concentration still allows for a relevant keratolytic effect; this serum will eliminate the dead cells present on the surface of the skin, often loaded with melanin, to make room for less or even non-pigmented cells located below. The complexion appears more uniform and luminous.

  • The exfoliating toner contains 8% glycolic acid. This astringent lotion, with a skin-like acidic pH, rebalances the skin's pH after each cleansing. During the cleaning, it also eliminates the residues of limestone present in the water. Highly concentrated in exfoliating active ingredients, this lotion helps to refine the skin texture and eliminate dead skin.

  • Dark spots can also appear on the body, especially on areas that are frequently exposed to UV rays, such as the hands and décolleté, or that are prone to acne, such as the back. When showering, use our anti-blemish gel Glycolic Acid 6% + Tea Tree Extract to deeply cleanse your skin.

    Please note that glycolic acid is a photosensitizing active ingredient and should only be used in the evening. Moreover, because of its small size and acidic nature, it is not recommended for sensitive skin.


  • Jaishree Sharad, Glycolic acid peel therapy – a current review, Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. (2013).

  • Fartasch M, Teal J, Menon GK. Mode of action of glycolic acid on human stratum corneum: ultrastructural and functional evaluation of the epidermal barrier. Arch Dermatol Res. (1997).

  • Javaheri SM, Handa S, Kaur I, Kumar B. Safety and efficacy of glycolic acid facial peel in Indian women with melasma. Int J Dermatol. (2001).

  • Burns RL, Prevost-Blank PL, Lawry MA, Lawry TB, Faria DT, Fivenson DP. Glycolic acid peels for post inflammatory hyperpigmentation in black patients. A comparative study. Dermatol Surg. (1997).


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