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Glycolic Acid

What is it?

Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid are naturally occuring organic acids also known as Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs. The salts of Glycolic Acid (Ammonium Glycolate, Sodium Glycolate), the salts of Lactic Acid (Ammonium Lactate, Calcium Lactate, Potassiu Lactate, Sodium Lactate, TEA-Lactate) and the esters of Lactic Acid (Methyl Lactate, Ethyl Lactate, Butyl Lactate, Lauryl Lactate, Myristyl Lactate, Cetyl Lactate) may also be used in cosmetics and personal care products.

In cosmetics and personal care products, these ingredients are used in the formulation of moisturizers, cleansing products, and other skin care products, as well as in makeup, shampoos, hair dyes and colors and other hair care products.

 

Safety Information

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes Lactic Acid, Calcium Lactate, Potassium Lactate and Sodium Lactate on its list of substances considered Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) as direct food additives. Ethyl Lactate and Butyl Lactate are also approved for use as direct food additives and Glycolic Acid (hydroxyacetic acid) is permitted for use as an indirect food additive in adhesives

The safety of Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid, their salts and esters, has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that Glycolic Acid, Ammonium Glycolate, Sodium Glycolate, and Lactic Acid, Ammonium Lactate, Calcium Lactate, Potassium Lactate, Sodium Lactate, TEA-Lactate, Methyl Lactate, Ethyl Lactate, Butyl Lactate, Lauryl Lactate, Myristyl Lactate and Cetyl Lactate were safe for use in cosmetics and personal care products at concentrations of 10% or less, at final formulation pH of 3.5 or greater, when formulated to avoid increasing sun sensitivity or when directions for use include the daily use of sun protection. These ingredients were found safe for use in salon products at concentrations of 30% or less, at final formulation pH of 3.0 or greater, in products designed for brief, discontinuous use followed by thorough rinsing from the skin, when applied by trained professionals, and when application is accompanied by directions for the daily use of sun protection.

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Why is it used in cosmetics and personal care products?

The following functions have been reported for Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid and their salts and esters.

Buffering agent - Ammonium Lactate, Potassium Lactate, Sodium Lactate 
Cosmetic astringent - Calcium Lactate
Exfoliant - Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Ammonium Glycolate, Ammonium Lactate, Calcium Lactate, Potassium Lactate, Sodium Lactate
Humectant - Lactic Acid
pH adjuster - Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Ammonium Glycolate, Sodium Glycolate
Skin conditioning agent - emollient - Lauryl Lactate, Myristyl Lactate, Cetyl Lactate
Skin conditioning agent - humectant - Lactic Acid, Ammonium Lactate, Potassium Lactate, Sodium Lactate, TEA-Lactate
Skin conditioning agent - miscellaneous - Lactic Acid
Solvent - Methyl Lactate, Ethyl Lactate, Butyl Lactate

 

Scientific facts:

Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). They may be either naturally occurring or synthetic. They are often found in products intended to improve the overall look and feel of the skin.

Glycolic acid is the most widely used of out of the group and is usually manufactured from sugar cane. Lactic acid, derived primarily from milk and its origins can be traced back to Cleopatra, who purportedly used sour milk on her skin.

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