Glycolic acid (alpha-hydroxyacetic acid) has the chemical structure HO-CH2-COOH. It is a chemical compound from the alpha hydroxy acid group found in some foods and is commonly used in skin care. High concentrations of glycolic acid can make skin look sunburned, but generally skin care products with the chemical can help get rid of wrinkles and prevent acne.
Glycolic acid is the simplest of the alpha-hydroxy acids. It consists of odorless white, hygroscopic crystals. Because of its small molecular weight and size it affords strong skin penetration. Alpha-hydroxy acids loosen glue-like substances that hold surface skin cells together. Because of this, treatment softens the skin.
Sources include fruits and vegetables high in sugar content, including green (unripe) grapes. Although glycolic acid can be produced from unripe grapes, fermented sugar cane juice is a more common source. Additional sources include barley and wheat leaves, cantaloupe, sugar beets and pineapple. Chemical methods of production are being used by some manufacturers such as DuPont.
Sugarcane is frequently referenced in descriptions and definitions of glycolic acid. Used in moderate levels, glycolic acid found in sugarcane can work as an exfoliant and help get rid of dead skin cells on your face. Many skin experts used it found in sugarcane for facial peels.
Unripe grapes also are high in glycolic acid. An unripe grape is what you commonly call green grapes. Other fruits that glycolic acid can be found in are pineapple and cantaloupe. Although unripe grapes and sugar beets can be used in the chemical production of glycolic acid, the most common natural source is sugarcane.
One patented chemical preparation of particularly pure glycolic acid involves the saponification of chloroacetic acid(C2H3ClO2, CAS No. 79-11-8) with an excess of alkali metal hydroxide, later followed by electrodialysis. It reduces wrinkles and improves other skin conditions.
The Food and Drug Administration offers “guidance for industry” concerning increased sunburn risks for people using glycolic acid for cosmetic purposes.It metabolizes to form oxalic acid, hence ingestion is hazardous; however, in cases of ingestion, vomiting should not be induced.