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Glycolic acid (Molecule of the Month for July 2014)

AHA, hydroxyacetic acid, Chemical peel

Glycolic acid (or hydroxyacetic acid) is the smallest α-hydroxy acid (AHA). It appears in the form of a colorless, odorless and hygroscopic crystalline solid that is highly soluble in water and related solvents. Glycolic acid is associated with sugar-crops and is isolated from sugarcane, sugar beets, pineapple, canteloupe, and unripe grapes.

Due to its excellent capability to penetrate skin, glycolic acid finds applications in skin care products, most often as a chemical peel performed by a dermatologist in concentrations of 20%-80% or at-home kits in lower concentrations of 10%. It is used to improve the skin's appearance and texture. It may reduce wrinkles, acne scarring, hyperpigmentation and improve many other skin conditions. Once applied, glycolic acid reacts with the upper layer of the epidermis, weakening the binding properties of the lipids that hold the dead skin cells together. This allows the outer skin to "dissolve" revealing the underlying skin.

Glycolic acid is also a useful intermediate for organic synthesis, in a range of reactions including: oxidation-reduction, esterification and long chain polymerization. It is used as a monomer in the preparation of polyglycolic acid and other biocompatible copolymers (e.g. PLGA). Among other uses this compound finds employment in the textile industry as a dyeing and tanning agent, in food processing as a flavoring agent and as a preservative. Glycolic acid is often included into emulsion polymers, solvents and additives for ink and paint in order to improve flow properties and impart gloss.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)
2-hydroxyacetic acid



Picture of Glycolic acid 3D model

click on the picture of  Glycolic acid above to interact
with the 3D model of the
Glycolic acid structure
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Picture of Glycolic acid

C2 H4 O3

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for July 2014 )

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