Effect of glycolic acid on UVB-induced skin damage and inflammation in guinea pigs

K. S. Park, H. J. Kim, E. J. Kim, K. T. Nam, J. H. Oh, C. W. Song, H. K. Jung, D. J. Kim, Y. W. Yun, H. S. Kim, S. Y. Chung, D. H. Cho, B. Y. Kim, Jin Tae Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Recently the use of glycolic-acid-containing cosmetics has received increased public interest in their supposed ability to reduce wrinkles, roughness, age spots and other skin damage. However, the safety of such products when used excessively or chronically, especially by photosensitive people, is being questioned. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of glycolic acid alone or in combination with UVB on skin damage and inflammatory response. Method: Guinea pigs were treated with glycolic acid (from 1 to 7 mg/cm2) alone or in combination with UVB (0.4 or 3 J/cm2) for 14 days. Skin damage was evaluated by scoring the skin irritation value by the method of Draize and by histopathological observations. Cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2) expression and prostaglandin E2(PGE2) production were also assessed. Results: Glycolic acid caused an increase in the level of skin damage in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Lower doses (1 and 3 mg/cm2) of glycolic acid mostly caused erythema and eschar, and these consequently formed scales, whereas higher doses (5 and 7 mg/cm2) of glycolic acid caused redness, edema and necrotic ulceration. Glycolic acid also increased the thickness of the epidermal layer, reduced the organization of the stratum corneum and eventually destroyed some parts of the epidermal layer at 7 mg/cm2. UVB (0.4 and 3 J/cm2) caused redness and edema as well as reduced the integrity of the stratum corneum. Glycolic acid enhanced the UVB-induced skin damage. The magnitude of the damage caused by combined UVB and glycolic acid treatment was much greater than that caused by glycolic acid or UVB alone. Moreover, partial destruction of the epidermal layer was observed in skin treated with 3 J/cm2 UVB and 3 mg/cm2 glycolic acid. However, glycolic acid did not change the basal and UVB-induced PGE2 production and COX-2 protein expression. Conclusion: These results show that glycolic acid causes skin damage in a dose- and time-dependent manner and that it enhances UVB-induced skin damage without accompanying PGE2 production or COX-2 protein expression. Therefore, caution should be exercised by those using glycolic acid on a chronic basis or excessively. Moreover, those with photosensitive skins and those more exposed to the sun should be particularly careful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-245
Number of pages10
JournalSkin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Dermatology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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