|Other names||glycolic acid,
|Molar mass||76.05 g/mol|
|Appearance||white, powdery solid|
|Solubility in water||70% solution|
|Solubility in other solvents||alcohols, acetone,
acetic acid and
|Flash point||129 °C|
|Related α-hydroxy acids||lactic acid|
(what is this?) |
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C, 100 kPa)
Glycolic acid (or hydroxyacetic acid) is the smallest α-hydroxy acid (AHA). This colorless, odorless, and hygroscopic crystalline solid is highly soluble in water. It is used in various skin-care products. Glycolic acid is found in some sugar-crops.
In this way, a few million kilograms are produced annually. Other methods, not apparently in use, include hydrogenation of oxalic acid and the hydrolysis of the cyanohydrin derived from formaldehyde. Glycolic acid can be isolated from natural sources, such as sugarcane, sugar beets, pineapple, canteloupe, and unripe grapes..
Glycolic acid can also be prepared using an enzymatic biochemical process which produces fewer impurities compared to traditional chemical synthesis, requires less energy in production and produces less co-product. This process is used by the specialty chemical company CrossChem.
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 to 70% or at-home kits in lower concentrations between 10 and 20%. In addition to concentration, pH also plays a large part in determining the potency of glycolic acid in solution. Physician-strength peels can have a pH as low as 0.6 (strong enough to completely keratolyze the epidermis), while acidities for home peels can be as high as 2.5.  Glycolic acid is used to improve the skin's appearance and texture. It may reduce wrinkles, acne scarring, hyperpigmentation and improve many other skin conditions, including actinic keratosis, hyperkeratosis, and seborrheic keratosis. 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.
From the commercial perspective, important derivatives include the methyl (CAS#[96-35-5) and ethyl (CAS# 623-50-7) esters which are readily distillable (b.p. 147-9 and 158-159 °C, respectively), unlike the parent acid. The butyl ester (b.p. 178-186 °C) is a component of some varnishes, being desirable because it is nonvolatile and good dissolving properties.