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Topical 8% Glycolic Acid and 8% L-Lactic Acid Creams for the Treatment of Photodamaged Skin:  A Double-blind Vehicle-Controlled Clinical Trial

Matthew J. Stiller, MD; John Bartolone, PhD; Robert Stern, MD; Shondra Smith, MD; Nikiforos Kollias, PhD; Robert Gillies, PhD; Lynn A. Drake, MD
Arch Dermatol. 1996;132(6):631-636. doi:10.1001/archderm.1996.03890300047009.
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Objective:  To evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of 2 widely used topical α-hydroxy acids at low concentrations, 8% glycolic acid and 8% lactic (L-isoform) acid creams, in the treatment of photodamaged skin.

Design:  A single-center, 22-week, double-blind, vehicle-controlled, randomized clinical trial assessed the overall severity of photodamage on the faces and forearms of volunteers, based on 7 individual clinical components of cutaneous photodamage.

Setting:  The study was performed in an outpatient clinical research unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

Patients:  Seventy-four women, aged 40 to 70 years, with moderately severe photodamaged facial skin were enrolled in the study. One subject withdrew from the study early because of skin irritation, and 6 subjects withdrew from the study for personal reasons.

Interventions:  Glycolic acid, L-lactic acid, or vehicle creams were applied twice daily to the face and outer aspect of the forearms.

Main Outcome Measures:  Improvement in α-hydroxy acid—treated photodamaged skin as determined by patient self-assessments and physician evaluations of efficacy and irritancy.

Results:  The percentage of patients using either 8% glycolic acid or 8% L-lactic acid creams on the face achieving at least 1 grade of improvement (using a scale from 0 through 9) in overall severity of photodamage was significantly greater than with the vehicle cream (76% glycolic acid, 71% lactic acid, and 40% vehicle; P<.05). On the forearms, after 22 weeks, treatment with glycolic acid cream was superior to the vehicle in improving the overall severity of photodamage and sallowness (P<.05). L-Lactic acid cream was significantly superior to the vehicle in reducing the overall severity of photodamage (P<.05), mottled hyperpigmentation (P<.05), sallowness (P<.05), and roughness on the forearms (P<.05) at week 22.

Conclusions:  Topical 8% glycolic acid and 8% L-lactic acid creams are modestly useful in ameliorating some of the signs of chronic cutaneous photodamage. These agents are well tolerated and available without prescription.(Arch Dermatol 1996;132:631-636)

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