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Title: pH-dependent antibacterial activity of glycolic acid : implications for anti-acne formulations
Authors: Valle-González, Elba R.
Jackman, Joshua A.
Yoon, Bo Kyeong
Mokrzecka, Natalia
Cho, Nam-Joon
Keywords: Engineering::Chemical engineering
Issue Date: 2020
Source: Valle-González, E. R., Jackman, J. A., Yoon, B. K., Mokrzecka, N., & Cho, N.-J. (2020). pH-dependent antibacterial activity of glycolic acid : implications for anti-acne formulations. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 7491-. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-64545-9
Project: NRF2015NRF-POC001-019
Journal: Scientific Reports 
Abstract: Glycolic acid is the smallest alpha hydroxy acid and widely used for skincare applications, including to treat acne vulgaris. Oftentimes, high concentrations of glycolic acid (~20–50 vol%) are incorporated into chemical peels to reduce acne-related inflammation while there is an outstanding need to determine to what extent glycolic acid can potently inhibit Cutibacterium acnes (formerly known as Propionibacterium acnes), which is a Gram-positive bacterium implicated in acne pathogenesis. Herein, we report that glycolic acid exhibits pH-dependent antibacterial activity against C. acnes and mechanistic studies identified that the nonionic form of glycolic acid is more active than the anionic form. The degree of antibacterial activity, including minimum bactericidal concentration (MBC), of glycolic acid was evaluated in the pH range of 3 to 4.5, and the greatest potency was observed at pH 3. In light of skincare formulation needs, we selected the pH 3.5 condition for further testing and determined that glycolic acid kills C. acnes cells by disrupting bacterial cell membranes. While most conventional treatments involve high concentrations of glycolic acid (>20%), our findings support the potential of developing anti-acne formulations with glycolic acid concentrations as low as 0.2% and with pH conditions that are suitable for over-the-counter applications.
ISSN: 2045-2322
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-64545-9
Rights: © 2020 The Author(s). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
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