Is Glycolic Acid Safe for African American Skin?

Glycolic acid is often found many skin care products and is used in chemical peels. African American skin is often more sensitive than other skin types because of the amount of melanin found in the skin. Various chemicals used on the skin of other races may hyperpigment or scar African American skin. Is glycolic acid safe?

What Is Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid used in varying amounts in skin care products. Prescription products and skin peels contain anywhere from 20 to 70 percent glycolic acid, while over-the-counter products only contain 10 percent. It is used to improve skin texture.


Glycolic acid, when used on the skin, can reduce fine lines and wrinkles, balance uneven skin tones, reduce small scars and help to clear up acne. By cleaning out the pores, it also makes skin smoother.

Safety for African American Skin

Glycolic acid in general is safe for African American skin. Glycolic chemical peels are the mildest of all skin peels. Over-the-counter products only contain small amounts of glycolic acid, which are safe. However, before using, you should do a patch test on an area other than your face. Glycolic acid is good for hyperpigmentation, a problem common with African American skin. The glycolic acid can help to lighten dark spots and eventually fade them entirely.


A common misconception about glycolic acid and African American skin is that it will cause dark spots to get even darker. When used properly, it will fade the dark spots by exfoliating your skin.

Where to Find

Products with glycolic acid can be found in the drugstore or through your dermatologist. The easiest thing to do is to browse products in your neighborhood drugstore and search for glycolic acid as an active ingredient.