Can One Make Glycolic Acid?

Written by christopher hall
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Glycolic acid is one of the alpha hydroxy acids that are commonly used in chemical facial peels. Glycolic acid is typically derived from sugar cane. The majority of glycolic acid for the cosmetic industry is supplied by Dupont, which makes the glycolic acid in a plant in West Virginia. There are many recipes for homemade glycolic acid, but most of these are simply sugar scrubs. According to, they do not contain glycolic acid.


Sugar and other foods such as beets and grapes can be used to extract glycolic acid. According to Dupont, it is "the first member of the series of alpha hydroxy carboxylic acids." This means, among other things, that it has very small molecules. Glycolic acid does occur naturally in trace amounts in sugar cane, beets, grapes and fruits, but Dupont and other chemical companies make a synthetic form for many uses, one of which is to make glycolic acid peels.


Because of a licensing agreement, customers who use Dupont's brand of glycolic acid are able to make claims about its effectiveness. However, whichever brand glycolic acid is used, it can improve skin elasticity and increase collagen synthesis, improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines, according to the Dupont website. Glycolic acid will also make skin appear brighter and lessen the appearance of irregular skin pigmentation.


Alpha hydroxy acids are extracted from many foods, including sugar, milk, grapes, and apple cider vinegar. Each different base may contain one or more forms of alpha hydroxy acid. For example, milk contains lactic acid. Simply using milk as a base for a homemade skin care facial mask will not provide you with the level of alpha hydroxy acid you need to see a difference in facial wrinkles, however. According to, there is no evidence that facial products using sugar extract will help with wrinkles.

White Sugar Recipe

Sugar based skin facials and scrubs can make your skin soft and glowing, however. This recipe is based on one in an article by Annie Bond on, which comes from the CEO of Vermont Soapworks. It is not technically a glycolic acid peel, but will make your skin soft and glowing.


50% white sugar 50% vegetable glycerine. You can use an oil such as sweet almond oil, avocado oil or coconut oil as well. 2 to 4 drops essential oil. Good choices are lavender, citrus oils such as lime, lemon or orange, or frankincense. Either a small amount of baking soda, aloe vera gel or pure vitamin C crystals.

Combine ingredients and smooth onto face. Leave for about five minutes and wash off.

Brown Sugar Recipe

The following sugar based scrub uses brown sugar as well as white sugar.


1 cup organic brown sugar 1 cup organic white sugar ¼ cup grapeseed oil ¼ cup coconut oil 1 tbl molasses 1 tbl honey

Combine ingredients. You may need to adjust ingredients to get the correct consistency, thick enough to use as a facial mask. Apply a small handful to face and rub gently. Keep on face for about five to seven minutes. Rinse off.

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