Pyruvic Acid, Glycolic and Salicylic Acid Peels Improve Acne, Skin Hydration

Chemical peels containing either a mixture of glycolic and salicylic acids or only 50% pyruvic acid are associated with relatively similar improvements in acne lesions, skin hydration, and skin color in patients with acne, according to study research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.

Healthy women (mean age, 23±1.6 years) with acne participated in this split-face comparative study. After cleansing the face with micellar water and a 20% glycolic acid cleanser, patients applied a gel containing glycolic acid and salicylic acid to the left side of the face and a preparation containing 50% pyruvic acid to the right side of the face. Treatment was applied 4 times every 2 weeks. At baseline, 1 month, and 2 months after treatment, the researchers assessed hydration, sebum secretion, and skin pigmentation on the forehead, cheeks, chin, and nose. Treatment satisfaction was also assessed.

On the right side of the face, which was treated with 50% pyruvic acid, hydration significantly increased on the forehead (P <.01), cheek (P <.05), and chin (P <.05) compared with pre-treatment values. At 2 months, the 50% pyruvic acid preparation increased the median skin hydration values on the forehead by 11.3 (P <.05), on the cheek by 20.0 (P <.05), on the chin by 9.6 (P <.05), and on the nose by 15.4 compared with pre-treatment values.

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The cheek on the left side of the face had a significant increase in skin hydration following application of the glycolic and salicylic acid mixture (P <.01). Compared with pre-treatment values, the median hydration at 2 months was significantly increased by 28.1 on the left cheek (P <.05). In addition, the mixture of glycolic and salicylic acids significantly affected skin pigmentation on the forehead (P <.05), cheek (P <.05), and nose (P <.01).

All of the patients reported satisfaction with both peels. The peeling with the acids in this study did not have a significant impact on sebum secretion.

Study limitations included the small sample size, inclusion of only women, and lack of a randomized control group.

The investigators concluded that pyruvic acid and a salicylic and glycolic acid mixture “can be successfully used to improve skin hydration as well as reduce the number of blackheads, excessive activity of sebaceous glands, and hyperpigmentation.”


Zdrada J, Odrzywołek W, Deda A, Wilczyński S. A split-face comparative study to evaluate the efficacy of 50% pyruvic acid against a mixture of glycolic and salicylic acids in the treatment of acne vulgaris [published online January 10, 2020]. J Cosmet Dermatol. doi:10.1111/jocd.13288