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Glycolic Acid for Psoriasis: Can it Make a Difference?

Glycolic acid, a popular skincare ingredient known for its exfoliating properties, has piqued interest as a potential complementary treatment for psoriasis.

While it doesn’t offer a cure for this chronic autoimmune skin condition, its exfoliation benefits may help alleviate some of the discomfort and symptoms associated with psoriasis. In this exploration, we delve into the potential role of glycolic acid in psoriasis management.

What is Glycolic Acid

glycolic acid for psoriasis

Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is commonly found in a variety of skincare products, including cleansers, toners, and chemical peels. It is derived from sugar cane and is known for its ability to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin.

Glycolic acid works by breaking down the bonds that hold dead skin cells together on the surface of the skin.

This exfoliation process helps to remove the outermost layer of dead skin cells, promoting the growth of new skin cells and improving the overall texture and appearance of the skin. It can be effective in treating a variety of skin concerns, including acne, fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and hyperpigmentation.

Glycolic acid is available in different concentrations, and the strength of the product will determine its effectiveness and potential side effects. It is important to use glycolic acid products as directed and to wear sunscreen when using them, as the exfoliated skin may be more sensitive to sunlight. If you have specific skin concerns or conditions, it’s a good idea to consult with a dermatologist before incorporating glycolic acid into your skincare routine.

Glycolic Acid in the treatment of Psoriasis

Glycolic acid is not typically used as a primary treatment for psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition characterized by the rapid turnover of skin cells, leading to the development of thick, scaly, and often painful patches of skin.

While glycolic acid is known for its exfoliating properties and its ability to improve various skin conditions, it may not be suitable for treating psoriasis itself.

Psoriasis is a complex condition with an underlying immune system component. Treatment for psoriasis often involves a combination of topical treatments, systemic medications, and phototherapy, depending on the severity of the condition. Common treatments for psoriasis include:

  • Topical corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory creams or ointments can help reduce redness, itching, and inflammation associated with psoriasis.

  • Topical vitamin D analogs: These medications slow down the growth of skin cells and are often used for mild to moderate psoriasis.

  • Topical retinoids: These creams or ointments containing vitamin A derivatives can help normalize skin cell growth.

  • Systemic medications: In severe cases, oral or injectable medications like biologics, methotrexate, or cyclosporine may be prescribed to modulate the immune system’s response.

  • Phototherapy: Exposure to UVB or PUVA (psoralen plus UVA) light can help slow down the rapid growth of skin cells in psoriasis.

Glycolic acid’s exfoliating properties can be used as a complementary treatment for psoriasis to help remove scales and improve the appearance of the skin, but it is not a direct treatment for the underlying causes of the condition.

It’s essential to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and to develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific psoriasis symptoms and severity. They can provide guidance on the most appropriate treatments and skincare regimens for managing psoriasis effectively.

How to use Glycolic Acid for Psoriasis

Glycolic acid can be used as a complementary treatment for psoriasis to help manage the scaling and flaking associated with the condition. However, it’s important to note that glycolic acid is not a primary or curative treatment for psoriasis, and its use should be discussed with a healthcare professional. Here’s how to use glycolic acid in managing psoriasis-related scaling and flaking:

  1. Consult with a Healthcare Professional: Before incorporating glycolic acid into your psoriasis management routine, it’s crucial to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional. They can evaluate your specific condition, its severity, and provide guidance on whether glycolic acid is suitable for your particular case.

  2. Choose the Right Glycolic Acid Product: Look for glycolic acid-containing skincare products, such as creams, lotions, or serums, specifically formulated for exfoliation and skin renewal. These products are often available over the counter or through prescription.

  3. Patch Test: Before applying glycolic acid to affected areas, perform a patch test on a small, non-sensitive area of your skin to ensure that you don’t experience any adverse reactions or increased irritation.

  4. Apply Sparingly: Apply a small amount of the glycolic acid product to the psoriasis-affected areas. Do not apply to open wounds or areas with active inflammation. Gently massage or pat the product into the skin.

  5. Follow Product Instructions: Always follow the product’s instructions and recommendations for application frequency. Glycolic acid products can vary in concentration and strength, so it’s essential to use them as directed.

  6. Moisturize: After the glycolic acid has been absorbed, apply a moisturizer to the treated areas to help keep the skin hydrated and prevent excessive dryness.

  7. Sun Protection: Glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Always apply sunscreen with a high SPF to exposed areas of the skin, and avoid excessive sun exposure.

  8. Monitor Progress: Keep track of how your skin responds to the treatment. If you notice any adverse reactions or worsening of your psoriasis symptoms, discontinue the glycolic acid product and consult your healthcare professional.

  9. Complement with Other Treatments: Remember that glycolic acid is not a primary treatment for psoriasis but can be used alongside other psoriasis treatments prescribed by your healthcare provider, such as topical corticosteroids, vitamin D analogs, or systemic medications.

  10. Regular Follow-Up: Continue to work closely with your dermatologist or healthcare professional to assess the effectiveness of the glycolic acid treatment and adjust your psoriasis management plan as needed.

It’s essential to be cautious and patient when using glycolic acid for psoriasis. Always seek professional medical advice to ensure that it is safe and appropriate for your specific condition and needs.

Glycolic Acid side effects

Glycolic acid, like many skincare ingredients, can have side effects, especially if used inappropriately or in high concentrations. Common side effects of glycolic acid use can include:

  1. Skin Irritation: Mild to moderate redness, itching, burning, or stinging of the skin can occur, especially when first using glycolic acid products. This irritation is typically temporary and should subside as your skin becomes accustomed to the acid.

  2. Dryness and Peeling: Glycolic acid exfoliates the skin, which can lead to dryness and peeling, especially in the initial stages of use. Proper moisturization can help alleviate this side effect.

  3. Sensitivity to Sun: Glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation, increasing the risk of sunburn. It’s crucial to use sunscreen with a high SPF when using glycolic acid and to limit sun exposure.

  4. Photosensitivity: Some individuals may experience increased photosensitivity, which can lead to skin discoloration or rash-like reactions when exposed to sunlight.

  5. Allergic Reactions: While rare, some people may be allergic to glycolic acid or other ingredients in skincare products containing it. Allergic reactions can manifest as redness, hives, or itching.

  6. Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation: In some cases, glycolic acid may cause temporary darkening or hyperpigmentation of the skin, particularly in individuals with darker skin tones. This is typically a temporary side effect and may resolve with time.

  7. Over-Exfoliation: Overuse of glycolic acid or using products with a very high concentration can lead to over-exfoliation. This can result in more severe skin irritation, increased dryness, and even worsened skin conditions.

To minimize the risk of side effects, it’s essential to use glycolic acid products as directed and follow these guidelines:

  1. Start with a Lower Concentration: If you’re new to glycolic acid, begin with a product containing a lower concentration (e.g., 5-8%) and gradually increase the concentration if necessary.

  2. Perform a Patch Test: Test the product on a small, inconspicuous area of skin to check for any adverse reactions before applying it to larger areas.

  3. Use Sunscreen: Always apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when using glycolic acid, and limit sun exposure.

  4. Moisturize: Keep your skin well-hydrated with a non-comedogenic moisturizer to mitigate dryness and peeling.

  5. Follow Product Instructions: Adhere to the product’s recommended frequency of use and any specific instructions provided.

  6. Be Patient: It may take some time for your skin to adjust to glycolic acid. Expect minor irritation at first, but this should improve as your skin adapts.

If you experience severe or prolonged side effects, discontinue use and consult a dermatologist or healthcare professional. They can provide guidance on how to manage any adverse reactions and recommend alternative skincare products or treatments if needed.

Is Glycolic Acid good for Psoriasis

Glycolic acid may provide some relief for psoriasis-related skin scaling, but it doesn’t target the root autoimmune causes of the condition.

Whether glycolic acid is a suitable option for managing psoriasis depends on individual factors, such as the severity of the condition, the patient’s overall health, and their response to the treatment.

For a safer and more tailored approach, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate and effective treatment plan for your specific case of psoriasis.