Both acids are part of the AHA family (alpha hydroxy acids) and have been used for many years in skin care formulations to exfoliate and help smooth the skin.
However, glycolic acid has been known to cause irritation in some users, and recent research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology suggests lactobionic acid is not only better tolerated but it may also be more effective.
A team bringing together researchers based in London, Serbia and Slovenia, compared the action of lactobionic acid (LA) with glycolic acid (GA) when formulated into two different application vehicles – an emulsion and a gel.
Twenty-six volunteers applied GA in a gel, GA in an emulsion, LA in a gel and LA in an emulsion to their forearms twice daily for two weeks.
After the two week period the team noted changes to the erythema (skin reddening) index and the transepidermal water loss as a way of estimating the irritation to the skin following application.
According to the team, both LA preparations appeared to be tolerated better by the skin than those with GA.
However, GA was better tolerated if it was incorporated in the emulsion rather than the gel, suggesting the importance of the vehicle to tolerability.
The emulsion chosen was a sugar based emulsion of vegetable origin (alkylpolyglucoside) rather than the more traditional polyethylene glycol emulsifier (PEG) that has been known to lead to skin reddening in healthy subjects.
According to the team, LA can cause formulation problems as it is difficult to find acid stable emulsions that do not irritate the skin; the alkylpolyglucoside (APG) is put forward by the authors as a valid alternative.
The study’s results, they claim, illustrate the importance of the vehicle in both the safety and efficacy of the active.
Skin lightening was also observed in a further study comparing the APG control to the LA-containing APG.
Melanin index was significantly reduced in the sample compared to the control in two weeks, and the researchers state this effect is worth investigating in pigmented skin.
Source: Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology
Issue 9, pages 3-10
Lactobionic acid in a natural alkylpolyglucoside-based vehicle: assessing safety and efficacy aspects in comparison to glycolic acid
Marija Tasic-Kostov, Snezana Savic, Milica Lukic, Slobodanka Tamburic, Milos Pavlovic, Dordana Vuleta