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Glycolic Acid in Rosacea Treatment
This is a question frequently asked by rosacea patients, who have been told "yes, definitely" and "no, never" among a myriad of positions in-between.
Additionally, rosacea patients trying glycolic acid as a treatment report widely different results in the short and long term.
Sometimes it appears to work for a period of time before becoming counter-productive, other times benefits appear to accumulate or wax and wane.
Glycolic acid can also help smooth and refine skin texture and colour.
Medical specialists have different approaches to the use of glycolic acid in rosacea reflecting their professional opinions and clinical experiences.
Our position is that you should not use glycolic acid unless you use a formula known to be suitable for rosacea patients.
This is because skin deterioration resulting from the use of products containing glycolic acid is often due to the interaction between the glycolic acid and other ingredients in the product and your skin and not the glycolic acid per se.
As there are no glycolic acid products currently marketed for rosacea treatment (and if there were, unfortunately that would still not be a guarantee of suitability), it is important to use a product known to be effective through solid clinical experience.
Ideally, the product choice and usage is tailored to your skin's thickness, dryness, level of sensitivity and takes into account any other topical medications you are using (glycolic acid can increase/decrease or otherwise alter the efficacy and side effects of other medications).
These factors mean there isn't a single glycolic acid brand or product which will be universally suitable.
The understanding of how glycolic acid works has changed over time. Currently we formulate glycolic acid products for clinical use in concentrations from 5 to 70% at pH values of 1 to 4.5 and for home use at concentrations of 5 to 40% at pH values of 3 to 5. These are almost always intended as an adjunct to other therapies.
Glycolic acid is not a first-line or FDA/TGA approved treatment for rosacea, however is biologically available when applied to skin so it is important that you take care in its use.
Treatment in clinic provided by specialist. The cost of the treatment ranges from $560 to $950 over 3 to 8 weeks depending on the case. Maintenance by way of repeat treatments is generally $150 every 4 to 6 weeks or less often as required. Repeat treatment is recommended if new papules or pustules are forming and appear to be resistant to the usual daily care.
Author: Gina Verginis.
Reviewed: Monday, June 6, 2011.
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