Using glycolic acid for hair loss may have crossed your mind after having seen social media trends touting its many benefits. It is presented in the media as a gentle but powerful exfoliant, a pH balancer, a treatment for common scalp conditions and a hair softener which prevents hair breakage. But is this scientifically proven? And can it also reduce hair loss?
While there are no studies to confirm that glycolic acid can directly prevent hair loss, there is indeed some evidence of hair and scalp benefits associated with its use, some of which can have a positive influence on the main causes of hair loss.
This article will tell you all you need to know about:
Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), a naturally occurring fruit acid extracted from sugarcane. It has long been used in skincare products, as it ensures good skin penetration .
Glycolic acid has some demonstrated results in cosmetic dermatology, as it is used in peeling masks, anti-blemish creams and for face and body exfoliation . It is known to smoothen out wrinkles, soften skin and treat acne . Still, it has also proven itself effective (mostly alongside other medication) in the treatment of skin conditions such as mixed and epidermal-type melasma  keratosis pilaris  and ichthyosis .
Recently, glycolic acid has also started to be used for its hair and scalp benefits. However, there is still insufficient research regarding its full effect on treating scalp problems and curbing hair thinning.
Yes, glycolic acid can safely be used on the hair and scalp by most people, provided that it is used in a safe concentration .
Glycolic acid can be found in cosmetic treatments in a variety of concentrations, ranging between 1% and 70%. Higher concentrations are often found in face peeling (30%-50%) products or acne treatments (50%-70%) which are usually administered at beauty clinics. However, much lower concentrations are required when it comes to applying this acid to your scalp and hair. Hair products containing 5-7% glycolic acid are optimal for home treatments, while concentrations above 10% should be used under the supervision of a hair specialist.
Moreover, glycolic acid should not be applied too frequently or left on for too long. That is because prolonged exposure to any acid can be harmful, potentially causing irritation or a burning sensation on the scalp.
Glycolic acid has many purported benefits for scalp and hair health, but most of them have not been sufficiently scientifically studied. That makes it difficult to tell what kind of effects can be expected after using certain concentrations of glycolic acid on the scalp for varying durations and frequencies.
However, dermatologists generally agree that glycolic acid can be helpful for your scalp and hair health.
You can apply a low-concentration glycolic acid serum or toner directly on your hair and scalp and massage gently, then wait for 20-30 minutes and wash it off with your regular shampoo (be careful to follow the instructions on the container, as some products should only be left on for 5-10 minutes).
It is best to apply this treatment in the evening, or to cover your head if you go out in the sun after using it, as glycolic acid can leave your scalp sensitive to sunburn .
Before using glycolic acid, make sure to test it on a small patch of skin, to avoid contact dermatitis (allergic reactions).
Since prolonged exposure to acids can damage your hair and scalp, you should not use glycolic acid more than once or twice a week.
There are some circumstances in which glycolic acid should not be used on your scalp without the recommendation and supervision of a dermatologist:
While there are no studies that show a direct hair loss prevention effect, glycolic acid may prevent hair loss indirectly to some extent. That is because thoroughly cleaning and exfoliating the scalp, keeps the hair follicles from getting clogged and inflamed and no longer producing hair.
It also protects the hair shafts from being damaged and becoming fragile by balancing the shampoo’s pH. Finally, by making the hair strands softer and less rigid, protects them from breaking off easily.
If you have a progressive hair loss condition, such as male or female pattern baldness, there isn’t enough evidence to suggest glycolic acid can stop your hair loss.
Keep in mind that overusing glycolic acid can actually lead to hair loss through scalp irritation and chemical burns.
Despite what comes to mind when we think of acids, glycolic acid is generally safe for your scalp and hair if you use a formula with a concentration of under 10% and a pH of 3.5 or above  . However, it can cause certain side effects in some users, especially if the right concentration or application duration and frequency are exceeded:
There are many scientifically proven hair loss treatments and therapies. Here are some of the most common:
Or, if you are more interested in home remedies, you can try the best essential oils for hair growth.
But the efficiency of any of these treatments is highly dependent on the condition which causes your hair loss. So book a consultation now with one of our top trichologists and get to the root of your hair and scalp problems.
There are multiple reasons why your hair may be falling out. The most common of these are:
If you are experiencing hair loss, it is very important to be diagnosed as soon as possible, because many of the conditions causing your hair shedding can get worse unless they are treated in a timely fashion.
While most of them are reversible with treatment when caught from the first signs of hair thinning and balding, left unaddressed, they may become too advanced to resolve with medication alone. If that happens, you are likely to require a hair transplant in order to regain your luxurious locks.
However, should you require hair restoration surgery, you will be happy to know that it is safe and easy to get a natural-looking hair transplant, regardless of whether you opt for a FUE or FUT type procedure. The best hair transplant clinics in the UK have a very high success rate (97-100%) and unlike hair loss medication which you have to keep taking, a hair transplant is permanent, as you can see in our before and after hair transplant gallery.
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