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Science Saturday: Gluconic Acid!

Earlier this week, we dove into the awesomeness of honey (and if you missed it, you can read it HERE), which contains our chemical of the week- Gluconic Acid.

How could we talk about honey, without talking about gluconic acid?! Photo by Pixabay on

Before you start panicking, we’re not talking battery acid. Acids come in all shapes and sizes, from dangerous and corrosive acids that should never be put on the skin, to skin-loving hydroxy acids, and tasty citric acid (it makes your lemonade sour!). In fact, gluconic acid is a type of polyhydroxy acid (or PHA as the skincare industry calls them)!1

Hydroxy acids are a name for a much wider group of skin-loving acids, including alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), polyhydroxy acids (PHA) and bionic acid (which sounds like something out of a sci-fi game…).1 What unifies all of these acids is their molecular structure- they all contain at least one hydroxyl group!2 Don’t worry- we won’t swamp you with the chemistry- the most important things is just to know that they’re all in the same family tree!

That doesn’t mean that they all have the same behaviors. While AHAs tend to get the limelight for being able to penetrate deep into skin layers, making them highly effective in skin peels, they also can cause tenderness, redness, and irritation in more sensitive skin!3 And that is where our friend, gluconic acid, comes into play!

Unlike the more potentially irritating alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) that most people are familiar with, gluconic acid is a member of a much gentler family of acids.3 It’s main action is as a frictionless exfoliator- it helps to loosen the top layer of dead skin so that it can be gently washed away. This helps to keep skin smoother, brighter and softer!3

Acids help to remove the top layer of dead skin… but different skin types need different acids! Photo by Ricardo Garcia on

With the rise in popularity in adding acids to skincare regimes, gluconic acid is a special boone for those with sensitive skin. Recently, studies have been focusing on the efficacy of gluconic acid relative to it’s AHA cousin, glycolic acid, and the results a pretty spectacular!

A study in 2004 found that gluconic acid, and PHAs in general, offered almost the same anti-aging effects as AHAs, without the irritation or excessive peeling.4 Plus an article from 2015 gave evidence that not only is gluconic acid an awesome anti-aging and antioxidant rich addition to skincare, it also helps to soothe skin irritation, making it safe an effective for skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and rosacea!5,6

Finally, while AHAs can lead to increased skin sensitivity and risk of sunburn, a study from 2004 showed that not only does gluconic acid not sensitize the skin, it can actually help to reduce sun damage to the skin!7

Current research shows that gluconic acid and the rest of the PHA family are not only super awesome for skin, but also gentle enough for more sensitive and damaged skin types! While that doesn’t necessarily mean you should start slathering honey on your face and calling it sunblock (guys, honey is not an SPF sunblock), adding honey or derived gluconic acid products to your skincare line up can help keep your skin smoother, softer and over all happier!

Behold, our sources!

  1. Kornhauser A, Coelho SG, Hearing VJ. Applications of hydroxy acids: classification, mechanisms, and photoactivity. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2010; 3: 135–142. (Online) Available from: (Accessed February 12, 2019)

  2. AccessScience Editors. (2017). Hydroxy acids in skin care products. In AccessScience. McGraw-Hill Education. (Online) Available from: (Accessed Febrary 12, 2019)

  3. Grimes PE, Green BA, Wildnauer RH, et al. The use of polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) in photoaged skin. Cutis. 2004 Feb;73(2 Suppl):3-13.

  4. Edison BL, Green BA, Wildnauer RH, et al. A polyhydroxy acid skin care regimen provides antiaging effects comparable to an alpha-hydroxyacid regimen. Cutis. 2004 Feb;73(2 Suppl):14-7.

  5. Green BA, Briden ME. PHAs and Bionic Acids: Next Generation Hydroxy Acids. (Online) Available at: (Accessed February 12, 2019)

  6. Green BA, Yu RJ, Van Scott EJ. Clinical and cosmeceutical uses of hydroxyacids. Clin Dermatol. 2009 Sep-Oct;27(5):495-501.

  7. Bernstein EF, Brown DB, Schwartz MD, et al. The polyhydroxy acid gluconolactone protects against ultraviolet radiation in an in vitro model of cutaneous photoaging. Dermatol Surg. 2004 Feb;30(2 Pt 1):189-95; discussion 196.

#learn #honey #antioxidant #skincare #info #ha #science #gluconicacid #humectant #aha #hydratng #skinpeel #moisturize #glycolicacid #dermatology #pha #antiaging #allabout

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