Glycolic acid is an acid that is classified under the fruit acids or alpha hydroxy acids, which is more familiarly known as AHA. In fact, glycolic acid is the most recognizable member of this acid family. This acid is usually produced from sugar cane, which allows it to be classified as a natural product. Other acids that can be considered as glycolic acids is citric acid, which is found in various citrus fruits.
There are many industrial uses for glycolic acid. For example, it is employed in removing rust and degreasing machine parts. These uses indicate how dangerous glycolic acid can be. In fact, pure glycolic acid, which is at 70 percent concentration or higher, can be dangerous when skin comes in contact with it. The government has even mandated that concentrations of glycolic acid that is higher than ten percent is considered a hazardous material.
But most people are more familiar with glycolic acid not as an industrial agent but as a cosmetic ingredient. It is usually used as a skin exfoliant and moisturizer. But even if it is used on the body, there are is some controversy on whether glycolic acid is safe and effective for cosmetic purposes. There are some people who say that glycolic acid with a concentration of less than ten percent is going to be useless. But cosmetic manufacturers do not want to increase the concentration of glycolic acid on their products because they are afraid that it could result in liabilities and class action lawsuits. But there are some small cosmetics manufacturers that do manufacture and sell cosmetic products that have at the minimum a ten percent concentration of glycolic acid.