Gluconolactone description

Gluconolactone is a type of polyhydroxy acid, or PHA. PHAs are supposed to be as effective as AHAs, but less sensitising. Gluconolactone is chemically and functionally similar to AHAs (such as glycolic acid). The significant difference between it and AHAs is that gluconolactone has a larger molecular structure, which limits its ability to penetrate the skin, resulting in less potential for sensitising side-effects. Supposedly, this reduced absorption into the skin does not hamper their effectiveness. Does that mean gluconolactone is better for your skin than AHAs in the form of glycolic acid or lactic acid? According to an Internet-published class lecture by Dr. Mark G. Rubin, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, research on gluconolactone demonstrated only a “6% decrease in dermal penetration” in comparison to glycolic acid, which “isn’t a dramatic improvement.” Gluconolactone may be slightly less sensitising for some skin types, but this isn’t the magic bullet for exfoliation some cosmetics companies have been extolling. Polyhydroxy acids can also function as antioxidants and may promote some amount of improvement in skin’s surface strength.

Gluconolactone references

  • Clinics in Dermatology, September-October 2009, pages 495-501
  • Cutis, February 2004, Supplement, pages 3-13

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not Rated