Women's Concepts Logo
Skincare FAQ

Your Guide for Gluconolactone in Skincare: A Gentle Exfoliating Acid for Sensitive Skin

The science behind the benefits of gluconolactone for skin.

Another hard-to-pronounce ingredient pops up in more and more skincare products, and for a good reason. Enter: gluconolactone. Even if it doesn’t sound like it, gluconolactone is an acid, more precisely a polyhydroxy acid (PHA). Their chemical structure and effects are similar to the ones of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), which most likely you’re familiar with, just that PHAs are gentler. Great news for those who want delicate exfoliation. So what is gluconolactone, how does it benefit the skin, and who should use it? If you’ve been pondering these questions, this article is for you. Keep reading to learn everything about gluconolactone in skincare.

What is gluconolactone?

Gluconolactone is a polyhydroxy acid made by removing water from gluconic acid. When gluconic acid loses a water molecule from its structure, gluconolactone is formed. On the same principle, when gluconolactone is added to water, it converts into gluconic acid. They’re interconnected, have similar benefits, and in skincare, you can see both forms, gluconolactone and gluconic acid.[1]

Naturally, gluconolactone is found in honey, wine, fruit juices, and fermented products, while for skincare formulations, gluconolactone is mostly lab-made. 

What are gluconolactone benefits for skin?

Due to its mild exfoliating power and moisturizing and protecting properties, gluconolactone is touted as a gentle yet potent alternative to other harsh exfoliants such as glycolic acid. Below we explain the role of gluconolactone in skincare and how it can improve your skin.

Gently exfoliates the skin

Gluconolactone is a game-changed ingredient for dull, rough skin as it gently exfoliates to slough off the buildup of dead cells. This is how it makes your complexion more radiant, firmer, and bouncier. Thanks to its large molecular weight, gluconolactone doesn’t penetrate the skin as much, acting more on the surface. And this is what makes it suitable even for sensitive skin, so feel free to add it to your skincare routine if you have a hard time tolerating AHAs. 

Boosts antioxidant protection

Lesser known is the fact that gluconolactone has antioxidant benefits, being a potent free radicals scavenger, helping prevent premature skin aging. Even though it’s not the most powerful antioxidant out there, gluconolactone still hunts for free radicals thanks to its chelating properties (aka it reacts with metal ions to form a stable, water-soluble complex). 

For this reason, gluconolactone is widely added to skincare products to boost the preservative system’s performance. Yep, gluconolactone can be added to our skincare products either as an active ingredient to benefit the skin or an additive to help improve products’ formula.

Defends the skin against UV damage

The benefits of gluconolactone for the skin don’t stop here. It comes out that gluconolactone, due to its chelating properties, is able to provide up to 50% protection against UV radiation.[2] This makes it a great addition to your routine if you want to dodge photoaging.


In addition to its mild exfoliating properties, gluconolactone is hailed as a potent moisturizing agent. Since the molecules that form gluconolactone are attracted to water, the thirsty molecules pull moisture from the environment into the skin when topically applied. Yep, this makes gluconolactone act as a humectant, softening while helping prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL). This in turn also consolidates the protective barrier, therefore increasing the skin’s resistance to other chemical ingredients.

Evens skin tone

If you’re dealing with skin discoloration, gluconolactone could be the missing piece of your routine. Studies point out that gluconolactone can slightly brighten the skin and fade hyperpigmentation by removing the pigmented cells from the surface and providing antioxidants benefits.

Minimizes fine lines and wrinkles look

By promoting cell turnover and offsetting environmental damage, gluconolactone may help prevent and diminish the appearance of aging signs like fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.

Reduces acne

Gluconolactone also does a great job at reducing acne when used in combination with retinoic acid without side effects or irritations.[3]

Who can use gluconolactone?

All skin types can use gluconolactone, especially those with easily reactive skin that can’t tolerate AHAs. Because, in a way, this is what gluconolactone is, a kind alternative to AHAs. Whenever you want to gently exfoliate your skin, gluconolactone is your ally. It acts as a delicate exfoliator on the skin’s surface, loosening the buildup of dead cells, softening, smoothening, and brightening the skin. And all without irritation.

The takeaway

Mild exfoliation, hydration, antioxidant protection, non-irritant — gluconolactone gives all that. So, if you want to gently speed up cell turnover for smoother, softener skin and better makeup application, look for gluconolactone. You can find gluconolactone in products like Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength 10% PHA Exfoliating Liquid and Perricone MD No-Rinse Exfoliating Peel — they make the perfect addition to your skincare routine if you plan to even skin tone, boost radiance, reduce agings signs and maintain a youthful appearance.

  1. Showing metabocard for Gluconolactone, Human Metabolome Database
  2. Bernstein EF, Brown DB, Schwartz MD, Kaidbey K, Ksenzenko SM. 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. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4725.2004.30060.x. PMID: 14756648.
  3. Grimes PE, Green BA, Wildnauer RH, Edison BL. The use of polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) in photoaged skin. Cutis. 2004 Feb;73(2 Suppl):3-13. PMID: 15002656.
Read more
That's too bad. Thank you for your feedback!
Women's Concepts Logo
Join Us