Thioglycolic acid (TGA), also called mercaptoacetic acid, is an organic compound used in a wide variety of consumer and industrial applications. TGA and its derivatives are used in the production of hair care products, pharmaceuticals, epoxy resins and bisphenol A, and PVC stabilizers.

Monochloroacetic Acid (MCA) and the Production of Thioglycolic Acid

There are multiple pathways to producing TGA; most of them involve the use of MCA or one of its derivatives. The source and purity of the MCA selected depend upon the application. For example, pharmaceutical and personal care products require the highest, ultrapure grade of MCA. In addition to purity, certain applications may have additional regulatory documentation requirements for their MCA supplier.

Thioglycolic Acid and Hair Care Products

In the early 1930s, David R. Goddard recognized the ability of TGA to break the bonds between strands of proteins; specifically, the S-S (disulfide) bonds in keratin found in hair. The splitting of disulfide bonds allows for the manipulation of hair without destruction. When the S-S bonds are reformed, the hair maintains its new shape. This is the basis of hair perm and straightening products. Thioglycolic acid and its derivatives are also used in hair removal products and shampoos. Cosmetics continues to be the largest single application of thioglycolic acid.

Pharmaceutical Grade Thioglycolic Acid

Government agencies such as the FDA in the United States and EMA in the EU have strict regulations controlling the purity of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and their raw materials/intermediates. These include requiring the qualification of suppliers and materials as well as documentation and regulatory audits.

Thioglycolic acid can be both an API and a raw material to produce APIs and their intermediates. Doctors can use thioglycolic acid as a more effective alternative to cryotherapy in the removal of plantar warts. Thioglycolic acid can be used as a raw material in the production modafinil, an API used in the treatment of narcolepsy and excessive sleepiness. TGA can also be used to manufacture oxathiolane, a key intermediate in the production of HIV medication. Whenever TGA is used as an API or in the manufacture of an API, there needs to be greater coordination and partnership between the TGA producer and their raw material suppliers to ensure compliance.


In 1905, CABB (then-Hoechst and subsequent Clariant legacy businesses) became the first company to produce MCA on a commercial scale. More than a century later, CABB’s experience and knowledge have established us as a market leader for premium quality MCA and its derivatives, essential ingredients for Thioglycolic Acid. For additional information on acetyl products, please contact us today.