What is glycolic acid?
Glycolic acid belongs to the alpha-hydroxy acid family of naturally occurring acids (AHAs). Because of their pore-cleaning qualities, AHAs such as citric acid, lactic acid, and malic acid are frequently utilized in cosmetic and skincare products. Sugarcane, cantaloupe, and blueberries all contain natural glycolic acid. Most skincare products contain glycolic acid, which is synthesized.
How does it benefit your skin?
Glycolic acid has multi-fold benefits when it comes to your skin, and they are as follows:
- Keeps your skin hydrated - Glycolic acid is classified as a humectant because it chemically draws water molecules to itself. This implies glycolic acid is effective at replacing the skin's moisture levels.
- Fights acne - Acne is treated with glycolic acid, which exfoliates dead skin cells that block pores and cause outbreaks. Glycolic acid is keratolytic, which means it may break up dead skin cells on the surface of the skin and open any blocked pores.
- Minimizes fine lines and wrinkles - By exfoliating the top layer of skin, glycolic acid minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This exfoliation speeds up skin cell regeneration, which boosts collagen formation and the skin's natural capacity to retain moisture.
- Improves complexion - Glycolic acid is the holy grail of exfoliation because its tiny molecules penetrate deep beyond the surface of your skin and break down ties between dead skin cells. Glycolic acid exfoliates your skin, making it brighter, smoother, and softer.
- Fades hyperpigmentation - Freckles, melasma, dark spots and age spots can all be faded using glycolic acid. It has also been researched as a possible therapy for acne scars. Hyperpigmentation is the darkest on the top of your skin, with less pigmented skin below. Glycolic acid exfoliates and eliminates dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, revealing a new layer of skin with a more even tone and can efficiently remove hyperpigmentation when used on a regular basis.
- Improves the penetration of other skincare products - Other skincare products can better penetrate the skin's surface and offer you greater results now that all the dead skin has been removed. Glycolic acid, in a nutshell, boosts the effectiveness of your other skincare products.
How does glycolic acid work?
Glycolic acid acts as an exfoliator, eliminating dead skin cells from the surface of the skin and allowing new skin to emerge. It can help you improve your hygiene practice and boost your body's natural cleansing process.
Glycolic acid has been found to enhance the proliferation of keratinocytes, which are part of your skin's outermost layer (epidermis) and function as a protective barrier against the environment when applied to the skin. It also helps to moisturize your skin, which is beneficial if your skin is dry or flaky. Glycolic acid also aids in the reduction of wrinkles and fine lines.
Which skincare products include glycolic acid?
Glycolic acid can be found in a number of skincare items, and you can choose among them based on your skincare needs:
- Cleansers - A glycolic acid face wash is a cleanser that helps to remove pollutants from the skin. Cleansers are available in foam, cream, and liquid forms, as well as glycolic acid pads that may be wiped directly on the face without using water. Cleansers can also work as glycolic acid exfoliators, removing debris and build-up from deeper layers.
- Serums - Glycolic acid serums are normally administered after cleansing the skin and can be left on the skin to absorb with or without a moisturizer.
- Moisturizers and lotions - You can use lotions or creams containing glycolic acid to hydrate the skin after applying a washing or toning treatment.
- Masks and chemical peels - Glycolic acid masks and peels are applied to the skin and kept on for several minutes before being washed away. Mild peels are widely accessible in stores, however medium peels, which remove deeper layers of the skin, are only available in clinics. Some glycolic acid peel advantages include a deeper exfoliation that can persist longer than over-the-counter solutions when done by a skincare specialist.
How do you incorporate glycolic acid into your skincare routine?
To get the most out of glycolic acid, it’s necessary to use it properly as a part of your skincare regime:
- Use it at night only - Glycolic acid products should only be used at night since, like all other AHAs, it makes your skin more vulnerable to UV radiation. To preserve your newly exfoliated infant skin, apply during your evening ritual and use sunscreen in the morning.
- Apply to your entire face - Glycolic acid is most effective when applied to the entire face, avoiding the eyes, lips, and mouth areas. Because glycolic acid removes dead skin cells, it may be used to exfoliate the whole face.
- Keep the product quantity less - For your entire face, apply a pea-sized quantity or less because excessive irritation can result when using too much of it.
- When using it as an exfoliant - Exfoliate only once or twice a week, not every day as too much of it can cause irritation, breakouts, dryness, and even premature ageing.
Glycolic acid essentials to boost product efficacy
Glycolic acid is a powerful ingredient, but there are a few things to keep in mind so you can make the most of it:
- Be consistent - Because results may not appear immediately, consistency is essential. It may take 4-6 weeks of continuous glycolic acid exfoliation or chemical peels to notice results. If you don't notice results after 4 to 6 sessions, you can try switching to a different glycolic acid product or another AHA, like lactic acid.
- It’s normal to face some tingling - When using glycolic acid topically, tingling or a mild burning sensation in the skin is typical, and it normally goes away within a few minutes. This isn't a measure of how effective it is, though, and more tingling doesn't necessarily mean better results. Don't worry if you feel a little uncomfortable, but if your face feels like it's on fire, rinse it off.
- For a gentle effect, use it in cleansers - If you're using a glycolic acid cleanser, only apply it at night. Even if you rinse it off, glycolic acid is still an ingredient that makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, so we don't advocate using a glycolic acid cleanser in the morning and then spending the rest of the day in the sun. In a cleanser, glycolic acid is mild and not as effective. When you wash it off right away, the advantages can be minimal, but this also means that the irritation is less.
- Use it in serums for a better effect - Only use a glycolic acid cream, gel, or serum at night if you're using one. Use treatments that are specialized for nighttime absorption. Glycolic acid serums, toners, creams and gels are more potent than the ones you rinse off immediately, but they also make your skin more photosensitive. So, make sure to apply sunscreen first thing in the morning.
- Use sunscreen - Because glycolic acid removes dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, it displays newly exfoliated skin, which is more vulnerable to UV radiation. Always apply sunscreen in the morning and only use these products at night. Follow up with a moisturizing serum and moisturizer.
What are the probable side effects to watch out for?
It’s possible that you notice the following side effects when using glycolic acid:
- Redness or irritation coupled with a tingling sensation
- Your skin may appear dry and itchy and can flake or peel at places
- You can sometimes notice hyperpigmentation arising from inflammation
- Purging acne is a possibility within the first few weeks of usage
When should you start using glycolic acid?
As they begin to encounter the unusual mix of acne and wrinkles, women in their 30s show an increased interest in utilizing glycolic acid solutions. Adults can take glycolic acid any time; however, as your skin matures and changes, you may wish to experiment with different formulations.
Start with modest doses of glycolic acid (10% or less) if you're starting a new skincare routine and work your way up as needed. If you have any concerns regarding the effects of glycolic acid, see your doctor.