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Are you looking for an effective skincare ingredient that can work wonders for your skin’s texture and tone? Glycolic acid may just be the solution you’ve been looking for.
Glycolic acid is a well-known chemical exfoliator that improves the overall appearance of your skin by eliminating dead skin cells and promoting the growth of new ones.
So, exactly, what does glycolic acid do for the skin? It breaks down the bonds between skin cells, encouraging cell turnover. This results in an impressive reduction in acne, acne scars, hyperpigmentation, and signs of aging.
In this article, we will dive deep into the research to further explore the benefits of glycolic acid for the skin.
We will also explore the best practices for incorporating glycolic acid into your skincare routine for healthier and happier skin.
What Is Glycolic Acid?
Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane. It is one of the most commonly used acids in skin care products due to its ability to exfoliate and improve skin texture.
Glycolic acid is water-soluble and the smallest molecule in the AHA family. Even though its hydrophilic nature does not allow it to penetrate deep into the sebum glands, it is still able to penetrate deeper than the others, making it the most potent.
Glycolic acid has an acidic pH of 3-4 in most OTC products. The lower the pH and the higher the concentration, the more potent is the glycolic acid solution.
Generally, products with a glycolic concentration of 5-10% are safe for daily use, while peels containing 20-30% glycolic acid should be used no more than once or twice a week. Chemical peels used by dermatologists can have even higher concentrations.
|5-10%||Mild exfoliants, daily use|
|15-20%||At-home peels, weekly use|
|30-50%||Professional peels, salon use|
What Does Glycolic Acid Do
To better understand the nature of glycolic acid, we will uncover its all-around properties. Let’s explore how it works on the skin to provide its numerous benefits.
To appreciate how glycolic acid works, it’s crucial to understand your skin’s natural process of shedding dead cells. This process, called desquamation, involves the removal of old cells to make way for fresh, new ones.
This cycle typically takes around 28 days. However, as you age or due to external factors such as sun exposure, your skin’s rate of desquamation can slow down. That’s where glycolic acid steps in to assist.
The small molecular size of glycolic acid enables it to penetrate the upper layer of the epidermis and dissolve the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together.
One study has shown that applying a 4% glycolic acid formulation twice daily for three weeks didn’t cause any damage to the deeper layers of the skin or the structures responsible for retaining moisture.
Therefore, glycolic acid in low concentrations does not compromise the skin’s protective barrier nor cause unwanted transepidermal water loss.
2. Anti-inflammatory And Antioxidant
According to this review on the dermatologic applications of glycolic acid, glycolic acid peels have valuable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making them beneficial for managing inflammatory conditions like acne.
3. Stimulates Collagen And Hyaluronic Acid
One study suggested that the twice-daily application of 20% glycolic acid (on the forearm) resulted in increased epidermal thickness, collagen, and hyaluronic acid production.
Glycolic acid stimulates collagen production in two main ways. Firstly, it helps eliminate dead skin cells, allowing other beneficial skincare products to be absorbed more effectively. These products can then contribute to collagen growth.
Also, glycolic acid stimulates cell renewal in the skin by encouraging the shedding of dead skin cells. During this process, collagen production is triggered, leading to firmer and more youthful-looking skin.
One study has proved that glycolic acid is effective against acne-causing bacteria. The secret is in the pH level of the formulation, with the highest potency at pH 3.5.
Benefits Of Glycolic Acid For The Skin
Learning the main ways glycolic acid works on the skin is in the books. The next step is to answer the question, “What does glycolic acid do for the skin?”. To do that, we will stick our heads in the pile of evidence supporting its impressive skin benefits.
1. Glycolic Acid Reduces Acne and Acne Scars
Glycolic acid is known for its effectiveness in reducing acne and acne scars.
Firstly, it helps unclog pores and regulates sebum production, which plays a crucial role in preventing the formation of acne. Also, as mentioned above, it can inhibit the growth of acne-causing bacteria.
Secondly, by promoting collagen production, it aids in filling and smoothing depressed acne scars, leading to a more even skin texture.
Moreover, its exfoliating properties gently remove dead skin cells, minimizing the appearance of raised scars by softening their edges.
Glycolic acid peels have shown rapid improvement in all acne forms, and they can be well-tolerated with excellent patient compliance.
2. Glycolic Acid Corrects Hyperpigmentation
Glycolic acid is a powerful tool in correcting hyperpigmentation concerns. By speeding up cell turnover, glycolic acid actively diminishes the appearance of dark spots, melasma, and uneven skin tone, leaving you with a brighter complexion.
This rapid renewal process pushes fresh, healthy skin cells to the surface, accelerating the fading of hyperpigmentation and giving your skin a more even and radiant tone.
Glycolic acid peels have also been increasingly used in the treatment of hyperpigmentation in dark-skinned individuals with a low risk of hyperpigmentation.
3. Glycolic Acid Reverses The Signs Of Aging
Glycolic acid’s ability to stimulate collagen production makes it an effective ally in the fight against aging.
The vital role collagen plays in maintaining skin firmness and elasticity makes glycolic acid’s ability to boost collagen levels particularly effective in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Also, accelerated cell turnover and skin shedding, aided by glycolic acid, lead to a smoother texture. This further contributes to minimizing fine lines, offering a more youthful appearance.
4. Glycolic Acid Pairs Well With Others Actives
Glycolic acid’s versatility makes it even more valuable. When combined with other skincare products, it enhances their absorption and overall effectiveness.
This property makes glycolic acid an excellent addition to a comprehensive skincare routine, maximizing the benefits of other active ingredients and leading to better overall results.
Find out about the powerful glycolic acid and salicylic acid combo right here.
How To Use Glycolic Acid
Tips For General Application
Step 1: Choose the Right Product
First things first, find a reliable glycolic acid product. Look for a serum or toner with a concentration of 5-10% for beginners. If you’re already familiar with glycolic acid, you can go for higher concentrations, like 10-20%.
Always do a patch test on a small area of your skin to check for any adverse reactions before applying it to your whole face.
Step 2: Prep Your Skin
Cleanse your face with a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser, and pat your skin dry. Make sure your face is squeaky clean and free from any makeup, dirt, or oils.
Step 3: Apply the Glycolic Acid
Now it’s time to apply the magic! Take a small amount of the glycolic acid product onto a cotton pad or your clean fingers (whichever you prefer).
Gently apply it to your face, focusing on problem areas like hyperpigmentation, fine lines, or acne scars. Avoid the delicate eye area and any open wounds.
Step 4: Moisturize and Sunscreen
Glycolic acid can be mildly drying, so be sure to follow up with a moisturizer suited for your skin type. This will help maintain your skin’s hydration balance.
Additionally, and this is crucial, ALWAYS apply sunscreen during the day. Glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so SPF protection is non-negotiable.
Tips For Safer And More Effective Treatment
1. Patch Test First
Before going all-in, do a quick patch test on a tiny area of skin to make sure your skin doesn’t throw a hissy fit.
2. Start Low; Take It Slow
Begin with a lower concentration of glycolic acid and gradually increase it as your skin becomes buddies with it. Slow and steady wins the race!
3. Sunscreen Shield
Your new best friend! Slather on that SPF like nobody’s business because glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.
4. One Active at a Time
Be careful when using other superhero skin care activities. Mixing too many can lead to irritation. Play it safe and use them at different times or on different days.
5. Listen to Your Skin
Your skin knows what’s best for it! If it’s feeling irritated or cranky, give it a break from glycolic acid for a few days.
6. Stay Committed
Stick to your glycolic acid routine like a champ! Consistency is key to getting that radiant, glowy skin.
7. Be Patient
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your flawless skin. Give it a few weeks to see the fabulous results. You got this!
Potential Side Effects Of Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid boasts undeniable benefits for the skin. However, it is important to consider potential side-effects you should look out for when using this active.
- Skin Irritation: Although Glycolic Acid is generally considered safe for most skin types, some people may experience mild skin irritation, such as redness and itching. If you experience any discomfort while using Glycolic Acid, stop use immediately and speak with your dermatologist.
- Sun Sensitivity: Using Glycolic Acid can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Therefore, it’s important to always wear sunscreen when using this product and avoid prolonged sun exposure during the day.
- Dryness: As an AHA, Glycolic Acid can cause dryness in some people if used too frequently or without proper hydration afterward. Make sure to use a moisturizer after applying this product and limit usage to once or twice a week if necessary.
- Burning Sensation: Some people may experience a burning sensation after applying Glycolic Acid products; if this happens, it’s best to discontinue use and consult your dermatologist for further advice.
Conclusion: What Does Glycolic Acid Do For The Skin
In a nutshell, what does glycolic acid do? It’s an absolute game-changer for your skin!
From reducing acne and acne scars to correcting hyperpigmentation and reversing signs of aging, glycolic acid is a superhero skincare ingredient.
So, go ahead, embrace the magic of glycolic acid, and unlock the true potential of your skin. With this powerhouse on your side, you’re on your way to achieving healthier, happier skin.
Frequently Asked Questions