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Skin CareSkin Care Ingredient Focus: Glycolic Acid

Skin Care Ingredient Focus: Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is a key ingredient in most skin care products. This natural compound can help remove dead cells and exfoliate, but it might also cause irritation and redness when used on sensitive areas of the face such as around the eyes. The best way to use glycolic acid is with caution by testing out your skin at first before applying consistently over time.,

Glycolic acid is a chemical compound that is found in many skin care products. It is an alpha hydroxy acid, which means it can exfoliate the top layer of skin. Read more in detail here: glycolic acid products.

Skin Care Ingredient Focus: Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is a water-soluble exfoliator that works wonderfully for acne and aged skin. This beauty care component aids in the cleansing and minimization of pores, as well as the smoothing and evening of skin tone. Learn more about glycolic acid, including how it works and why you should use it.

What Is Glycolic Acid and How Does It Work?

Glycolic acid belongs to the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family. This chemical molecule is the smallest of all the AHA molecules and may be found naturally in sugar cane or citrus fruits. Glycolic acid can penetrate deep into the skin for particularly efficient exfoliation due to its tiny size.

Glycolic acid exfoliates by enabling dead skin cells to slough more readily by breaking up the connections that keep them together. It’s not only one of the most common types of AHAs, but it’s also one of the most studied, with practically assured outcomes.

Glycolic Acid’s Skin Care Advantages

Glycolic acid’s main purpose is to exfoliate the skin. Exfoliation using AHAs, on the other hand, enhances the look of skin in the following ways:

Acne Treatment

Acne is caused by an accumulation of dead skin cells and other debris on the skin’s surface, which block pores and trap germs. Glycolic acid cleans pores and prevents sebum and other acne-causing factors from collecting by separating dead skin cells and enabling them to discharge.

Anti-Aging

The natural process of shedding dead skin cells occurs on its own, although it slows as we get older. Glycolic acid stimulates skin cell turnover and speeds up exfoliation, making skin seem younger. Collagen synthesis is stimulated when new cells grow and rise to the surface, giving skin a young and fuller look.

Evening Skin Tone

By exfoliating the outer layer of skin cells that retain the pigment of our sun damage, acne scars, and melasma, glycolic acid evens out skin tone. The tone of the newly disclosed, more young cells is more even.

Smoothing the skin

Glycolic acid improves radiance by exfoliating the skin’s surface and smoothing it. This not only makes skin seem younger and fresher, but it also helps to prepare it for the application of other cosmetics, such as makeup.

Acne treatments and anti-aging creams absorb better after glycolic acid has been applied to the skin. Makeup applies more smoothly, and colors seem more vibrant.

Glycolic Acid in Different Forms in Skin Care

Glycolic acid, the most prevalent AHA on the market, may be found in the following skin care products:

  • Cleansers
  • Toners
  • Creams
  • Masks
  • Peels

Glycolic Acid: When and How to Use It

Glycolic acid, like any new skin care product, should be introduced gradually, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Test on an area of skin other than your face initially, then gradually include the product into your facial skin care regimen.

Active component concentrations in over-the-counter products generally range from 8 to 15%. Peels containing up to 30% glycolic acid may be available from your aesthetician, whereas peels having up to 70% active ingredient may be available from your dermatologist.

Glycolic acid should be kept at no more than 10-15% in cleansers, toners, and other everyday products. Because masks and at-home peels are used less often, greater percentages may be safely tolerated.

The pH of your product is important in addition to the % active component. Lower pH skin care treatments are more acidic and hence more powerful.

Potential Negative Consequences

Glycolic acid has been shown to be safe to use as the most researched AHA. It does, however, make your skin more sun-sensitive. Apply sunscreen in the morning if you’ll be outside, even if you’ll only be utilizing glycolic acid products at night.

Glycolic acid, like other exfoliates, has the ability to strip skin of its natural oils and cause irritation. If this happens to you, try using items with a lesser dose or using them less often.

While some tingling is to be expected when using glycolic acid, a burning sensation, skin that is greying, or skin that flakes immediately after application are all indicators of abuse and may result in lasting damage.

Is Glycolic Acid Good for Every Skin Type?

Glycolic acid is suitable for all skin types and is advised for those who produce a modest amount of oil. This chemical exfoliant should be avoided by those with rosacea or very sensitive skin, as it can cause drying and redness.

If you’re concerned about acne or aging, there’s no reason not to include this versatile, popular component in your skincare regimen. Use as much as you can tolerate, up to twice a day. If you’re not getting the results you want with glycolic acid, it may be time to talk to your dermatologist about prescription-only treatments.


Tatiana Sousa, MD Author Information

Dr. Tatiana Sousa is a board-certified dermatologist who earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Morristown’s College of St. Elizabeth. At the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX, she got her medical degree and completed her internal medicine internship. Dr. Sousa completed her dermatology residency at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was named chief resident in her final year.

Dr. Tatiana Sousa is a board-certified dermatologist who earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Morristown’s College of St. Elizabeth. At the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX, she got her medical degree and completed her internal medicine internship. Dr. Sousa completed her dermatology residency at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was named chief resident in her final year.


Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid that can be found in many skin care products. It has been shown to have some skin-lightening properties and it’s also used as an exfoliant. Glycolic acid side effects include dryness, redness, flaking, and irritation. Reference: glycolic acid side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does glycolic acid do for your skin?

A: Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid thats a chemical exfoliant used in skin care. It gently sloughs away dead cells to reveal brighter, smoother and more even-toned skin

Is glycolic acid bad for your skin?

A: Glycolic acid is a chemical compound which is a derivative of sugar. It can be found in common household ingredients such as glycerin, and its used in many cosmetic products. There are many things that use this substance like tretinoin cream to reduce wrinkles, but the main concern with using these types of products is when you have an increased risk for contact dermatitis or skin irritation.

Is it OK to use glycolic acid everyday?

A: Glycolic acid is a chemical that can be found in many different skincare products like cleansers, serums and toners. Its typically used to exfoliate dead skin cells by helping them slough off more easily. There are some studies out there suggesting the use of glycolic acid on your face could help reduce signs of aging but I would advise you not to rely solely on one study for this information because it doesnt have much scientific background behind it. If you want to try using topical glycolic acid, start with what works best for your specific needs as every body chemistry is different

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