We all remember back to our school days, when science teachers warned us not to put any acid near our skin. So why have acids suddenly become must-have ingredients in skincare routines?
When it comes to Glycolic Acid for skin, it’s really not as scary as it sounds! This naturally occurring ingredient is perfectly safe to use and can deliver seriously great skincare benefits by appearing to shrink pores, decongesting skin, and brightening pigmentation. However, it’s important you know exactly how to use Glycolic Acid to ensure you maximise its benefits without experiencing any adverse effects.
Is Glycolic Acid an AHA?
Glycolic Acid is an AHA, or alpha-hydroxy acid. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting explains, ‘AHAs are fruit acids which can both be manufactured or found naturally. Lactic Acid is found in milk and Glycolic Acid can be sourced from sugar canes. They’re renowned for their exfoliating properties and smoothing out your skin’s texture. Stronger doses can also work at a deeper level to boost collagen production to firm and plump your skin.’
What Does Glycolic Acid Do?
The benefits of Glycolic Acid are endless, as it works deep within the skin rather than just at the surface level. The water-soluble molecules penetrate deep into the pores and break down the glue that holds cells together, providing intensive exfoliation. Exfoliation helps remove damaged and dead skin cells and excess oil while promoting a brightened, renewed complexion. The appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, and acne will be diminished, and pores will become decongested and look smaller.
Glycolic Acid will also clear your skin so that future products and active ingredients can penetrate the skin more effectively. That’s what makes this ingredient a great first step before applying other treatments.
Does Glycolic Acid Thin Skin?
You may have heard the rumours that Glycolic Acid thins your skin over time so isn’t good for regular, long-term use. However, it’s now known that this acid simply removes the uppermost layer of your skin, which consists of nothing more than dead skin cells. Studies suggest Glycolic Acid can even thicken your skin underneath!
What Glycolic Acid Strength to Use?
Glycolic Acid is available in a range of strengths, starting at around 5% and going all the way up to 50%. The high-strength concentrations are typically found in chemical peels performed in salons and dermatology clinics. Your at-home treatments won’t go much higher than 20%.
It can take a little while for your skin to build up a tolerance to alpha-hydroxy acids, as they can cause sensitivity and dryness. If you’re new to Glycolic Acid or have dry skin, we recommend starting with a low concentration, whereas oily skin can normally handle higher concentrations.
What Are the Side Effects of Glycolic Acid?
Glycolic Acid can be drying to your complexion. If you already have dry skin, you’ll want to use low-strength formulas and include them less frequently in your skincare routine. Glycolic Acid can also cause a slight tingling sensation, which is perfectly normal. However, if this feels more like burning, then stop using the product right away and rinse it off!
Another side effect of Glycolic Acid is that it makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays, which can be incredibly damaging. Dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo suggests ‘skipping the glycolic altogether if you’re going to be outside and exposed to the sun for extended periods of time. Alternatively, she said, you could apply your glycolic before bed. However, your skin will still be a little more sensitive to sun the next morning, which means sunscreen is a must.’ source.
Is It Okay to Use Glycolic Acid Everyday?
How often you use Glycolic Acid really depends on your skin type, your tolerance, and your age. If you’re starting afresh with AHAs, we recommend using them just once or twice a week. But as your skin becomes used to the ingredients, you can boost the frequency until you reach nightly use.
You also want to keep in mind the strength you’re using. If you’re using a high-strength Glycolic Acid for mature or problematic skin, you may want to include this in your routine just once a week.
Is Glycolic Acid Pregnancy-Safe?
Unlike lots of other active ingredients, Glycolic Acid skincare during pregnancy is perfectly safe to use.
Is Glycolic Acid Safe for Sensitive Skin?
Glycolic Acid can cause irritation, especially in high-strength formulas. If you have sensitive skin, you can include some low-strength Glycolic Acid treatments in your skincare regimen. But you’ll want to introduce them slowly, using them just once or twice a week. Always follow with a nourishing moisturiser, as AHAs can cause dryness and tightness.
What Does Glycolic Acid Do for Acne?
There are many reasons to use Glycolic Acid for acne. This AHA will help regulate sebum production, remove acne-causing bacteria, and diminish acne scarring. Glycolic Acid works deep within the pores to provide intensive exfoliation, which removes congestion and impurities. This will help stop the spread of acne, keeping skin clear and refreshed. There are plenty of Glycolic Acid creams for acne scars available, which will also help fade dark marks and pigmentation after a breakout.
How to Use Glycolic Acid
Glycolic Acid is available in a variety of formulas, so you can introduce this AHA in the way that works best for your skin. A Glycolic Acid face wash is the perfect way to supercharge your cleansing routine to remove even the most stubborn bacteria. A Glycolic Acid cream is perfect for drier skin types, as it delivers AHA benefits without causing dehydration and tightness.
One of the most commonly found formulas is a Glycolic Acid toner. Applied to freshly cleansed skin, this type of product will penetrate deeply and prepare your complexion for further treatments and makeup application.
Remember to always apply sunscreen directly after or the morning after using Glycolic Acid, as acids make your skin more sensitive to UV damage.