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What is Glycolic Acid?

What is Glycolic Acid?

We love the thrill of getting our hands on beauty products which contain the most talked about ingredients. But what we love more is getting our hands on the products and discovering ourselves that they really really work. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (known as AHA’s, including glycolic, lactic, and citric amongst a few) can’t get raved about enough these days. So today, we set out to uncover what really is so beneficial about the most popular one ingredient of the moment: Glycolic Acid

glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is a naturally occurring substance, that when used in skincare products offers many benefits to the skin, from rejuvenating to moisturizing. In its raw state, glycolic acid is a powder made up of colorless crystals that have no scent. Before we get too into the ‘sciencey’ stuff though, here’s a few of the benefits it delivers:

The Benefits of Glycolic Acid

  • You’ll find Glycolic Acid in many chemical peels due to high percentages being very effective for skin treatments (if done safely and properly!). Its even safe enough to use on sensitive skins.
  • A lower percentage of Glycolic Acid can be used in our daily skincare products, without causing any irritation. This is particularly popular across facial washes and cleansers, bringing along rejuvenating benefits from your first step of your cleansing routine
  • Derived from plants – such as sugar cane, pineapple and sugar beets- its botanical properties help to treat skin conditions such as Psoriasis, Melasma and Seborrheic keratosis
  • Glycolic Acid is the holy grail for exfoliation, effectively removing the outermost layer of dead cells from the complexion, revealing brighter, fresher skin.
  • Products that contain Glycolic Acid are used often to treat scarring, skin discoloration and signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles. If you suffer from dull, pigmented or aging skin, look to invest in a once a week exfoliating treatment or an at-home peel product infused with Glycolic Acid.
  • It can transfer water molecules from the air into the skin tissue, replenishing any lost moisture. This makes it an effective ingredient in moisturizers when used at low strengths.
  • Studies show that Glycolic Acid assists with boosting collagen production, which is brilliant for plumping up the skin. Collagen is a vital structural protein, helping the skin tissue remain firm and resist wrinkling. At low strengths, glycolic acid is the key ingredient to look out for when it comes to shopping anti-aging moisturizers or face masks, ideal for plumping, smoothing and refreshing your complexion:
  • How Does It Work?

    • It reacts with the top layer of skin, breaking it down by dissolving sebum and other substances that bind cells together
    • Made up of small molecules, it is able to penetrate the skin deeply and easily. This makes it most effective for treating fine lines, acne, blackheads, dullness, oiliness and uneven texture.
    • Dead skin cells are sloughed off revealing smoother, brighter, younger looking skin.
    • The products available which feature Glycolic Acid range in percentage of concentration, and also pH levels. A product with pure Glycolic Acid in a lower concentration is much more effective than one which includes it along with other ingredients. However, for daily use, you may want a moisturizer which fuses Glycolic Acid with natural ingredients.


    Things To Consider

    In our opinion – and the majority of skincare fanatics as it seems – Glycolic Acid can do no wrong when it comes to providing exceptional results for ageing, dull, pigmented, wrinkle prone and scarred skin. However, even the most effective and powerful ingredients always come with a few ‘things to consider’, so take a read of these points below before using Glycolic Acid products:

    • Your skin may need to get used to it at first- a percentage that is too high for your skin can cause redness or flaking. Try to start off with a low percentage, and see how your skin adapts.
    • If you do receive any flaking from first use, do not pick! Picking can cause hyper pigmentation and scarring.
    • Use of other products containing Vitamin A, AHA’s or taking Accutane (acne medication) can cause a reaction as the skin is already sensitized. Retinol and AHA can be used together, but it needs to be done carefully.
    • It makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, so its extra important to wear sunscreen when using any AHA products.

    Want to utilizie Glycolic Acid into your skincare regime? Check out our top products packed with this fantastic skin loving ingredient, and let your skin reap the benefits! Your skin can thank us later…



    1. Boots No.7 Advanced Reneweal Anti-Aging Glycolic Peel Kit
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      Boots No.7 Advanced Reneweal Anti-Aging Glycolic Peel Kit

      Take your skin back in time and reveal an instantly younger-looking, radiant you, as this gentle glycolic peel renews and recharges your complexion. After the very first use, 86% of women found their skin felt smoother and 73% said their skin felt more toned. After just 4 applications, 76% said their skin looked clearer and brighter, just like younger looking skin.

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    2. Topix Solvere Acne Clearing Toner Pads
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      Topix Solvere Acne Clearing Toner Pads

      Looking to use Glycolic Acid to treat stubborn acne? Then look no further. These patented and easy-to-use toner pads deliver the ultra pure, exfoliating benefits of Glycolic Acid in combination with the proven results of Salicylic Acid 2%. Formulated with Witch Hazel, Green Tea Extract and Zinc PCA to assist in soothing skin irritation and inflammation. Ideal for oily and acne-prone skin.

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    3. Kerstin Florian Intensive Renewal Glycolic 15
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      Kerstin Florian Intensive Renewal Glycolic 15

      An advanced treatment for your skin, which we advise to use at night on a once-a-week basis. Uncover the natural beauty of your skin with this intensive exfoliating treatment creme based on Glycolic Acid, Vitamin C and botanicals. This formula allows emerging skin to absorb more oxygen and nutrients as it helps to strengthen the skin’s essential support structure.

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    4. MD Formulations Facial Cleanser for Sensitive Skin
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      MD Formulations Facial Cleanser for Sensitive Skin

      Got sensitive skin? No need to miss out – you can still use Glycolic Acid is products made to care for sensitive skin. This gentle, light-lathering cleanser contains exclusive Sensitive Skin Complex, a special combination of soothing plant extracts that allows glycolic acid to exfoliate sensitive skin. Use this cleanser once or twice daily for softer, smoother skin.

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    5. Jan Marini Bioglycolic Cream
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      Jan Marini Bioglycolic Cream

      Jan Marini products never fail to deliver what they promise, and trhis Bioglycolic Cream is no different. For moisturzing and smoothing, this cream has a unique barrier emollient that helps to retain moisture in the stratum corneum. In addition, the benefits of Glycolic Acid have been greatly enhanced by incorporating a unique Phytoamine Biocomplex along with Hyaluronic Acid. This advanced formula will achieve results previously beyond the scope of Glycolic Acid, including brightening, rejuvenating and preventing wrinkles.

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    Emma Campbell

    Emma Campbell

    Beauty Editor

    During the day, I’m a busy Beauty Content Manager, musing over all things beauty and make-up. By evening, I’m a dedicated beauty blogger, experimenting with shiny products and the newest lotions and potions. I trained in make-up artistry just to satisfy my cosmetics addiction. Overly interested in natural and organic beauty, as well as how diet and fitness have an effect on how we look and feel.