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Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is a naturally occurring substance that offers many benefits to the skin when used in skin care formulations. In its raw state, glycolic acid is a powder made up of colorless crystals that have no discernible odor.

When used in the preparation of skin care products, glycolic acid is usually produced in a laboratory by combining the chemicals chloroacetic acid and sodium hydroxide. The acid can also be extracted from plants that contain it, including sugarcane, pineapple and sugar beets. Glycolic acid is considered an alpha hydroxy acid or AHA. This group of organic compounds consists of acids derived from plants that have similar chemical structures.

The first use of alpha hydroxy acids for skin care occurred in clinical settings during the 1970s when the substances were tested to determine if they were beneficial for the treatment of psoriasis. This common skin condition is marked by plaques that form on the skin due to a buildup of cells. The early clinical tests showed that AHAs, including glycolic acid, were capable of removing some of the excess cells, resulting in a thinning of the plaques and a reduction of symptoms for psoriasis sufferers.

After years of clinical testing and the use of glycolic acid in strictly natural skin care treatment formulations, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved AHAs for inclusion in commercially produced skin care and beauty products in the 1990s. Since that time, AHAs have become incredibly popular as ingredients in many different types of skin care formulations. In fact, more than 200 companies in the United States alone produce products that use glycolic acid as an active ingredient.

One of the primary uses of glycolic acid is in products designed for skin exfoliation.

One of the primary uses of glycolic acid is in products designed for skin exfoliation, a term that refers to removing the outermost layer of dead cells from the complexion. Glycolic acid and other AHAs have the ability to destroy the bonds that hold protein molecules together. Since the skin tissue is mostly made of protein, glycolic acid is effective at eliminating patches of dry or discolored tissue from the skin. The ingredient is found in many over-the-counter formulations that usually contain the acid at 10 to 20 percent strength. Exfoliating products that feature glycolic acid come in many forms, including masks, pre-moistened cotton pads, lotions, creams and serums.

Glycolic acid is also used in clinical settings at strengths of 20 to 70 percent in chemical peels. These treatments remove either the epidermis (the outer layer of skin tissue) or the epidermis and part of the dermis (the middle layer of skin tissue). Chemical peels that contain glycolic acid are used to treat scarring, skin discoloration and signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.

In addition to its exfoliative properties, glycolic acid is also a hydroscopic molecule. This means that it attracts moisture from the environment. When used in skin care products, glycolic acid can transfer water molecules from the air into the skin tissue to replenish lost moisture, making it an effective ingredient in moisturizers when used at low strengths.

Studies show that the actions of glycolic acid also assist with boosting collagen production.

Studies show that the actions of glycolic acid also assist with boosting collagen production. Collagen is a vital structural protein, which helps the skin tissue remain firm and resist wrinkling. At low strengths, glycolic acid can be used as an ingredient in anti-aging skin care products that are meant to slow down the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

As a treatment for skin care disorders, glycolic acid is still sometimes recommended for patients suffering from psoriasis. It is also used to treat the hormone-related discoloration of the face known as melasma. Since glycolic acid has the potential to cause side effects for developing and breastfeeding babies, women who suffer from melasma during pregnancy are advised to not begin treatment with the ingredient until after delivery and the end of nursing. Glycolic acid is also prescribed for eliminating skin lesions like those seen with actinic keratosis and seborrheic keratosis.

Glycolic acid is listed as "Generally Regarded as Safe" by the FDA; however, some people develop irritation from the ingredient. The most common side effects of glycolic acid are redness and minor swelling. For people who develop irritation from glycolic acid, switching to a product of a lower strength will sometimes eliminate the symptoms. Others must avoid the use of glycolic acid entirely.

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Glycolic Acid Products

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Extraordinary resurfacing treatment formulated to reveal youthfully radiant skin overnight.
$35.00
2 oz | PN068
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Unique formula allows your feet to exfoliate naturally, leaving them smooth and baby soft.
$25.00
1 ct | FJ001
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A high power treatment designed to minimize wrinkles, pores and surface imperfections.
$125.00
2 oz | NV237
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Adult Anti-Acne System is a clinically proven three-step regimen to reduce sebum and improve fine lines.
$130.00 $164.00 value
SK103
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Brighten, lighten and even your complexion by revealing a new glow in just 10 minutes.
$39.00
2.5 oz | CP173
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Rejuvenate your hands with this lightweight, quick-absorbing cream featuring Glycolic Acid.
$25.00
2.65 oz | MR220
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An intensive, non-abrasive exfoliating cleansing gel to balance oil production and improve skin texture.
$36.00
5 oz | RD140
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Transform your shower into a detoxifying ritual with this rich, luxurious White Clay cleanser.
$26.00
6.75 oz | MR218
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Uniquely textured wipes resurface and smooth skin in one step.
$18.00
30 ct | AN145
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Limited-edition microcurrent device to lift and tone your face. Gift set includes free Lifter Serum and Black Cosmetic Bag.
$325.00 $390.00 value
1 ct | NF033
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These convenient pre-saturated cleansing wipes instantly purify and resurface the skin for a healthier appearance.
$51.60
50 ct | DV056
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A weightless gel lotion for smoothing the skin and boosting radiance.
$43.20
4oz | DV059
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A weightless gel lotion for smoothing the skin and boosting radiance.
$38.40
4oz | DV058
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Lightens discoloration and provides a more even skin tone.
$31.20
1oz | DV057
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Gently exfoliates, accelerating surface skin cell turnover, while hydrating and protecting skin.
$69.00
2oz | OB100
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This non-foaming Glycolic Facial Cleanser from Anthony skincare contains just the right amount of Glycolic Acid.
$70.00 $100.00 value
32 oz | AN143
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Powerful treatment with a unique blend of physical, chemical and enzyme rejuvenators.
$72.00
2.6oz | EX121
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Helps improve the appearance of dimpled "orange peel" skin for a smooth, sleek look.
$70.30
6 oz | SM105
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An intensive anti-aging lotion that refines the skin.
$48.00
8oz | DV065
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Extreme re-texturizing peel for the face, neck and décolleté.
$46.50
2oz | FL039
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Effaclar Clarifying Solution gently exfoliates to clear clogged pores and smooth skin texture.
$15.00
6.76 oz | LP116
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A lightweight lotion for smoother, brighter, younger-looking skin.
$24.00
4oz | DV060
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Helps to exfoliate dead skin cells and unclogs pores.
$24.00
4oz | DV054
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A mild potency Glycolic Acid cream gives skin a fresher, smoother, younger-looking appearance.
$41.40
2.5oz | DV063
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Instantly firms and tightens the delicate skin around the eyes.
$68.00
0.5oz | DG172
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The only flexible clay mask that helps correct all six visible signs of aging.
$50.00
2.3oz | BS252
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This duo helps improve the appearance and condition of oily, acneic skin.
$38.95 $41.00 value
TPPK02
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Instantly improves clarity and enhances radiance for a luminous, youthful glow.
$89.00
1 ct | BR119
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A lightweight lotion for smoothing the skin and boosting radiance.
$30.00
4 oz | DV061
No Longer Available
Gives skin a fresher, smoother, younger-looking appearance.
$36.00
2.5 oz | DV062
No Longer Available
A smoothing, illuminating Glycolic Acid cream gives skin a fresher, smoother, younger-looking appearance.
$46.80
2.5 oz | DV064
No Longer Available
Features clinically proven non-stop skin renewal technology to give skin an all-day glow.
$47.00
2oz | PY1239
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Rapidly clear and soothe the discomfort of bothersome blemishes.
$19.00
0.5oz | PY1243
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These paraben-free anti-aging peel pads with 2% salicylic acid treat existing blackheads and blemishes.
$48.00
60 ct | JU114
No Longer Available
Limited-edition value set includes a full size Lifter Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Serum S3.
$199.00 $283.00 value
1 ct | NF035
No Longer Available
A refining duo of exfoliation pads and recovery cream that helps ease redness and irritation and restores skin.
$63.60 $73.20 value
DV050
No Longer Available
A one step, at home treatment that delivers professional level exfoliating and tightening.
$78.00
60 ct | GH009
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A nemesis of breakouts, these clarifying pads help remove impurities and excess oil from your skin.
$32.00
50 ct | DQ072
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Multi-benefit serum combats skin eruptions, unclogs and refines pores.
$75.00
1oz | KU006
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This cleanser has ultra-pure Glycolic Acid to promote smoother, more refined skin.
$39.00
6 oz | DD233
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Keep sign of aging at bay with this creamy Glycolic Acid based cleanser.
$33.00
6oz | DQ067
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This night cream delivers powerful antioxidant protection and anti-aging benefits.
$90.00
1 oz | GT063
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An incredibly rich, fast absorbing exfoliating lotion that reveals younger, refreshed-looking skin.
$48.00
6.7 oz | GH010
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Self-tanning body moisturizer for subtle, streak-free radiance.
$38.00
5 oz | DG168
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3-in-1 micro-polish to refine, brighten and renew the appearance of skin.
$56.00
2.5oz | RD115
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A fruit acid gel with no abrasive particles specially formulated to exfoliate mature skin.
$63.00
1.5oz | DC251
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This exfoliating cleanser sloughs off the top layer of skin using eco-friendly micro-beads and a glycolic compound.
$47.50
6 oz | SM102
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This daytime exfoliating moisturizer helps to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
$46.00
1.4oz | NS073
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