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What is Glycolic Acid?

What is Glycolic Acid?
SkinStore Editors
Writer and expert8 years ago
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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 and the best Glycolic Acid based product for your face

The Best Selling Glycolic Acid Based Skin Care

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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.
  • Glycolic Acid can be used in our daily skincare products, without causing any irritation. This is particularly popular with Glycolic Acid for the face, 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.
  • 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 skincare

Best Selling Glycolic Acid For Face



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 such as SkinMedica. 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.

Who Can Use It?

Glycolic is an acid the encourages exfoliation, which means irritation can sometimes occur.  Although Glycolic acid comes with great skin boosting benefits, it is good for almost any skin type.  Generally people with very sensitive skin types will want to avoid using Glycolic acid as they may find it too irritating.

How Often Should I use it?

This really depends on skin type, age, and level of sensitivity of skin.  Different products can be used in different frequencies.  Generally people want to reduce the amount of Glycolic acid based products used when skin begins to feel sensitive.

How To Use Glycolic Acid

Now that you know how Glycolic Acid works, the next step is to know how Glycolic Acid can work for you. These are my favorite Glycolic Acid based products.  My favorite  Glycolic Acid for the face being theBoots NO.7 Advanced Renewal Glycolic Peel Kitand SkinMedica TNS Recovery Complexwhich cleanses and exfoliates the skin and targets fine lines and wrinkles and reduces the appearance of discoloration to promote a smoother-looking, more even toned complexion.


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    SkinStore Editors
    Writer and expert
    View SkinStore Editors's profile
    Our team of beauty experts cover everything from skincare to makeup, picking out the most effective products from the best brands and latest trends. Stay up to date on everything beauty with the SkinStore blog, and find all your essentials in one place.