Have you ever used Glycolic acid? The name ‘acid’ can be off putting if you have not yet tried this powerhouse product. It is one of the most bespoke of ingredients in the beauty industry. Glycolic Acid is recommended by professionals to solve a variety of dermatological maladies. Read on to find out exactly what Glycolic Acid is, the benefits and how to use it…
First, you must understand a bit more about the skin to fully comprehend the function of glycolic acid. Your skin in naturally acidic due to the acids in your sweat and fatty acids in your sebum(oil found in your skin). The top 10-20 layers of your skin is dead, as your body produces a new layer of skin your upper layer of skin “desquamates” (dies and peels off) to keep your skin in equilibrium. When your skin doesn’t desquamate properly, you end up with dull, flaky, rough skin. This can be influenced by factors such as weather, age and dehydration.
What is Glycolic Acid?
Glycolic Acid is part of a group of active compounds – alpha hydroxy acids, otherwise known as AHA’s. AHA’s are derived from cane sugar, making Glycolic Acid a naturally occurring substance. It has the smallest molecules in the group of AHA’s, making it able to penetrate the skin deeply and easily, but it can also therefore be more irritating. It penetrates the skin to remove dead skin cells that we produce constantly. Glycolic Acid is the most effective AHA for treating fine lines, acne, blackheads, dullness, uneven skin tone and oiliness. Additionally, it has been proven to increase collagen and increase new fresh and healthy skin cells. Overall, it leaves you with more smooth, clear, glowing skin…when used properly!
Using Glycolic Acid
The most effective way to incorporate Glycolic Acid into your skincare routine is through slow introduction. Products which contain AHA’s vary in percentage of concentration levels, and those containing pure Glycolic Acid will be more effective than those that use a lot of other ingredients in addition to GA. Start with a GA that is 10% or lower and a pH balance of 3-4. You can try using Glycolic Acid exfoliating pads or cleanser as part of your routine. As your skin gets accustomed to GA, you can increase in frequency and strength. Higher strength Glycolic acids are often used in medical offices for more intense peeling treatments . Retinol and AHA treatments can be used together for synergistic effect. This should be done carefully, under the advice of a dermatologist.
Side bonus point, Glycolic acid is safe to use during pregnancy!! Many pregnant women experience worsening of their acne and are unfortunately unable to use many acne treating topicals. Glycolic Acid can be a real life saver for that hormone induced acne.
Possible side effects
As discussed before, GA can be irritating. The best way to combat that is to introduce it to your skin slowly. (i.e. every third night, short contact with skin and lower strength concentrations).
During treatment, the skin becomes much more sensitive to the sun, so it is key that you wear sunscreen when using any kind of AHA to avoid burning. This is true at all times when it comes to great skincare – it is important to provide protection to the skin, to avoid premature aging caused by sun damage.
Glycolic Acid is one of the most well studied and scientifically proven effective AHAs. When used properly, Glycolic Acid can have a fantastic effect on the skin’s overall appearance. This miracle ingredient can be found in many different formulations, so your treatment can be tailored to your skin type and needs. Glycolic acid is a must in anyone’s skin care regimen. If you’re ready to get started with Glycolic Acid, click here.
Written by: Esther Elbogen PA-C
Cosmetic and General Dermatology Physician Associate
West Derm Center