The benefits of glycolic acid are the same and effective for every skin type. That's why dermatologists consider it a gentle, suitable, and ideal skincare product.
It can help slough off all your dead skin cells to reveal new skin and enhance overall skin appearance by reducing acne blemishes and spots.
This article will take a closer look to uncover everything - what glycolic acid is, how it works, the benefits of glycolic acid, and tips on how to use it on your face.
What is Glycolic Acid?
If you are skeptical about the benefits of glycolic acid because of its chemical name, then this is something not to fret about. Glycolic acid is a darling choice for treating many skin concerns.
It is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that derives from naturally occurring sugarcane – yet a powerful active ingredient that can do wonders for your skin.
You don't need to find it separately in pharmacies. But loads of thanks to the beauty industry, which adds glycolic acid on multiple over-the-counter (OTC) products like cleansers, toners, serums, and moisturizers available in the market.
With its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, glycolic acid gives a peel exfoliate to your skin that is useful in treating a whole host of skin conditions.
How glycolic acid works on the skin?
AHAs such as glycolic acid exfoliate dead skin cells from the skin surface and let new, smoother, healthier, and youthful skin shine through beneath.
But the question is how glycolic acid works. Read on to know how it looks on a deeper level.
Due to the constant environmental damage, the outermost layer of our skin is susceptible to more dead skin cells. With time-to-time, it requires exfoliation regularly. Otherwise, it can lead to a buildup of dead cells and make it a dull-looking skin surface.
Here come the dermatologist-tried-and-tested benefits of glycolic acid. It creates a peeling effect by dissolving the bond between dead cells and skin to remove them easily. This, in turn, stimulates cell turnover rate and allows your skin to produce new skin cells.
Benefits of glycolic acid for skin care
The benefits of glycolic acid come with a whole package. For people with acne-prone skin, clogged pores, and gunk skin concerns, glycolic acid gently exfoliates to make the skin clear, smoother, and with fewer to no breakouts.
Improved skin texture and appearance
The smoothing magic behind the baby-faced skin is glycolic acid. Daily wear and tear of your skin accumulates dead cells and makes an uneven, coarse skin texture.
But thanks to the 2-in-1 benefits of glycolic acid. It not only removes dead cells by shedding the external and middle layers of skin. But also go deeper to hydrate, plump your skin, and prevent it from getting dry.
For acne-prone skin, glycolic acid has an advantage over other topical anti-acne creams with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. It is a natural humectant that helps the outer skin barrier retain moisture instead of drying your skin out.
Increased collagen production
Collagen is a connective protein that makes your skin thick, firm, and young-looking. Also, it has a part to play in reducing stretch marks and scars inside out.
But as you age, your skin loses elasticity. Also, spending too much time in the sun destroys your collagen.
The benefits of glycolic acid come with collagen-stimulating properties. It also stimulates collagen growth in your skin and prevents the frequent breakdown of collagen from sun damage.
Using glycolic acid in the long-term increases collagen and elastin in the skin. It works effectively to fill out fine lines and minimize the appearance of stretch marks.
Brightening and evening out skin tone
Smooth out uneven skin tone and brighten up the dull face. The exfoliating and toning benefits of glycolic acid shed the outer layer of dead skin cells and gives you back the brightness in your skin.
Glycolic acid reduces post-acne scars and sun spots and makes your skin look brighter and more radiant than ever.
Reducing the appearance of acne and other blemishes
Acne breakouts can occur for many reasons. When your hair follicles produce excessive oil and block them either with trapped bacteria or a dead skin cell, acne happens.
But glycolic acid is an incredible pick if you need to remove acne-prone skin or scarring.
The unclogging and peeling benefits of glycolic acid effectively fight acne and pimples. It clears excess oil in your hair follicles, removes acne scars, whiteheads, and blackheads, and shrinks the pore size.
Tightening and firming the skin
Too much sun exposure cause sagging, wrinkling, and fine lines on your skin. It is called photoaging, meaning your skin ages faster with sunlight than it normally does.
The tightening benefits of glycolic acid are a magic anti-aging treatment. It smooths out the look of all the fine lines and wrinkles and improves the skin's tone and texture.
Reducing the appearance of dark spots
Like acne, hyperpigmentation or dark spots happens for various reasons, including hormonal changes in pregnancy and sun damage. However, melanin, a pigment that gives your skin a dark color, is primarily to blame.
Glycolic acid reduces melanin production. This, in turn, clears stubborn pigmentation, lightens your dark spots, and reveals your natural skin color.
The benefits of glycolic acid peels are also a great effective option for reducing melasma. It is a kind of sun-damage-hyperpigmentation with grey and dark brown spots on the skin.
You can expect a big difference after 6 to 8 treatments in combination with hydroquinone.
Improving the absorption of other skin care products
The smallest alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) molecules in glycolic acid penetrate deeply and exfoliate your skin. It preps your skin's surface and boosts the absorption power of your skin by allowing it to absorb more.
Glycolic acid helps other skincare products function better, such as creams, hydrating serums, and moisturizers. This makes them ideal for improving skin texture.
Enhancing the overall health and appearance of the skin
The multi-benefits of glycolic acid make it a versatile ingredient. It fights acne, increases hydration content, and reduces visible aging signs.
These ant-aging-properties of glycolic acid improve your overall skin's appearance.
You can use AHA products as a nightly treatment without worrying about irritation. It exfoliates your skin while you sleep and provides a fresh and revitalized appearance the next day.
How to use Glycolic acid on your face?
Although glycolic acid is so effective and a favorite in the skincare world, but you need to be careful with what you use.
So make sure you're paying extra attention to your skin-specific issues and needs and whether they can tolerate or not.
Start with a low concentration:
Glycolic acid is an excellent choice for treating skin concerns. But keep in mind glycolic acid varies in concentration intensity.
Mild glycolic acid treatment can be done at home. But if you want a more intensive and deeper peel with a higher concentration, then see a licensed aesthetician.
- Normal Skin Type (10% glycolic acid)
You can use 10% glycolic acid twice a week. This percentage works well with normal skin types. But it can be harsh for someone with sensitive skin.
- Sensitive Skin Type (5% glycolic acid)
People with sensitive skin should start with a low percentage of glycolic acid. 5% once daily. If it suits you, you can increase to 10% acid twice a week.
Use a small amount
Get excited with the benefits of glycolic acid – but don't overdo it. Because it mainly depends on the concentrations.
So always apply a pea-sized amount or less of the glycolic acid product on your face in the evening. Remember to follow less-is-more rule in glycolic acid, as overuse can cause excessive irritation or breakout.
Avoid using other exfoliants
Try only one treatment at a time. Because some ingredients can overwhelm the skin in combination with glycolic acid. So it's best to stick to one treatment for at least 3 to 4 weeks before adding a second product. These include niacinamide, vitamin C and any additional exfoliation.
As over-exfoliation damages the skin barrier, which can cause skin sensitivity and breakouts.
Also Read: 10 Benefits Of Vitamin C For Skin
Follow with a moisturizer
Ready to work towards smoother, even skin with glycolic acid? Then, don't ignore this step. Moisturizer doubles the benefits of glycolic acid as it protects and hydrates your newly exfoliated skin and restores the skin's radiance.
Always apply hydrating moisturizers, or more occlusive creams (thicker consistency) on top of your glycolic acid product. This layer will trap the hydration in it and prevent it from leaving your skin.
If you decide to go with glycolic acid products, then make sure to:
- Only use at nighttime
- Always follow up with a moisturizer twice a day (morning and evening)
- Make sure to apply sunscreen in the morning
Use sun protection
Wearing sunscreen every day already has huge advocacy. But it becomes critical when using glycolic acid in your nighttime routine.
Because AHA products reveal fresh new skin that is susceptible to sun damage. That's why glycolic acid carries a warning to avoid unprotected sun exposure.
You can also take certain considerations to get the maximum benefits of glycolic acid. It includes:
- Reduce the sun exposure throughout the day
- Wear a cap while going out during the daytime
- Stay in the shade and
- Apply a generous amount of sunscreen when you need to stay in the sun
Potential Risks in Using Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid gently peels and is safe for acne-prone and sensitive skin. It also comes with possible side effects that include:
Dryness and irritation
During your initial glycolic acid application, it can cause dryness and mild skin irritation. This usually goes away once your skin gets used to it with time.
But before trying it on yourself, do a patch test on a small area of your skin and follow up with a good moisturizer.
Glycolic acid reduces sun damage by exfoliating the outer layer of your skin. But there is a catch – In this process, glycolic acid reveals new skin cells that are more sensitive and prone to sunburn and tanning for long periods of exposure.
But you can skip the risk by avoiding your glycolic acid in the daytime and only applying it exclusively at night.
Word of caution: If you don't want to screw up whenever you venture out, always wear sunscreen during the daytime.
Chemical exfoliation develops some degree of Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH). It also happens with wounds, irritation, rash, or popping acne pimples that cause skin inflammation.
Depending on your skin tone, inflammation appears as hyperpigmentation. For instance, pink, brown, black, and purple flat discoloration on your skin. Because as the skin heals, it produces too much melanin that darkens the affected skin.
Remember larger the inflammation breakout, the darker the hyperpigmentation.
But still, the benefits of glycolic acid outweigh the possible risks. But if you have additional concerns regarding your skin types, consult a dermatologist. A dermatologist recommends you the most appropriate products according to your skin troubles.
What happens if you use glycolic acid every day?
No, you're not supposed to use glycolic acid every day of the week. Although most OTC products containing AHAs are gentle. But still, overuse is one of the potential risks. Glycolic acid exfoliation should only be done about 1-2 times a week, depending on your skin type.
If you're doing it too frequently, you are not doing any favor to your skin and will damage your skin barrier.
Some telltale signs of overuse of glycolic acid include:
- Dryness or irritation
- Burning or flakiness
- Blotchiness, redness, and uneven skin tone
- Increased sensitivity to the sun and other skincare products
If you notice any sign, stop using the product immediately and seek expert advice from dermatologists.
How long does it take for glycolic acid to start working?
Depending on your skin type and conditions, it takes time to build tolerance and see the benefits of glycolic acid.
But you can start seeing results within minutes of the first application. The peak results of hero ingredients— such as anti-aging effects don't appear before 3 months.
What happens if you leave glycolic acid on too long?
Glycolic acid comes in various concentrations. The daily face wash, cleansers, and gentle leave-on products contain 1-2% glycolic acid and are completely safe to use.
Night creams with higher glycolic acid content have 10% and above concentration. It must limit to use once or twice a week to avoid skin irritation. Products above 15% concentration may need use only with specific skin concerns.
Exfoliation is one of the fastest ways to give your skin back its healthy glow – and glycolic acid does it like nobody's business.
The glycolic acid AHA molecules separate the connection between your skin and dead cells. It speeds up the cell turnover rate and brings out your younger-looking skin.
In a nutshell, the miraculous benefits of glycolic acid cover all your skin troubles in one solution, from aging, sagging, acne scars, and hyperpigmentation to dull-looking faces.