Glycolic Acid: Risks, Benefits & Tips for the new IT Skincare Ingredient

It’s natural to feel a little hesitant when we hear the word acid as a skincare ingredient. Especially when it brings up memories of school science classes, where teachers always warned us how dangerous acids are. So, when we hear that glycolic acid is the new must-have beauty product that will make our skin look gorgeous, it’s understandable to feel a little cautious.

It's time to get over that though, because glycolic acid is the new trending skincare ingredient of the moment, and for good reason!

Let us explain:

What Is Glycolic Acid?

glycolic acid benefits

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Glycolic acid is a naturally occurring substance that when used in your skincare routine, offers benefits ranging from locking more moisture into your skin protecting you from damage and dehydration, all the way to rejuvenating your skin to reverse the effects of aging.

Glycolic acid is usually derived from sugar cane, but it can also be found in sugar beets and pineapple.

It’s a very small molecule, smaller than the gaps between our skin cells, which means it is able to penetrate deeply into the layers of the skin.

Its main function is to be used as an exfoliator, so glycolic acid toners and glycolic acid face washes are extremely beneficial for removing dead skin cells from your skin and unclogging your pores.

How Does Glycolic Acid Work?

When you put glycolic acid on your skin, it will start to break down your outermost layer of skin by dissolving the molecules (like oily sebum) that bind the top layer of our skin together. The glycolic acid is able to do this due to its size, being able to penetrate underneath easily.

This means you can wipe away the top layer of skin, revealing the gorgeous and vibrant new skin underneath.

Glycolic acid products will have varying concentrations and pH levels. While a pure glycolic acid cream at a low concentration is the most effective, compared to creams that use glycolic acid along with other ingredients, it’s safer to use a cream or serum that has glycolic acid mixed with other natural ingredients on a daily basis.

The exfoliation potential of glycolic acid is so high that using a pure glycolic acid exfoliator day in day out can begin to irritate and damage your skin, which is why one containing other ingredients too is ideal.

Glycolic Acid Benefits

For a skincare ingredient to have so much press, it needs to have a host of benefits - and glycolic acid doesn’t disappoint. Here are just some of the ways this natural product can be used to improve your skin:

It’s a Super Exfoliator

As mentioned above, glycolic acid is a wonderful exfoliator. It will easily remove the outside layers of your skin, revealing younger and brighter skin underneath.

At high percentages, glycolic acid can even be used in chemical peels. This is because it can remove the dead skin cells from your face, leaving behind the new, fresh layers. As it’s a natural product, glycolic acid can also be suitable for those with sensitive skin who would like a peel.

It’s Ideal for Acne-Prone Skin

glycolic acid for acne

We often get caught up in the different kinds of spots on our skin – such as blackheads and whiteheads. However, when you look at any spot under a microscope, they’re all caused by dead skin and bacteria getting clogged into our skins. So, to prevent acne, glycolic acid cream can unclog these pores and help stop spots.

If you’re looking for a cream that contains natural acids that help prevent acne, then we recommend our Snail Extract Cream, which helps prevent spots and keep your skin looking bright and soft.

If you are struggling with acne, be sure to follow our guide on the best products and diet tips that can help clear up your skin.

It’s ideal as an Anti-Aging Product

In our 20s, our skin will shed more frequently, which is why our clogs would get clogged leading to spots. As annoying as that is, this frequent skin turnover means that our skin will look brighter and more vibrant.

As we head into our 30s and 40s, this cell-turnover slows, so you don’t get the same young and smooth looking skin. 

This is where glycolic acid pads come in, because by running these over your face you can remove the top layer of your skin to reveal the brighter and younger looking skin below.

Studies have also shown that using glycolic acid regularly can boost the levels of collagen you produce, which in turn, makes your skin more elastic reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

Your Other Products Will Absorb Better

The fact that glycolic acid exfoliates our skin so well means that it can help your skin absorb other products easier. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to reduce spots or use an anti-aging serum, glycolic acid fused with other products means you absorb the other ingredients easier, so they give you better results.

Glycolic acid also makes your skin smoother, so it means you’ll have a better base for your make-up, making it look better.

Are Glycolic Acid Serum and Creams Safe to Use?

Generally, any home-use products you see on the market that contain glycolic acid will be safe to use, as these products have been made with regular use in mind.

You should remember to use sunscreen on a daily basis though, as using glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to getting damaged by sunlight.

For this reason, if you’re planning a holiday away in the sun, you should avoid using glycolic acid for the duration or be prepared to use a high sunscreen SPF daily.

As well as sun sensitivity, glycolic acid along with other exfoliators can dry your skin. So be sure to use yours in a product that also contains moisturising products to offset this. You can also use a second moisturiser after using a glycolic acid product, such as our Niacinamide B3 cream.

How to Use Glycolic Acid

You can use glycolic acid in a number of ways. This popular ingredient is available in everything from exfoliators and cleansers to moisturisers and serums.

Ideally, you want a well-formulated product made from a mixture of glycolic acid and other beneficial skincare ingredients, with nothing synthetic. Check out our AHA Serum made from Glycolic Acid. 

 AHA serum  

If you have sensitive skin, start with a product with a lower dose of glycolic acid and work your way up slowly. Even a small amount of this natural product can work wonders on your skin.

If you’d like to improve the youthfulness of your skin but you’re not sure glycolic acid is for you, there are plenty of other ways to reverse the clock. Just read our top guide on the best ingredients on the market that can help make your skin look and feel younger.