There’s a good chance that at least one of the bottles in your skincare shelf includes glycolic acid. Maybe it’s in two, three, or more of your go-to formulas. Here, we discuss all you need to know about glycolic acid for skin, including how it works, the benefits it offers, and the best products.
What is glycolic acid?
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Glycolic acid is a sugar cane-derived chemical exfoliating ingredient. It belongs to the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family, which also contains well-known ingredients like lactic acid, according to experts.
What does glycolic acid do?
Glycolic acid, like other AHAs, works on the skin’s outer layer to dissolve the “cement” between dead cells. As a result, it softly resurfaces skin without the need for scrubbing. Because of this, acid-based treatments are sometimes referred to as ‘chemical exfoliators,’ as opposed to traditional, grit-based ‘physical exfoliators,’ which are now widely viewed as the inferior, outmoded alternative due to their abrasive nature.
Because AHAs are water soluble, they function well on the surface skin layers, which we call the epidermis, experts say. Experts say, Glycolic Acid has been demonstrated in studies to have dermal influence, enhancing collagen-remodelling cells (which helps to minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles) and melanocyte-stabilizing properties, implying that it is also effective for pigmentation. It’s a versatile multi-tasker.
The procedure works by loosening and dissolving the desmosome, a glue-like substance that holds old skin cells together. A tingle in the skin is common when they head to work. The skin spontaneously loses its old, dead skin cells when the desmosome is broken down. So, while you won’t see your skin exfoliating, you will see and feel the smoother, more radiant-looking skin.
The best time to use glycolic acid products
Use glycolic acid at night for the best results because the formula might make your skin photosensitive. You can use a night cream or a serum. If you prefer to use it during the day, cover it with sunscreen (SPF 30 or above). Otherwise, the procedure may reverse the advantages and result in sunburns or accelerated ageing of your skin. You can enhance the acid’s effectiveness by combining it with retinol or antioxidants. For starters, a low concentration of glycolic acid, such as 5%, is ideally regarded as a safe level.
A wide variety of glycolic acid-infused products are available on the market. There are several alternatives available, ranging from creams to serums to peel-off masks.
Invest in these best glycolic acid products
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- COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Tone
- Pilgrim Salicylic (BHA) & Glycolic Acid (AHA) Foaming Face Wash
- O3+ Facialist Brightening Face Sheet Mask with Glycolic Acid
- Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner
- Saturday Skin Mini 10% Glycolic Acid Pore Clarifying Toner
- The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
- Dot & Key Watermelon AHA Pore Tightening Glow Toner with Glycolic & Lactic Acid
- Drunk Elephant T.L.C Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
Contains AHA, BHA and purifying botanical ingredients. It helps eliminate impurities, exfoliate, and hydrate all in one step. The formula gently exfoliates dull skin, removes dead skin cells, prevents the early development of whiteheads and blackheads, and helps the skin become clearer and smoother. Formulated with natural ingredients – 10 percent of Apple Fruit Water (AHA) and 10 percent of Willow Bark Water (BHA) along with a Mineral Water base that helps improve skin texture. It is a mild daily exfoliating liquid that helps reduce whiteheads, blackheads and improve the appearance of pores.
The Pilgrim Salicylic and Glycolic Acid Foaming Face Wash is specially crafted for oily, acne-prone, and blemished skin. The luxurious oil-free, foaming cleanser pulls out dirt, debris, and sloughs off dead skin cells to resurface and smoothen skin. The powerful combination of glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) ensures that both the surface of the skin and pores are exfoliated of dead skin cells that clog pores and cause breakouts. It eliminates stubborn blackheads and whiteheads. Decongests skin and visibly reduces redness. Gradually fades discolorations and evens out skin tone. Gets rid of bumpy texture and makes the skin baby-soft and smooth. Yugdugu (nutmeg) regulates sebum and its antibacterial properties safeguard the skin from acne. The silky foam gently clarifies and brightens the complexion. It reduces the appearance of age/sun spots and other areas of hyperpigmentation.
Glycolic acid, grapefruit, and aloe combine in a rejuvenating formula which works to refine pores and diminish the appearance of dry fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone-revealing a more radiant and youthful looking complexion. Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner is a mild resurfacing toner that helps brighten and balance skin post-cleanse.
Saturday Skin Pore Clarifying Toner helps to smooth and refine your skin’s appearance with an effective dose of 10% glycolic acid. This pore control complex targets pore concerns and contains a blend of ingredients which help improve the look of balanced and clear skin.
Revitalise lacklustre skin with The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution. The AHA solution works to gently exfoliate the surface of the skin, helping to combat the dead skin cell build up that can contribute to dullness, textural irregularities and congestion.
pH balanced for optimal efficacy, the glycolic acid toner is infused with tasmanian pepperberry and aloe vera to help soothe the skin, alongside ginseng root to promote a radiant finish. Incorporate into your skincare routine to support a glowing, smooth and refined-looking complexion.
This is an alcohol-free pore-tightening toner for oily skin that contains watermelon, glycolic, and lactic acid. It minimises the appearance of enlarged pores while also balancing sebum production to keep skin oil-free and glowing. It also addresses pH imbalances, clogged pores, and a glossy T-zone. It has a light, quick-absorbing texture and a fresh melony fragrance.
This 10% alpha and beta hydroxy acid night serum helps to refine and resurface skin, revealing a smoother and more radiant complexion in the morning. Blended with raspberry extract (thats the Framboos from the name!) it delivers effective exfoliation without harsh side effects.
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