Glycolic Acid: The Secret to Radiant, Clear Skin from an Esthetician

As this may sound a little dramatic, glycolic acid changed my skin. Alternating between salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, and using retinol at night (read more about retinol vs glycolic acid here). I was able to treat my adult acne by using glycolic acid. It helped with my acne scars and give my skin a glow.

So let’s talk about what glycolic acid really is.

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What is Glycolic Acid and its Benefits?

Overview of Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid, derived from sugar cane, is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) known for its exceptional efficacy. Among all the AHAs, glycolic acid boasts the lowest molecular weight, allowing it to penetrate the skin deeply and effectively. This remarkable acid offers numerous benefits, ranging from exfoliating dead skin cells to boosting collagen production. It is even able to work underneath your skin at the dermis level to boost collagen. It minimizes the appearance of pores, firms skin, and also helps with fine lines and wrinkles.  Let’s explore these benefits further.

Benefits of Glycolic Acid for the Skin

Glycolic acid works wonders for your skin in several ways. Here are some of its remarkable benefits:

  • Exfoliation: Glycolic acid gently exfoliates the skin, sloughing away dead skin cells and revealing a fresher, more radiant complexion.
  • Brightening: By shedding dull skin, glycolic acid helps to brighten your overall complexion, leaving you with a natural glow.
  • Collagen Boost: This powerful acid works beneath the surface of your skin, stimulating collagen production. This can help improve skin firmness, minimize the appearance of pores, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Acne Treatment: Glycolic acid is a fantastic ally in the fight against acne. It helps unclog pores, reduces inflammation, and can even fade acne scars over time.
  • Improved Skin Texture: Regular use of glycolic acid can lead to smoother, more refined skin texture, making it an excellent option for those dealing with rough or uneven skin.

How Does Glycolic Acid Work?

Glycolic acid owes its transformative powers to its unique composition and mechanism of action. When applied to the skin, it works by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to be easily sloughed off. This process, known as exfoliation, reveals newer, fresher skin underneath. Additionally, glycolic acid penetrates the dermis, stimulating collagen synthesis and promoting a firmer, more youthful complexion.

Incorporating Glycolic Acid into Your Skincare Routine

Starting Slow with Glycolic Acid

It’s always best to start off slow as you should with any chemical exfoliant. If you start with a toner, you want to use it 2x a week with no other actives included in the routine. You can even start with a glycolic acid cleanser. Once you know your skin can tolerate glycolic acid I recommend trying a chemical peel in a professional’s office, once every couple of months. This cautious approach ensures that your skin can tolerate glycolic acid without excessive irritation.

Choosing the Right Glycolic Acid Products

There are various glycolic acid products available in the market, each offering unique formulations and concentrations. To choose the right product for your skin, consider the following factors:

  • Concentration:
    Glycolic acid products typically range from 5% to 30% concentration. If you’re a beginner, start with a lower concentration and gradually increase it as your skin becomes accustomed to the acid.
  • pH Level:
    Look for products with a pH between 3 and 4 for optimal efficacy.
  • Formulation:
    Consider your skin type and choose a formulation that suits your needs, whether it’s a toner, serum, or cream.

Frequency of Use

The frequency of glycolic acid usage depends on your skin’s tolerance and the product’s instructions. As your skin becomes more accustomed to glycolic acid, you can increase usage to a few times a week. However, be cautious not to overdo it, as excessive use may lead to skin irritation. Listen to your skin and adjust the frequency accordingly.

The Ordinary – Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

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One exceptional product that I highly recommend is The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution.  The price, the solution, and the effectiveness all add up to a five-star rating for this product. Use Apply to a cotton round and apply to skin. Avoid eyes and mouth area. The amazing thing about glycolic acid is that if it’s too much of a tingle for you to handle, it neutralizes immediately with water.

Personal Experience with Glycolic Acid

As an esthetician, I have personally experienced the transformative effects of glycolic acid. Incorporating this powerful ingredient into my skincare routine has been a game-changer. Over time, glycolic acid has helped fade my acne scars, minimize pore appearance, and give my skin a radiant glow. It’s truly an essential component of my skincare regimen.

Understanding Skin Sensitivity and Alternatives

Glycolic Acid for Sensitive Skin

Although glycolic acid is highly effective, it can cause skin irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin. If you experience discomfort or excessive redness, it’s essential to explore alternative options. Lactic acid, another AHA, is a gentler alternative that provides similar benefits without the potential for irritation.

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Alternatives for People with Sensitive Skin or People of Color

For individuals with sensitive skin or people of color, mandelic acid is an excellent alternative to glycolic acid. Mandelic acid offers gentle exfoliation and brightening properties while being well-tolerated by a variety of skin types.

Professional Glycolic Acid Treatments

While at-home products are effective, professional glycolic acid treatments offer a more intensive and targeted approach. Visiting a skincare professional for a glycolic acid chemical peel every couple of months can yield exceptional results. These treatments involve higher concentrations of glycolic acid and are tailored to your skin’s specific needs, ensuring maximum benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does glycolic acid do to your face?

Glycolic acid exfoliates the skin, removing dead skin cells, improving skin texture, and promoting a brighter, more youthful complexion. It also helps stimulate collagen production, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Is it OK to use glycolic acid everyday?

Using glycolic acid every day may lead to skin irritation and sensitivity. It’s best to start with a few times a week and gradually increase usage based on your skin’s tolerance.

Can glycolic acid help with acne?

Yes, glycolic acid is highly effective in treating acne. It helps unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and fade acne scars, leading to clearer, smoother skin over time.

How does glycolic acid work?

Glycolic acid works by exfoliating the skin, breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells. It also penetrates the dermis, stimulating collagen synthesis, and promoting skin firmness and elasticity.

Can glycolic acid be used for back acne and pimples?

Absolutely! Glycolic acid can be used to treat back acne and pimples. Incorporating a glycolic acid body wash or lotion into your skincare routine can help exfoliate the skin and combat breakouts on your back.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, glycolic acid is a skincare superhero that can transform your skin. Its exfoliating properties, collagen-boosting abilities, and acne-fighting powers make it an essential addition to any skincare routine. Whether you start with a toner or opt for professional treatments, glycolic acid can help reveal a radiant, glowing complexion. Just remember to start slow, listen to your skin, and enjoy the remarkable benefits of glycolic acid.

This review was adopted from Cherie, credit to user @SoSonaSkincare

Jen Roberts Glowing Gorgeous

Jen Roberts

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About our Chief Editor

Jen Roberts, is a passionate beauty specialist and blogger with a deep love for skincare and wellness. More about me here.


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