Although it may have a bit of a daunting name, glycolic acid for skin is a remarkably effective ingredient, which is why it’s become a bit of a classic in the skin care world. Gentle, effective, great at many different roles, and suitable for many different skin types, it’s about as ideal a skin care ingredient as you can get.
Glycolic acid’s ability to both exfoliate and hydrate the skin means it performs a multitude of functions, which is why in this article we’ll talk about what glycolic acid is, the benefits of glycolic acid, and how to use glycolic acid.
What is Glycolic Acid?
Known primarily as an exfoliant, glycolic acid is part of the AHA (or alpha-hydroxy) group of acids. Found naturally in sugarcane, glycolic acid for skin is a gentle, but highly effective exfoliant that helps break the bonds that hold the skin together, letting new, healthy skin shine through (and as you probably know if you’re into skin care, exfoliation = glowing, radiant skin!). Glycolic acid is also a humectant, which means it helps draw the moisture that’s already found naturally in skin to the top layer, helping it stay hydrated. Talk about multi-tasking!
Benefits of Glycolic Acid
It exfoliates skin and provides a fresh and revitalized appearance. Glycolic acid’s small molecular structure also allows it to penetrate skin easily which is part of what makes it so effective as an exfoliator. It will help to smooth your skin by removing dead skin cells, and revealing new skin underneath. It will also help to rid the skin of dirt and oil that can clog your pores. This will lead to a more even skin tone and firmer skin.
It minimizes the look of fine lines and wrinkles. The older we get, the less our skin naturally exfoliates itself. If you don’t exfoliate, those dead skin cells really accentuate fine lines and wrinkles. The exfoliating action of glycolic acid helps minimize the look of all those fine lines and wrinkles. Also, just as a general rule, the cleaner skin is, the less those fine lines and wrinkles are noticeable and nothing helps clean out skin like a good exfoliant.
It helps other products function better. Want to see your moisturizer become even more effective? Use a little glycolic acid in your skin care routine to help prepare your skin to absorb the beneficial ingredients in your products!
It helps hydrate skin. In its role as humectant, glycolic acid helps draw moisture from the deeper levels of the skin up to the top layers. This will also help it to plump the skin, and visibly reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
How to Use Glycolic Acid
If you’re looking to really get the benefits of glycolic acid, look for an exfoliant with glycolic acid or a glycolic acid peel, which is a more intense treatment often conducted by a professional.
Although it’s most often thought of as an exfoliant, that doesn’t mean the only products to contain glycolic acid are exfoliants. There’s almost no kind of skin care product that can’t benefit from a little glycolic acid including cleansers, serums, and masks, like our Prince Charcoal detox mask, so incorporating glycolic acid into your skin care routine is incredibly simple. Just be sure to follow up any exfoliant with a gentle, hydrating cleanser like Crème de la Cream.
Ingredients to Use and Not Use with Glycolic Acid
Because glycolic acid works so well, you need to be careful what ingredients you use with it. That said, whether or not an ingredient works well with glycolic acid depends on the concentrations used and what kind of skin specific individuals have so make sure you’re paying attention to what your own skin needs and/or can and cannot tolerate.
Some ingredients that work well with glycolic acid are: hyaluronic acid, as it helps the skin retain moisture; lactic acid, which is another gentle exfoliating AHA; and salicylic acid, which is an exfoliating BHA.
And, here are some ingredients you should avoid using together with glycolic acid: retinol, for some people this can be too much exfoliation, and lead to irritation; niacinamide, when combined in the same product, it’s thought that this combination can make the pH levels in skin unbalanced; vitamin C, the same thing goes for this combo, when used in the same product it can affect your skin’s pH.
Exfoliation is one of the fastest ways to give skin back its glow, and glycolic acid does it like nobody’s business!