Let’s face it: every skin care blog tells you to check the ingredients on your products before you buy them, but unless you have specialized training in skin care, you probably can’t make heads or tails of any of those ingredients. How do you know if there are productive ingredients or irritating ingredients in a product if you don’t recognize any of the ingredients?
That’s why I’m here: to help you learn more about those words that might as well be in a different language so you can understand what you’re putting on your skin. In this ingredient feature, the spotlight is on the spectacular glycolic acid.
What Is Glycolic Acid?
Glycolic acid is an acid that comes from sugar cane (you might have recognized that it starts with “glyco,” which is associated with sugar). Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid or AHA. AHAs are natural carbon-containing acids that are generally known to have fantastic benefits for your skin. These acids have very small molecules which the skin can absorb easily, allowing them to work their magic at a deeper level. In fact, glycolic acid has the smallest molecules of all the AHAs.
Benefits of Glycolic Acid
Molecules and plant origins aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so let’s talk about the fun part of glycolic acid: the wonderful things it can do for your skin. This little acid works overtime by giving your skin a variety of benefits:
- Increasing your skin cell turnover rate so your skin can shed damaged surface cells, revealing a more even complexion
- Triggering collagen production so your skin becomes firmer and has fewer fine lines and wrinkles, firmer skin (keep your expectations reasonable, though – glycolic acid is more effective for preventing collagen loss than rebuilding lost collagen, so don’t expect to give facelift-like results)
- Brightening the skin by exfoliating away dull and damaged surface cells
- Plumping your skin and improving skin hydration so your skin looks smoother with fewer lines and wrinkles
- Reducing age spots from sun damage
- Minimizing acne by clearing out pores
- Reducing the appearance of your pores by removing the clogs that hold them open and make them look larger
It’s a long list that covers a variety of skin care goals, from battling acne to reducing signs of aging, and that’s exactly why glycolic acid has become a staple in great skin care products.
Important Facts to Know About Glycolic Acid
What do you need to know before you jump in and start swapping out your entire skin care routine for products with glycolic acid? Overall, this acid is rather safe and has a low risk for skin irritation, but there are a few cautions to keep in mind.
First of all, glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. This makes it particularly important to wear sunscreen on a daily basis if you’re using products with glycolic acid. You don’t want to undo all the wonderful favors the glycolic acid is doing for your skin by incurring new sun damage.
Second, remember that you never know how your skin will react to a new product or a new ingredient. While glycolic acid doesn’t have a very high risk for irritation or inflammation, it’s still a good idea to start adding it to your routine gradually. Start by using your new glycolic acid product just three or four times per week and building up from there if it doesn’t spark inflammation.
How to Use Glycolic Acid in Your Skin Care
Enough talk – how can you start enjoying the benefits of glycolic acid for yourself? Uniquely, glycolic acid can be used in just about any product in your skin care routine because it has such a wide variety of functions. Try these options to start.
Use a Glycolic Acid Cleanser
In a cleanser, glycolic acid is especially effective for cleaning out pores and reducing acne, but it can also help to hydrate your skin. Try a cleanser with glycolic acid like Biopelle Starting Up Face Glycolic Antioxidant Cleanser if you want smaller pores and fewer blemishes.
Try Anti-Aging Products with Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is a powerhouse in the anti-aging world because it can stimulate collagen, plump and hydrate, and reduce age spots, so you’re fighting back against several signs of aging at once. A product like Neostrata Glycolic Renewal Serum combines glycolic acid with other effective anti-aging ingredients for a well-rounded approach.
Choose an Exfoliator with Glycolic Acid
Exfoliation is an important way to revitalize your skin by helping your body shed the damaged cells on the surface of your skin. There are two types of exfoliation: chemical exfoliation and physical exfoliation. Physical exfoliators are those that feel rough on your skin because they’re physically buffing away those surface cells.
Chemical exfoliators are compounds that stimulate your body’s natural exfoliation, and glycolic acid falls under that category. An exfoliator like Revision Skincare Exfoliating Facial Rinse can give your skin a youthful glow.
Glycolic acid is a long-time favorite in skin care for a reason. Curious what impact it can have on your skin? The only way to find out is to give it a try!