While a couple of ingredients are being hailed as miracle agents in the skincare industry, one consistent winner getting maximum mentions by dermatologists is glycolic acid. A plant-derived active ingredient, glycolic acid can address a tide of skin issues from acne to pigmentation and aging.
But how do you determine which one is right for you? Let’s find out from our chief dermatologist Dr. Harish Koutam, an accredited member of Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (IADVL) and Cosmetic Surgeons of India.
- What Is Glycolic Acid? What Does It Do To Your Face and Skin?
- Benefits Of Glycolic Acid
- How To Use Glycolic Acid On Skin?
- Will Glycolic Acid Work For My Skin Type?
- Is It Ok To Use Glycolic Acid Everyday?
- What Are The Side Effects Of Glycolic Acid?
- What Ingredients Shouldn't Be Combined With Glycolic Acid?
- What To Consider Before Turning To Glycolic Acid?
What Is Glycolic Acid? What Does It Do To Your Face and Skin?
Let's talk chemistry here. The smallest alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) , glycolic acid is a powder made of colorless and odorless crystals. It is derived from sugarcane and is known for its effective penetration into the skin.
Dr. Harish says that glycolic acid is made of fine molecules that is able to easily penetrate the skin deeply. It gently unbinds dead skin cells on your skin. This brings healthy skin to the surface, giving you a fresher, glowing and smoother skin besides offering a host of other benefits.
Benefits Of Glycolic Acid
Our skin has keratinized dead layers of skin cells that reach the topmost surface and are shed there. There can be a dead skin cell buildup due to lack of proper cleansing, exfoliation, sunlight and age. Such an accumulation of dead skin cells can lead to dull and aging skin. Glycolic acid is an excellent exfoliant  that gets rid of the top layer of the skin to reveal a fresh layer.
Think anti-aging, think glycolic acid. Glycolic acid helps to boost collagen levels in the skin . Collagen is a fibrous protein found in the dermis and keeps the skin firm. Diminishing levels of collagen can lead to sagging skin, fine lines and wrinkles.
Glycolic acid is also a humectant  and this property makes it a best fit for moisturizers when used in low concentrations. It can draw moisture from the air and lock it in the skin.
4. Acne fighting properties
Acne-prone skin can benefit from glycolic acid . Acne is caused when hair follicles on your skin get clogged with excess oil, dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria. Glycolic acid removes the dead skin cell build up and can improve your acne over time.
5. Preps up the skin for other products
Due to its exfoliating properties, glycolic acid enables the skin to absorb skin care products. After achieving a smooth skin with glycolic acid, your skin is now ready for a dose of acne creams, anti-aging serums or a vitamin boost serum.
How To Use Glycolic Acid On Skin?
Glycolic acid is found in most chemical peels  that treat skin concerns like acne scars, dark patches, melasma and age spots. It can be used in your skin care routine in the form of cleansers, peels and creams. Products containing glycolic acid can address pigmentation issues, scarring, fine lines and wrinkles.
Who Can Use?
Glycolic acid is suitable for all skin types. Primary function of glycolic acid on skin is exfoliation, which refers to some level of irritation. If you have sensitive skin, consult your dermatologist before using glycolic acid. People with darker skin tones might have a risk of pigmentation with the use of glycolic acid.
How Often Can You Use?
The answer to this will be based on your skin type, age and skin’s tolerance level. Start small and increase it if your skin is reacting positively. It also depends on the kind of glycolic acid product you’re using. A cleanser with a lower percentage of glycolic acid can be used everyday. A cream with a higher level of glycolic acid can be used once daily.
Will Glycolic Acid Work For My Skin Type?
Glycolic acid is highly effective if you have normal, oily or combination skin types. But if you have dry and extremely sensitive skin, it may not be for you. People with sensitive skin have a high chance of reaction with glycolic acid.
Is It Ok To Use Glycolic Acid Everyday?
You may use skin care products containing glycolic acid in strength of 10% everyday. However, glycolic acid peels contain 20-30% of the active and should be used once every 6 months.
What Are The Side Effects Of Glycolic Acid?
- Most at-home glycolic acid products are safe and effective . However, it can lead to dryness. So follow it up with a good moisturizer.
- Skip glycolic acid products if you think you will be exposed to sunlight for a very long time on a particular day. Glycolic acid makes the skin susceptible to damage. Never forget to use sunscreen.
- Be prepared for a slight tingling sensation that disappears after a point.
What Ingredients Shouldn't Be Combined With Glycolic Acid?
- Do not mix vitamin C and glycolic acid as vitamin C will lose its efficacy in this combination.
- Avoid using vitamin B3 with glycolic acid. Vitamin B3 needs a neutral pH to work effectively, while glycolic acid has a low pH level.
- Refrain from using retinol with glycolic acid.
What To Consider Before Turning To Glycolic Acid?
- To know how well your skin can take glycolic acid, try using it in low concentrations at first. Higher strengths may cause redness and flaking.
- If you spot flaking during the initial days of use, do not pick at your skin. This may cause scarring and hyperpigmentation.
- Like any other alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. Use of a good sunscreen becomes mandatory.
Are you going to try this recent skin care innovation? Talk to your dermatologist and include it in your routine to up your skin care game.
Was this Article helpful?
- Least helpful
- Most helpful
How can we make this page better?
What did you like about this page?
Thank you for your feedback on this article.