ADVERTISEMENT

Glycolic Acid: What Is It, Skin Benefits & Side Effects

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: May 7, 2023
Table of Contents

You’ve probably found yourself in the beauty aisle, scanning the back of a cosmetic product, and feeling overwhelmed by the long list of unfamiliar ingredients. It can be challenging to make sense of these complex scientific names and even harder to understand the purpose they serve in your favorite skincare or makeup item.

One such ingredient that often appears in cosmetic products is Glycolic Acid. It might sound like a mysterious chemical compound, but it’s actually an essential component in many skincare formulations. This article aims to provide an in-depth analysis of Glycolic Acid, exploring its official function, skin benefits, and potential side effects. By the end of this comprehensive guide, you’ll be better equipped to understand the role Glycolic Acid plays in the world of cosmetics.

What is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic Acid, also known as hydroxyacetic acid or AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid), is a naturally occurring substance derived from sugar cane, fruits, and milk. In the context of cosmetics, it serves as a potent exfoliant and is frequently used to improve the overall appearance of the skin. It works by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to be easily removed and revealing a brighter, smoother complexion.

The general purpose of Glycolic Acid within cosmetic products is to promote cell turnover, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and improve skin texture. Due to its effective exfoliating properties, it is often found in cleansers, toners, and chemical peels, among other skincare products.

Glycolic Acid can be found in various concentrations, ranging from a mild 3-5% in over-the-counter products to as high as 20-70% in professional treatments. It can be purchased as a stand-alone product, such as a high-concentration peel, but is more commonly found as part of a wider formulation of ingredients in skincare products.

Who Can Use Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic Acid is suitable for a variety of skin types. It is particularly effective for individuals with normal, oily, or combination skin, as it helps control excess oil production and unclog pores. However, it can also provide benefits to those with dry or aging skin, thanks to its ability to promote cell turnover and improve skin texture.

Although Glycolic Acid is generally well-tolerated by most skin types, it may not be the best option for those with extremely sensitive skin or individuals with specific skin conditions such as rosacea, as it may cause irritation or exacerbate existing issues. As always, it’s essential to consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional before incorporating Glycolic Acid into your routine to ensure it is suitable for your unique skin type and concerns.

Regarding dietary preferences, Glycolic Acid is derived from plant-based sources such as sugar cane and fruits, making it suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. It is essential to check the labels and research the specific product formulation, as some cosmetic products may contain other non-vegan or non-vegetarian ingredients.

Glycolic Acid Skin Benefits

Glycolic Acid offers numerous benefits for the skin, thanks to its powerful exfoliating properties and its official function as a buffering agent. Here is an in-depth look at some of the most significant benefits:

  • Exfoliation: As an alpha-hydroxy acid, Glycolic Acid effectively breaks down the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to be easily removed. This helps to reveal a smoother, more radiant complexion, and aids in preventing clogged pores and breakouts. By promoting cell turnover, Glycolic Acid keeps the skin looking fresh and healthy.
  • Brightening: Glycolic Acid helps to improve the overall appearance of the skin by reducing the visibility of dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone. By accelerating the skin’s natural exfoliation process, it promotes the growth of new, healthy cells, leading to a brighter and more even complexion.
  • Anti-aging: The exfoliating properties of Glycolic Acid can also help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. By stimulating collagen production and promoting cell turnover, it supports the skin’s natural repair process, resulting in firmer, more youthful-looking skin over time.
  • Improved skin texture: Glycolic Acid can help improve the skin’s overall texture by smoothing rough, dry patches and minimizing the appearance of enlarged pores. As it works to remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover, the skin’s surface becomes smoother and more refined.
  • Enhanced product absorption: Due to its exfoliating properties, Glycolic Acid can improve the absorption of other skincare products by removing the layer of dead skin cells that might otherwise hinder product penetration. This allows other beneficial ingredients in your skincare routine to work more effectively, enhancing their results.

It is important to note that the beneficial effects of Glycolic Acid are not permanent, and its usage must be sustained to maintain these benefits

Glycolic Acid Potential Side Effects

It is essential to understand that side effects and reactions to Glycolic Acid can vary from person to person. This is because individual skin types and sensitivities differ, and each person’s skin may respond differently to the ingredient. To better understand your skin and its needs, you can find your skin type through various methods.

Some potential side effects and interactions associated with Glycolic Acid include:

  • Skin irritation: Some individuals may experience redness, itchiness, or a mild burning sensation after using products containing Glycolic Acid, especially at higher concentrations. This is usually temporary and subsides once the skin becomes accustomed to the ingredient.
  • Dryness: Glycolic Acid can sometimes cause dryness or flakiness, particularly in those with naturally dry or sensitive skin. This can be alleviated by using a moisturizer to replenish hydration levels in the skin.
  • Photosensitivity: Due to its exfoliating properties, Glycolic Acid may make the skin more susceptible to sunburn and sun damage. It is crucial to wear sunscreen with a high SPF and practice sun safety measures, such as avoiding prolonged sun exposure and wearing protective clothing when using products containing Glycolic Acid.

If you experience any of these side effects while using Glycolic Acid or a product containing it, it is essential to discontinue use and consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional for advice on how to proceed.

It’s worth noting that adverse reactions to Glycolic Acid are relatively rare, and generally speaking, the ingredient is safe and effective when used correctly and in appropriate concentrations.

To minimize the risk of adverse reactions and ensure the ingredient is suitable for your skin, it’s crucial to perform a patch test before incorporating Glycolic Acid into your routine. You can follow this patch testing guide to learn how to properly test a product on your skin and assess your skin’s tolerance to the ingredient.

Comedogenic Rating

Glycolic Acid has a comedogenic rating of 0. This means that it is considered non-comedogenic and is unlikely to clog pores or contribute to the formation of acne. The reason for this low rating is due to its exfoliating properties, which help to prevent the buildup of dead skin cells and excess sebum in the pores. As a result, Glycolic Acid is generally considered safe for use on acne-prone skin and can even help improve its overall appearance and texture.

Conclusion

Achieving success in skincare often involves a certain degree of experimentation and trial and error. Each person’s skin is unique, and what works well for one individual may not necessarily work for another. Therefore, it’s essential to be patient and open to trying different ingredients and products to find the most suitable solutions for your specific needs and concerns.

Glycolic Acid is a popular ingredient in the world of cosmetics, and its popularity can be attributed to its wide range of beneficial effects on the skin. From exfoliating and brightening to reducing the signs of aging and improving skin texture, Glycolic Acid has proven itself as a versatile and effective component in many skincare formulations.

Overall, Glycolic Acid is a powerful cosmetic ingredient with various skin benefits and a low comedogenic rating, making it suitable for different skin types. However, it’s essential to be mindful of potential side effects and consult with a skincare professional if necessary. By understanding the properties and benefits of Glycolic Acid, you can make more informed decisions about incorporating it into your skincare routine and work towards achieving healthier, more radiant skin.

Share:
Feedback:
Tell us how you found this article in just a couple of clicks!
GET ALL OUR TOP HEADLINES IN BEAUTY.
Delivered right to your inbox each week. Zero spam, all goodness, opt-out at anytime.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
How did you find this article?
Tell us how you found this article in just a couple of clicks!
ADVERTISEMENT
Get all our top headlines in beauty.
Delivered right to your inbox each week. Zero spam, all goodness, opt-out at anytime.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Send good feedback:

All feedback is anonymous and will be used to improve the quality of our articles.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Send bad feedback:

All feedback is anonymous and will be used to improve the quality of our articles.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Search