What exactly is Glycolic Acid?
Glycolic acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that’s extracted from sugarcane. It’s part of the AHA family of acids that you might recognise, such as tartaric acid, derived from grapes, lactic acid from milk and citric acid from citrus fruits. .
Glycolic acid is characterised by its low weight and small molecular size that allows it to effectively exfoliate surface dead skin cells while stimulating cellular renewal to reveal a clear and brighter complexion. This makes it a really effective way of targeting a range of concerns such as lines and wrinkles, acne and hyperpigmentation.
How active is your acid?
When shopping for a skincare product that contains glycolic acid, you should ensure that you choose a concentration suited to your skin type and concern. A simple way of measuring the true strength of glycolic acid within a skincare product is by its Free Acid Value. This should be highlighted on the packaging of the product and differs according to the overall PH of the formula.
The ideal concentration is 10% as this is suitable for daily use and will effectively target signs of ageing including fine lines, wrinkles and dullness. A concentration lower than 4% will provide minimal exfoliation so may not give you the results you’re hoping for.
How can you incorporate it into your routine?
Glycolic acid can be found in a wide range of products such as cleansers, toners, moisturisers, and professional chemical peels so there are many ways you can incorporate it into your routine and start reaping its benefits.
We’d recommend using glycolic acid to improve the appearance of normal, combination and oily skin types, as well as dull or discoloured skin. Try easing it in gently, using every few days at first to avoid irritation before increasing your usage.
One of the easiest and most effective ways of introducing glycolic acid to your routine is with an everyday cleanser such as the SkinCeuticals Glycolic Renwal Cleanser. Its gentle formula can help to improve the appearance of uneven, dull and ageing skin, while removing impurities and long-wear makeup.
While the cleanser can be used as part of your morning routine, you can also maximise your results with a night treatment such as the SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight Cream. It has a 10% glycolic acid value which is ideal for regular use.
Don’t forget that due to the exfoliating nature of glycolic acid, it’s important to protect your skin each day with a broadspectrum sunscreen to avoid the risk of sun damage.
What are the benefits of a glycolic acid peel?
If you want to take your skincare routine to the next level, consider a professional glycolic peel. This is a form of chemical peeling where glycolic acid is used as the primary exfoliant in a peeling solution. During the process, a light layer of acid is applied to the face for a short period of time before it is removed and neutralised. Peels such as this are really effective at softening the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and even improving skin tone and texture as they gentle exfoliate away the top layer of skin. This reveals a brighter and more glowing complexion.
A professional peel should always be applied by a skincare professional who can predetermine how long the peel should be left on for. They can also assess your skin type and its reactivity to the treatment and provide aftercare advice including applying sunscreen . You will be more susceptible to damage after a chemical peel and may also be recommended homecare products to help maintain and protect the results of your glycolic acid peel.
Can you use glycolic acid and retinol together?
As glycolic acid is an effective exfoliant, it shoudn’t be used alongside other products containing strong active ingredients such as retinol. This is because both ingredients work to increase cell turnover so if used together, you may irritate and over strip the skin.
Are there any side effects to using glycolic acid?
While effective, glycolic acid is a gentle exfoliant so you shouldn’t experience any side effects. However, as with any new active ingredient, introducing it gradually to your skincare routine will help you to identify any issues and minimise a reaction.