Glycolic acid is an Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA) that is made from sugarcane. AHAs are natural acids that come from fruits and are mostly known for their purpose of removing dead skin cells, stimulating new cell generation hence leading to a new improved healthy skin texture, tone, and a brighter complexion. Glycolic acid is one of the most commonly used AHAs in skincare products because it deals with constant breakouts, clears blackheads, hyperpigmentation, psoriasis, enlarged pores, and many others. Glycolic acid is more effective than other AHAs like lactic acid or malic acid though not quite as gentle. Glycolic acid can be applied on normal, dry, oily, and combination skin. For the case of sensitive skin, lactic acid is recommended.
How and when to use glycolic acid safely in your skincare routine?
- Whenever you include glycolic acid in your skincare routine, always remember to wear sunscreen, this is because glycolic acid can make your skin become more susceptible to UV rays during sun exposure causing sunburn. It is always advisable to use it during night hours.
- When it’s your first time using glycolic acid, you should start with a skin test and progress gradually if no irritation occurs. You can start by applying two to three times a week for two months. Once you notice that the skin is not irritated, then you can start using it every day depending on the product and concentration. But if its gets irritable, let the skin rest a bit before trying again.
- There’s no need to exfoliate with scrubs when you are using glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliator that deeply penetrates into the skin to loosen the dead skin cells and once it’s combined with other exfoliating scrubs, it can dry the skin and increase the risk of severe irritation.
- Always moisturize the skin after using glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is known for exfoliating and hydrating the skin but it can also irritate and dry out the skin. Therefore, one should use lightweight moisture to reduce the effects of dryness and irritation.
Benefits of glycolic acid for the skin.
- Fights Acne through exfoliation: Glycolic acid helps to remove dead skin cells and unclog pores by penetrating deep into the skin to loosen up any built-up sebum or dirt that could lead to more acne hence allowing the skin to breathe and renew itself. It also reduces the size of the pores and prevents blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples from breaking out.
- Reduces fine lines and wrinkles: When one exfoliates with glycolic acid, the dead cells get dissolved and removed from the top layers of the skin hence leading to skin cell renewal which increases collagen production as well as the skin’s ability to retain moisture. The removal of dead skin cells also flattens the skin surface which helps to plump up the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Increases product absorption: It improves the performance of other skincare products by deeply penetrating into the skin to remove all the sebum and the dead skin cells. With the obstacles out of the way, other products are absorbed quickly and become more effective, giving you better results.
- Addresses discoloration/and evens skin tone: Glycolic acid fades unevenness or hyperpigmentation (dark spots, age spots, freckles, and melasma) in your skin tone by removing the dead skin cells hence revealing a new fresh layer of the skin that is evenly pigmented leading to an improved skin complexion that is fresh, brighter, smoother and softer.
- Hydrates the skin: Glycolic acid is considered a humectant. That’s why it’s able to attract water molecules to itself through the air or the deeper layers of the skin. During humid weather, when there’s more moisture in the air than in the skin, the humectants will draw water from the air to the skin to keep it moist while in dry weather, there’s less moisture so the humectants will have to draw moisture from the deeper layers of the skin. This can be a risk because once the moisture reaches the top layer of the skin, it quickly evaporates off the skin into the dry air. To avoid this from happening, apply a thick moisturizer on top of glycolic acid to prevent the skin from dehydration.
Possible side effects of using Glycolic acid.
- It causes dry skin, therefore, one should apply a moisturizer after using glycolic acid to offset the drying effect. You can also use one glycolic acid product at a time to avoid irritating and overdrying.
- First-time users will experience a tingling sensation. This is normal and it will go away with time. In cases where you experience a burning effect, pain, and itching, you are advised to discontinue use and first seek help from your dermatologist.
- It makes your skin become very sensitive when exposed to the sun’s rays. Always wear sunscreen whenever you use glycolic acid and when going out into the sun. You can also opt to use it during nighttime but still the next morning you will have some sensitivity.
Glycolic acid is a multitasking AHA that treats a variety of skin conditions, but before starting a new skin regime, it is always advisable to consult your dermatologist in order to prevent adverse reactions to your skin.