Glycolic Acid who?

I know I know. Who the f- is glycolic acid and why is everyone talking about it. Yep, every-single-human-being (who’re into skincare). I started using a product with glycolic acid and I’m loving it. As a human being suffering acne for a decade (omg, that long?) and have tried every single product that’s on the shelf (+ going to the dermatologist for 2 years plus but it kinda breaks out again after I stop meeting my derm), I’ve given up. But thank god, I met Retinol (this is for another day) and acids (Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Lactic acid – you name it)

The main reason why I love glycolic acid is that it does more than just treating acne. It helps with skin aging, hyperpigmentation, and even dullness.

Let’s get to know about Glycolic acid, shall we?

What is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is a type of AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) that is water-soluble, which means they dissolve in water and are also derived from sugar cane. Among all of the AHAs available, glycolic acid has the simplest in structure and the smallest as it has the lowest molecular weight, acc to Kenneth Howe, M.D, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City. As it has a small molecular weight, it’s easier to penetrate the skin but again, that depends on how you layer your skincare products.

How does it work?

Glycolic acid works by breaking the bonds between the outer layer of the skin cells (incl the dead skin cells) and the next skin call layer, which then forms this peeling effect (or we call it exfoliation) that makes the skin appear smoother and even.

For those with acne, the mild exfoliation results in lesser blockage that clogs the pores such as oil and dead skin cells. The lesser the clog, the lesser the breakouts therefore the clearer the skin. 

Benfits of Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid stimulates fibroblasts in the dermis to produce increased amounts of collagen which then helps skin to feel firmer while also minimizes fine lines and wrinkles. 

There’s also research that has found that glycolic acid has antibacterial and antioxidant activity, which can also help improve the skin’s appearance when you have acne.

How to include glycolic acid in our routine?

Glycolic acid is available in several forms, such as:

  • face washes 
  • serums
  • peels 

Traditional wisdom is to start small unless your dermatologist directs otherwise. You may wish to try a glycolic acid cleanser to see if your skin can tolerate glycolic acid rather than driving in straight into a leave-on glycolic product if you are unsure whether your skin can tolerate it.

Note that Glycolic acid is a type of chemical exfoliation. While it’s not as noticeable as a scrub, the acid can penetrate the skin even deeply and produce exfoliation over time. Therefore, while using Glycolic acid, you don’t have to exfoliate with scrubs as your face may feel too sensitive.

Another thing to note is you don’t have to apply multiple glycolic acid at once as 

Speaking of sensitivity, you also don’t need to use multiple glycolic acid-containing products. Consistent use of one product with occasional spot treatments is often enough to keep your skin clear. Sometimes, your dermatologist may recommend a stronger, in-office peel, but this isn’t always the case.

Is glycolic acid good for all skin types?

It works best for those with normal, combination, and also oily skin. But again, what works for one person doesn’t mean will work for another (YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary).

Let us know your experience with glycolic acid through the comments section!



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