glycolic acid complete guide

Are you still exfoliating with scrubs?

It’s time to switch things up and give glycolic acid a try.

I know, I know, scrubs can be addictive. But so can glycolic. I’ve never met anyone who made the switch and went back to scrubs.

Glycolic acid is an exfoliant on steroids. It gets rid of dead skin cells, hydrates your skin and keeps wrinkles at bay. Can your scrub keep up with that?

In case you’re still on the fence, I’ve put together this complete guide to glycolic acid. By the end, you’ll be ready to ditch scrubs for good. I promise. ๐Ÿ™‚

What The Heck Is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid belongs to the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) family, a group of exfoliants derived from milk and plants. You’ll find glycolic acid in sugar cane. But the type used in cosmetics is usually made in a lab.

Glycolic acid is the most famous member of the family. That’s cos it’s the smallest. It can easily penetrate your skin so it works better and faster.

sunday riley good genes glycolic acid treatment

Glycolic Acid Is An Effective Exfoliant

Glycolic acid’s main job is exfoliation. It works by dissolving the glue that holds skin cells together, so they can slough off.

This top layer is the most damaged. These cells have become dull and rough. Darker even. Once they’re out of the way, your skin looks smoother, brighter and more even-toned.

Your dark spots slowly fade away. Wrinkles look smaller too. Your whole complexion glows.

Glycolic Acid Is Better Than Physical Scrubs

“Ungluing” dead skin cells is a much better way to get rid of them than manual exfoliation.

When you scrub your skin with sugar, apricot kernels, or plastic microbeads, you may spend a few seconds more on one area and less on another. You may remove more dead cells, let’s say, on the forehead and fewer on your cheeks.

Plus, they can irritate skin. Apricot kernels are the worst culprits but anything with rough and jarred edges can scratch skin. Spend a few seconds too long on one area and it’ll get all red and irritated.

Compare that with glycolic acid. You apply that all over, getting a more even and precise exfoliation WITHOUT lacerations.

Related: Physical VS Chemical Exfoliation: What’s The Difference?

Glycolic Acid Can Improve Photoaged Skin

If better exfoliation alone isn’t enough to make you switch, how about this? Glycolic acid can make you look younger.

Scrubs only remove dead cells from the surface of your skin. That’s it.

Glycolic acid goes the extra mile. It boosts collagen production, too.

Collagen is the protein that keeps your skin firm and elastic. The more collagen your skin has, the longer it keeps sagging and wrinkling at bay.

Scientists think this is how glycolic acid helps reduce the fine lines and wrinkles you already have, too.

the ordinary glycolic acid toning solution

Glycolic Acid Moisturizes Skin Too

Wait… there’s more!

Glycolic acid moisturizes skin, too. This acid increases the levels of hyaluronic acid in the skin. Hyaluronic acid is a moisture magnet that can hold 1000 times its weight in water!

Once your skin has all that moisture, it stays soft all day and looks plumper, too.

Related: Why You Should Add Hyaluronic Acid To Your Skincare Routine

Sounds Great! Where’s The Catch?

I wish I could tell you there are none… but that wouldn’t be true. Even roses have thorns…

Here goes: glycolic acid can increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun. In other words, you’re more prone to get sun damage if you use glycolic acid. Kinda ironic since it can treat it too, isn’t it?

So why should you use it, I hear you ask? Cos its positives far outweigh the negatives. Besides there’s an easy fix: wear your sunscreen. ๐Ÿ™‚

One more thing: high concentrations can cause irritations. Start small and work your way up.

nip + fab glycolic fix overnight purifying gel

Who Should Use Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid ain’t for everyone. It’s a godsend for:

  • Dry skin: it exfoliates and hydrates at the same time.
  • Mature skin: it exfoliates and fights wrinkles at the same time.

Instead, avoid it if you have:

  • Oily, acne-prone skin: opt for salicylic acid, an exfoliant that unclog pores from within.
  • Sensitive skin: glycolic acid may be too harsh for your skin type.

Related: AHAs VS BHA: Which One Should you Use?

How Much And How Often Should I Use It?

If you want fast results, you need to get peels. They use between 20-70% glycolic acid but they’re super harsh on the skin. Don’t even think of buying them from Amazon. You can seriously destroy your skin. Save yourself the pain and go to a professional.

OTC concentrations are much lower (<15%) so they work more slowly. They can irritate skin too but not as severely. Still, start small. Use 5% a couple of times a week and slowly increase both dose and frequency. 

FYI, while we’re on the subject, don’t bother with cleansers with glycolic acid. Glycolic acid needs to stay on the skin for hours to work its magic. Rinse it down the drain and you won’t see much of an improvement.

Related: Do Exfoliating Cleansers Work?

What Are The Best Products With Glycolic Acid?


The Bottom Line

Glycolic acid is an antiaging superstar. It exfoliates, hydrates, brightens, fades dark spots and wrinkles and even boosts collagen. Find a scrub that does all that!

Are you ready to make the switch to glycolic acid? Share your thoughts in the comments below.