Vichy Idealia Peeling: A Glycolic Acid Exfoliant Gentle Enough For Sensitive Skin?

by Gio

Can glycolic acid and sensitive skin get along?

Heck, can exfoliation and sensitive skin get along? Anything more than a washcloth seems to turn on the alarm and lead skin into Irritation Town rather the Smoothville.

Glycolic acid is usually culprit #1. Guy’s strong and does wonders for other skin types but, even when he tries to be gentle, its strength is too much for sensitive skin.

Does that mean sensitive skin is doomed never to use glycolic acid? Well, it depends on who you ask. Vichy swears it has come up with a glycolic acid exfoliant gentle enough for sensitive skin, Vichy Idealia Peeling. Me, I’m not so sure this is a good idea. Here’s why:

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is a member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHAs) family, a group of exfoliants derived from plants and sugar cane (glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane).

It works in three different ways:

  1. It exfoliates skin: it dissolves the glue that holds skin cells together so they can be removed and replaced by brighter, smoother cells.
  2. It hydrates skin: it acts as an humectant, attracting water from the environment into the skin.
  3. It firms skin: it boosts the production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm.

Problem is, anything that removes dead cells from the surface of the skin has the potential to be irritating. Glycolic acid is one of the strongest acids, so it’s always been a no-go for sensitive skin.

Vicky has only put 4% of glycolic acid here (most exfoliants out there have between 5% and 20%) so that makes it a little bit more gentle. But gentle enough for sensitive skin?

Mmm, that depends. Some people with sensitive skin may be able to use it fine, but others won’t be that lucky. Especially because of the company glycolic acid keeps in this serum (more on it in the next section).

One more thing: glycolic acid makes skin more prone to sun damage (anything that removes an entire layer of dead skin cells does). Don’t skip the sunscreen!

Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid 

Alcohol Denat

Ah, the one everyone loves to hate. The mere sight of alcohol denat. on the label is enough to send hordes of skincare fanatics running in the opposite direction. But, is it really that bad?

Again, it depends on who you ask (damn skincare, can’t you give a straight answer for once?).

Paula Begoun believes it’s the devil incarnated. It’s drying, irritating and no good news for the skin.

Nicky from Future Derm disagrees. She thinks alcohol denat is perfectly safe and has been unjustly maligned for years. And I did found a study that claims alcohol isn’t as irritating as previously thought so she may have a point.

Me? I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I remember when I used to use astringents (toners with alcohol and little else in high school), my skin kept mysteriously becoming drier. But, when I use alcohol denat together with rich emollients and antioxidants, my skin’s perfectly fine.

It just goes to show that you can never judge an ingredient alone. If it’s good or bad for you often depends on the company it keeps. And here, alcohol denat is keeping company with glycolic acid.

I don’t have sensitive skin, so this combo is fine for me. Just to be sure, I slather a rich moisturizer on afterwards. No problems.

But if you do have sensitive skin? Do a patch test first. This combo may prove too much for you and you don’t want to discover that after you’ve slathered it all over your face.

Saccharomyces/Xylinum/Black Tea Ferment

This scary thing is the official, scientific name of kombucha, the current darling of the health world.

Kombucha is derived from the fermentation of black tea by the microorganisms Saccharomyces and Xylinium and is full of antioxidants that can protect against UVB photodamage.

There’s not that much of it here but every little bit helps.

Let’s Put It To The Test: Personal Use & Opinion

Vichy Idealia Peeling has a watery, toner-like texture so you have to apply it with a cotton pad. It doesn’t sting my skin unless I accidentally pour way too much on the pad (yes, that’s happened, ladies).

I use it a couple of nights a week. I leave it on overnight to give it plenty of time to work (acids work best when left on the skin). In the morning, when I wake up, my skin is smoother and brighter. It just looks healthier.

But, let me repeat it again: my skin is NOT sensitive. Given the glycolic acid + alcohol denat combo, I don’t feel like I can recommend it to those of you who have very sensitive skin.

But, if yours is normal, slightly dry or sun damaged AND you’re willing to moisturize well afterwards, I think you’ll like this.

Price & Availability: £30.00 at Feel Unique


IngredientsAqua, Alcohol Denat., Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, BHT, Bis-PEG-18-Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, CI 17200, Potassium Sorbate, Sorbitol, Saccharomyces/Xylinum/Black Tea Ferment, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract, Sodium Citrate, Phenoxyethanol, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Xanthan Gum, Panthenol, Biotin, Parfum, (Code FIL: C194475/1)

PR sample. Affiliate links.

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Hannah May 6, 2017 - 7:17 am

Hi, speaking of AHAs for sensitive skin, have you heard of Lactobionic acid?

“There’s another that’s technically a PHA or polyhydroxy acid and that’s lactobionic acid. Interestingly, According to research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, Lactobionic acid is not only more effective than glycolic acid at improving cell turn over but it’s also less irritating. An international team from London, Serbia and Slovenia tested both AHAs in a cream and a gel. 26 volunteers used the products twice a day for two weeks. The researchers found that Lactobionic acid scored better in both forms even though their data indicated the gel base worked a bit better than the cream form.”

Gio May 14, 2017 - 4:09 pm

Hanna, thanks for your comment. I’ve recently learned of it and have been doing some research. It definitely looks very promising and it is great that more options for sensitive skin are coming up.


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