Glycolic Acid – what it is and why you need it

0 Posted by - November 4, 2015 - Cosmetic Ingredients, General
Glycolic Acid cosmetic ingredient

Photo courtesy Alpha-H

What is Glycolic Acid and how does it work?

Remember Alpha-Hydroxy Acids, also known as AHAs? Well, Glycolic Acid is one of those.

However, it’s not just any AHA – it has the smallest molecules of any AHA meaning it penetrates skin more effectively. (Yes, when it comes to skincare, size really does matter.)

Glycolic Acid is derived from sugar cane but unlike actual sugar, it’s good for your skin. It works by  weakening the connections between dead skin cells which can otherwise clog your pores or make your skin look dull and grey.

Its gentle exfoliating action means live skin cells are exposed, giving skin a brighter, fresher, younger appearance. And who doesn’t want that?

Glycolic Acid is derived from sugar cane. Photo: Anissa Wood

Glycolic Acid is derived from sugar cane. Photo: Anissa Wood

Use Glycolic Acid for:

Glycolic Acid is effective for all skin types and for a number of different skin concerns.

If you have acne, oily skin, visible pores, or blackheads:

Glycolic Acid helps by breaking down oils and sebum on the surface layer of the skin. This helps to clear yucky blackheads (comedones) and blocked pores, leading to clearer skin over time.

If you have dry, dull skin:

It can also work wonders for dry skin, which can be caused by a build-up of dead skin cells on the skin’s surface. Over time, it will dissolve the cement binding the dead cells together, leaving you with softer, smoother, radiant skin.

If you have sensitive skin:

If you’re a sensitive type, a product containing Glycolic Acid might suit you better than a facial scrub with abrasive particles. Those scrubby particles can  damage the skin’s essential barriers, irritating your already sensitive skin and leading to more flare-ups.

If your skin is very sensitive, you might like to start using a product containing Glycolic Acid every few days initially and build up usage slowly. This lets you monitor how your skin is reacting to the product. If you find it irritates, slow down or stop using the product. If everything’s  good,  you can gradually build up to using the product every day.

In general, it’s safe for sensitive skin and most products contain a concentration of 10% or less. Higher concentrations may cause some mild redness and a tingling sensation initially.


You should wear sun protection every day, but it’s especially important to do so as using Glycolic Acid or other AHAs as they can increase sun senstivity.

Applying body lotion: Glycolic Acid can also help with body skin issues

Glycolic Acid can also help with body skin issues

Glycolic Acid is also good for:

If you have issues with less-than-perfect skin on your body, Glycolic Acid can help here too. If you have dry and flaky patches, blackheads, acne, or even Keratosis Pilaris, you can tackle it with Glycolic body washes and lotions. Use these products sparingly but frequently – so use your body lotion every day, but don’t slather it on.

Avoid Glycolic Acid if:

It won’t actually help with deep wrinkles, so if that’s your main concern, try a product containing retinoids instead.

Avoid also if you have chapped skin or eczema, until the problem clears up. Using these products on compromised skin could cause further irritation – ouch.

Find Glycolic Acid in:

More products containing Glycolic Acid

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