Glycolic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane. It was first used in the beauty industry a little over 20 years ago and is now a common ingredient in many skincare products. The benefits of glycolic acid in skincare are too many to mention.
It is often regarded as the most common, most popular and most studied Alpha Hydroxy Acid. Glycolic acid is also readily available in form of cleansers, toners, serums, peels, masks. Its molecules are small and penetrate the skin easily. It is actually the smallest AHA.
Glycolic acid is naturally derived from plants like sugarcane, pineapple and beets. It can also be synthesized in the lab. It is also highly soluble in water.
Why is Glycolic Acid Important?
Glycolic acid works by breaking down the glue that holds dead skin cells on the epidermis together allowing the stratum to dissolve revealing clearer, smother skin as a result. This makes is the holy grail for exfoliation.
Due to its exfoliating abilities, it is used in treating melasma, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, texture, acne scarring.
Glycolic acid is also used to treat skin conditions like psoriasis, melasma, hyperkeratosis, actinic keratosis, seborrheic keratosis.
Studies have shown that when formulated effectively, glycolic acid can boost collagen production, helping the skin tissue remain firm and resist wrinkling.
Keratosis pilaris, a skin condition characterized by rough and bumpy skin which is due to a build up of keratin around the hair follicles, responds well to regular exfoliation using glycolic-acid containing products. It has also been shown to greatly reduce ingrown hairs.
Known for its moisturizing benefits, glycolic acid is a humectant which draws water to the skin. When used in the right concentration, it is an effective ingredient in moisturizers.
Side effects of Glycolic Acid
It makes skin susceptible to sunburn so the use of sunscreen is advised if glycolic acid products are present in a routine.
Glycolic acid can be drying when used in very high concentrations.
It is more irritating than most AHAs due to its small molecular weight which enables it to penetrate deeper in the skin.
Best Glycolic Acid Products