The Truth About Glycolic Acid
Written by Nicola Moulton
9 Dec 2022
What is Glycolic Acid?
Also known as hydroacetic acid or hydroxyacetic acid, Gylcolic Acid is the fastest-acting and probably best-known of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids a group of natural acids found in foods like fruit, milk and - in the case of Glycolic Acid - sugar cane). As the AHA with the smallest molecule, it is the most penetrative, so Glycolic Acid delivers impressive results for radiant, smooth and clear skin.
How does Glycolic Acid work?
In a nutshell, it has an exfoliating action on the skin, meaning it removes dry and dead skin cells, and is an excellent way of resurfacing the skin if you don’t want to use a granular scrub. And it really does work. So well in fact that its skin-clearing, glow-boosting results can be a little bit addictive.
Glycolic Acid is a great way of resurfacing the skin without using a granular scrub
So it’s a good idea to proceed with caution, introducing one Glycolic Acid product to the face at first, getting used to its effects, and going from there. You may like to start with a daily toner or peeling pads, and then add in a weekly resurfacer like our Fruitizyme Five Minute Facial. And there’s always the option of our Dr Glycolic™ Soft Feet 7-Day Peel Socks when dry, scaly feet are in need of a serious sort-out.
Who should use Glycolic Acid?
Anyone - unless your skin is very sensitive, when you might like to start with another AH (Lactic Acid is often recommended for sensitive skins) and go from there. But there’s a common misconception that Glycolic Acid is particularly harsh or irritating to the skin, when in fact, most people don’t experience any irritation from using it. And in fact, most sensitive skins can benefit from extra hydration, and one excellent way to do that is to gently resurface the skin, allowing more moisture and nutrients to flood in.
There's a common misconception that Glycolic Acid is particulary harsh or irritating to the skin
If you have very sensitive skin, you may want to stick to a lower percentage, and use a wash-off product rather than something you leave on. BEAUTY PIE’s wash-off formulas include the Dr Glycolic™ Five Minute Facial, with dead-cell sloughing Glycolic Acid, powerful Pomegranate Enzymes, gentle Quartz powder, Bamboo scrub grains, purifying Salicylic Acid and antioxidant Raspberry Stem Cells, and the Deep Purifying Clay Cleanser, in which the Glycolic Acid is joined by oil-absorbing Kaolin and Montmorillonite Clays, microbe-fighting Lauric Acid and smoothing Lactic Acid. Perfect for oilier and breakout-prone complexions. And add in something with lots of soothing ingredients like our Happy Face moisturizer or Youth Bomb 360 Radiance Concentrate, too.
Also worth noting is that unlike say Retinol, Glycolic Acid is safe to use when pregnant or breastfeeding.
What percentage of Glycolic Acid should you use?
Most dermatologists will tell you to go no higher than around 10% Glycolic Acid at home. BEAUTY PIE's Dr Glycolic™ Pore-Purifying Glow Toner has 9.2% Glycolic, while the Multi-Acid Micro Peeling Pads contain 5% Glycolic Acid along with other AHAs like Lemon, Bilberry and Orange, too.
Glycolic Acid, unlike Retinol, is safe to use when pregnant or breastfeeding
What's the difference between Glycolic Acid and Retinol, and can you use both?
Another commonly-held myth is that Glycolic Acid and Retinoids can’t be used together. They can absolutely both form part of your skincare routine - Glycolic Acid will work on the surface of your skin, while Retinol penetrates deeper down - but they should be used at different times. One option is to use your Glycolic in the morning - perhaps a toner or pads after cleansing - and Retinol at night. And of course, follow with SPF in the daytime, too.
What should I use Glycolic Acid with?
As just mentioned: sunscreen for sure. As with all AHAs, Glycolic Acid can increase your skin's sensitivity to UV1, so a a daily SPF is (as always) essential.
What shouldn't I use Glycolic Acid with?
You’ll often hear it said that Glycolic Acid shouldn’t be used in combination with Vitamin C, because its combination can upset the skin’s pH balance.
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