Get Glowing With Glycolic Acid

Why you need to stop scrubbing and start investing in this powerful skincare ingredient.

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Why you need to stop scrubbing and start investing in this powerful skincare ingredient.

When we hear about the presence of acid in our skin care, many of us are quick to shudder. However, there are many acids, in controlled amounts, that can be incredibly beneficial to our skin. One of which, is glycolic acid. In fact, glycolic acid is getting increasingly popular as it shows up in more and more skincare products. So, what exactly is glycolic acid? It is a water-soluble alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) which is great for exfoliating and breaking down dead cells to give you radiant, clear and soft skin.

How Does It Work? 

When you consider common skin issues, you will see that they generally all begin with a buildup of dead skin cells. Dead skin cells block pores and this can eventually lead to dreaded breakouts and other skin conditions such as fine lines and wrinkles. This gets worse as we age because our cell turnover rate doesn’t happen as rapidly as it did when we were younger. 

This is where glycolic acid comes in. Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid gets into your skin and loosens dead cells from each other. What’s more is that because it is such a small molecule, it can be absorbed by your skin pretty easily. This means it has the ability to penetrate deeper into your skin to target bacteria or dislodge sebum build-up that could cause acne. This deep exfoliation also allows your skin to absorb other products better and will give you a smoother finish with your makeup.

How High Should You Go?

Glycolic acid comes in many different concentrations and what you use largely depends on your personal skin concerns. As a rule, you should start out with a lower concentration and work your way up. Products containing a concentration of between eight to 10 percent is considered the most effective. Usually, over-the-counter creams or serums contain a concentration between one to 25 percent glycolic acid. 

However, if you have deep acne scarring, excessive sun damage or sun spots, you might want to consider seeing a dermatologist for a professional chemical peel. Chemical peels applied by professionals usually use glycolic acids with a concentration of up to 50 percent. However, this should only be done on the advice of your doctor and never attempted at home. 

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Don’t Worry, It’s Normal

Glycolic acid is a product which is generally safe to use regardless of what your skin type or age is. However, a slight sting (a tingling or itch) can be expected if you are new to the product or if your skin is on the sensitive side. As it is an exfoliating product, remember not to use it too often. Once every other day is a pretty good estimate. However, if you find your skin getting too dry, cut back your usage to three times a week or less. You should also ensure that you are moisturising well, and also to avoid other resurfacing products when you use glycolic acid. 

You can also expect to break out slightly when you start using the product for the first time. This is because your skin is purging out all the dead cells and bacteria. It can be alarming at first to see a bunch of pimples appearing at once, but stick to the products and it will get better. A purge can last as long as two months, but you can often see an improvement by six weeks. If the problem does persist past the two-month mark, consult a dermatologist. 

Pile On That SPF

The best time to use glycolic acid on your skin is at night. This is because it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Sun damage can ruin any progress you are making towards healthy skin. Make sure you load up on your SPF and protect yourself from the sun well when using this acid. 

Clockwise from top:

SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight, $139 (50 ml).

The SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight is formulated with 10 percent glycolic acid which allows it to work at a proven, optimal level to promote exfoliation and natural cell turnover.

PIXI Glow Tonic, $22 (100 ml).

Exfoliating and toning, the PIXI Glow Tonic will soothe, hydrate and accelerate cell renewal for a brighter, glowing complexion.

Vichy Idealia Lumiere Peeling Care, $35 (200 ml).

The Vichy Idealia Lumiere Peeling Care is perfect for those who want to correct dull skin tones, the appearance of fine lines or irregular skin texture. Used as a night treatment, it helps deliver an even-looking, smooth complexion. 

SW1 SLEEP MODE Skin Renewing and Smoothening Gel, $76.

The SW1 SLEEP MODE Skin Renewing and Smoothening Gel is an oil-free aloe vera gel with glycolic acid to fight bacteria and exfoliate dead skin so skin comes out brighter. 

Porcelain REVIVE Glycolic Toner, $59 (120 ml).

Formulated for sensitive skin, the Porcelain REVIVE Glycolic Toner will help restore the skin’s natural pH level as well as visibly reduce pore size, hydrate and exfoliate.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, $190 (50 ml).

Containing raspberry fruit extract, cactus extract and more, the Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum is an AHA/BHA night serum which refines and resurfaces skin to reveal smooth and radiant skin.

Kew Organics Sugar Cane Royal Flush Exfoliant,$69.70 (30 ml).

Made with sugar cane extract and fruit acid, the Kew Organics Sugar Cane Royal Flush Exfoliant deeply exfoliates skin to reveal a healthy and youthful complexion.