Everything You Need to Know About Glycolic Acid

If you’re familiar with anything skincare related, I’m sure you’ve heard of glycolic acid. It’s among many of the popular acids today such as hyaluronic acid, azelaic acid, and citric acid. But you might be wondering, what’s so important about glycolic acid? We are here to tell you. Glycolic acid is an amazing anti-aging ingredient that is essential for your regular skincare regimen. If you are over the age of 18, it is so important to have a steady skincare routine based on your personal skin concerns. After all, your skin is an investment, and if you continue to view it that way, you’ll have young, plump, beautiful skin for forever (well, not actually, but you get what we mean). Fortunately, glycolic acid products are available for all price points, so you won’t have to spend a pretty penny on this amazing ingredient.

So you're looking for a way to get glowing skin, glycolic acid may be the answer. Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid that can be used to improve the appearance of your skin. It is found in many skincare products, and it offers a range of benefits. In this blog post, we will discuss the skincare benefits of glycolic acid and how you can use it to get beautiful, healthy skin!

What is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is a type of AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) and is actually the smallest form of that acid. It is highly water-soluble and has an excellent ability to penetrate the skin, which means you don’t have to use a lot for it to be effective. The pH in glycolic acid ranges from 2.5 (consumer use) to 6 (professional use) so there’s a range of different concentrations for all skin types. It can be found in face washes, exfoliators, toners, serums, moisturizers, treatments, and chemical peels. But what does glycolic acid actually do? We are so glad you asked. This ingredient can help minimize fine lines and wrinkles, reduce acne and texture, even skin tone, tighten pores, and exfoliate dead skin. Sounds like a miracle ingredient, right? And the best part about glycolic acid is that it is one of the least drying acids out there. Because of the gentleness of this acid, it’s great for beginners who are just starting on their skincare journey and who don’t have much experience with chemical exfoliators.

How to Use Glycolic Acid

First, you should decide which product you want to be your glycolic acid product. If you don’t have much acne or texture, and you are just looking for something gentle to introduce to your skincare routine, a glycolic acid cleanser or toner could be right for you. This is because cleansers and toners typically don’t have a very high concentration of glycolic acid, so there is not very much risk of irritation. On the other hand, if you are looking for something to seriously transform your skin, something like a serum, treatment, or even professional chemical peel would be a great option. If your skin is sensitive, be sure to start out slow when using leave-on treatments. If you start out too strong, you could risk having burning, irritation, and in extreme cases, a chemical burn. So, in the beginning, try using the serum or treatment 1-2 times per week, and slowly work your way up from there. Better to be safe than sorry!

One thing to keep in mind when using glycolic acid (or any AHA) is that SPF is extremely important. SPF is always a must, whether you’re using glycolic acid or not. But when you start to use chemical exfoliants, it can make your skin somewhat hypersensitive to the sun. And the last thing anyone wants is sun damage, especially while trying to improve their skin! Also, be sure to use some sort of hydrating serum (hyaluronic acid is a great source of moisture) to make sure your skin doesn’t dry out from using the glycolic acid. And, as always, you should be using a moisturizer day and night to make sure your skin is in tip-top shape.

How NOT to Use Glycolic Acid

Unfortunately, there is a lot of products out there that have crazy amounts of glycolic acid or contain a pH level that is much too high for consumer (not professional) use. So definitely be careful when picking out your next glycolic acid product. Also, as we mentioned earlier, even though getting new skincare products is very exciting, don’t go overboard and use more of the product that is recommended on the packaging. If you’d like to be extra cautious, you can visit your dermatologist and ask them how often they recommend to use it for you personally.

What Glycolic Products Should I Use?

Due to the rising popularity and awareness of glycolic acid, there are many brands (high end and affordable) that have created various products that contain this magic ingredient. A fantastic affordable option is the Pixi by Petra Overnight Glow Serum ($24 at Target). This product contains 10% glycolic acid, vitamins A, C, and E for nourishment, and aloe and cucumber extract for their calming properties. This product has amazing reviews and is definitely worth picking up the next time you’re at your local Target!

Another great affordable option is The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution ($8.70 at Ulta). It contains 7% glycolic acid, so slightly less of a concentration than the Pixi by Petra serum. It has a pH of 3.5-3.7, so it is extremely gentle and a great choice for beginners. If you’re planning on picking up this product, your best bet would be ordering it on Ulta’s website instead of in-store because The Ordinary is typically an online-only brand at Ulta.

If you’re willing to splurge on a new skincare item, one of Sephora’s top-selling products (and an Allure Best of Beauty Winner!) is the Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum. This product retails for $90 and is a blend of three different acids; tartaric, lactic, and citric. It is an AHA/BHA product, so although it does have a raspberry extract for calming purposes, this serum is not for the faint of heart. You can expect a slight tingling sensation with this product (as you can with most AHA/BHA’s) but if you experience burning or excessive irritation, stop use immediately.

If you’re looking to splurge but not $90 splurge, the FARMACY Honeymoon Glow Serum is an excellent alternative. It’ll cost you around $58 at Sephora, and it is also a blend of different acids. This product is a little more geared towards sensitive skin; it has flower acids to calm the skin and a blend of oils that also moisturize. It has amazing reviews and the directions encourage using it 1-2 times a week so that your skin can get accustomed to it.

At the end of the day, as long as you do your research and follow the instructions on the packaging, you should have success with whichever glycolic acid product you choose. Taking care of your skin is so important, so make sure you spend the necessary time and energy choosing which routine works for you!