Alpha-hydroxy acids

Glycolic acid in Skincare – Complete Guide

Glycolic acid is a type of Alpha-Hydroxy acid that is derived from sugar cane and other plant sources. It is an exfoliant that can shed old skin cells and improve the texture of the skin. It can be used as a cream, peel, wash, or lotion.

  • It acts as an exfoliant: It removes the top layer of skin improving skin texture and dullness, and brightening the skin.
  • Anti-aging: It can stimulate collagen and improve fine lines, and wrinkles. It can promote collagen.
  • It helps to treat acne: glycolic acid can help to treat blackheads and acne.
  • Multi-tasker: glycolic acid can also treat skin aging, melasma, sunspots, and post-inflammatory pigmentation.
  • Other benefits: It can also help with acne scars and increase the penetration of other skincare actives.

Who can use it?

Glycolic acid is useful for those people who want to treat chemical exfoliation, sun damage, melasma, freckles, pigmentation, wrinkles, collagen-building, and photodamage.

Glycolic acid is not suitable for sensitive skin, rosacea, dermatitis, inflammatory cystic acne, and skin of colour.

What skincare ingredients can be combined with Glycolic acid?

  • Retinol and retinoids
  • Vitamin C
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Peptides
  • Niacinamide
  • Azelaic acid
  • Hydroquinone
  • Ceramides
  • Vitamin E
  • Tranexamic acid
  • Arbutin

How to add Glycolic acid to your skincare routine?

Some things to consider before using glycolic acid:

  1. Use glycolic acid only at night. Using it in the morning can cause sun sensitivity.
  2. You can use it 2-3 times a week depending on your skin type and irritation level.
  3. Always make sure to read the packaging to know at what time of the day you can use the product and how many times you can use it a week.
  4. Don’t forget to check the concentrations of the product.

Morning routine:

  • Use a gentle, non-foaming cleanser.
  • Toner (optional)
  • Use your skincare actives such as Niacinamide or Vitamin C
  • Moisturize and then apply your sunscreen.

Night routine:

  1. Use a cleanser.
  2. Toner is optional.
  3. Use your glycolic acid.
  4. Wait for 30 mins till it gets fully absorbed into the skin and then apply your skincare actives such as Niacinamide, Vitamin C, or Retinol.
  5. Moisturize.

Note: Using glycolic acid with other actives such as Vitamin C and Retinol at night can be very irritating to the skin, especially for sensitive skin and skin of color.

  • Tip 1: you can try to use derivatives of Vitamin C or Retinol together with an AHA at night but do be cautious. Or just use niacinamide with an AHA at night.
  • Tip 2: Since you’re using glycolic acid 1-2 times a week, you can modify your skincare actives such as Vitamin C or Retinol. For example:
    • Alternate nights: on 1st night you can use your AHA with retinol. On 2nd night you can use your AHA with Vitamin C.

Important note:

This skincare routine is mainly an example of how you add glycolic acid to your routine. Glycolic acid can be very irritating cause it penetrates into the skin faster than other AHAs and mixing with other actives such as Vitamin C or Retinol can make the skin more sensitive. There are many other ways and methods to add these AHAs to the skin. Our advice is to go simple and use a more non-irritating active like niacinamide or azelaic acid with an AHA at night.

Always consult a dermatologist about AHAs.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is glycolic acid safe during pregnancy?

Glycolic acid is said to be safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding, but still do make to consult a dermatologist about using these AHA and their concentrations.

Does glycolic acid cause purging?

Yes, glycolic acid can sometimes cause purging (worsening of acne) in acne-prone skin. This is because, in acne-prone skin, there are unseen microcomedones. Using glycolic acid increases cell turnover and fastens the appearance of these microcomedones and shows them as sudden temporary breakouts.

A purge should last for a maximum of 4-6 weeks.

Can glycolic acid be combined with retinol?

Yes, glycolic acid can be combined with retinol. Retinol increases the cell turnover rate so that new skin cells can come to the surface. glycolic acid exfoliates and sheds old skin cells. These two ingredients can help to accelerate skin turnover.

Can glycolic acid be combined with Vitamin C?

Yes glycolic acid can be combined with Vitamin C, but do make sure not to mix these two ingredients together as they can make the combination ineffective.

Can glycolic acid be combined with other AHA/BHAs?

Yes, glycolic acid can be combined with other AHA/BHAs, but make sure to not use them on the same day. You can use it on alternate nights depending on your skin type and irritation levels. For example, use an AHA on 1 day and a BHA on the next day or after a few days.

Can glycolic acid toner be used with niacinamide?

Yes, they can be used together. After you cleanse your face, apply the toner and then apply the niacinamide. Then finish it off with a moisturizer and sunscreen.

Does glycolic acid thin skin?

No, glycolic acid thins the outermost layer of the skin, but overall thickens the epidermis over time. Higher doses of AHA have been shown to thicken the epidermis. 50% glycolic acid peels cause thinning of the stratum corneum, but enhancement of the granular layer of the layer.

This results in epidermal thickening, increased cell turnover, clears pigmentation, and brightens skin.

Is The Ordinary glycolic acid safe during pregnancy?

Yes, The Ordinary glycolic acid should be safe to use for pregnancy, but you should still make sure to consult a doctor about this.

Can glycolic acid be used with rosehip oil?

Yes, glycolic acid can be used with rosehip oil as long as it doesn’t irritate your skin. Rosehip oil can be applied after your moisturizer to fill in those dry patches and lock in that moisture.