5 Benefits of Glycolic Acid for the Skin

Glycolic acid is one of the most recognized anti-aging ingredients and is used in a wide range of skincare products. When used correctly as part of a skincare regimen, glycolic acid helps to improve the look and feel of your skin. We say correctly because there are drawbacks from overuse. It's still an acid afterall!

In this article we'll explore what Glycolic acid actually does and we'll cover the top 5 of the many benefits of this ingredient. We will also take a look at the downside over overuse. Finally, we'll leave you extremely well informed about this particular acid and you’ll know exactly what to look out for when you scan the ingredient list on the back of any skincare product.

What is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is a type of AHA, or alpha hydroxy acid, a chemical exfoliant derived from sugar cane. Glycolic acid is a safe ingredient that's been in use and studied for years to help improve the appearance of the skin.

How Does Glycolic Acid Work?

When used as part of a skincare regimen, glycolic acid functions as an exfoliant to help improve the appearance of the skin. The glycolic acid removes the dead surface cells that build up on the skin throughout the day. This helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Over time, glycolic acid will even help improve the texture of the skin. This is why it's more beneficial to use products containing this ingredient as part of your regular regimen, whether that be daily or weekly, rather than sporadically when you notice a skin issue.

5 Glycolic Acid Benefits Worth Knowing

With no further ado, here are our top 5 benefits of using glycolic acid. 

1. Minimizing the Appearance of Pores

When the pores of your skin appear large, it’s usually because they’re getting clogged with dirt and dead skin cells. As these toxins are exposed to air, they oxidise and produce a dark or black color making your pores appear larger. Glycolic acid will work to remove this dirt and dead skin and this reduces the appearance of pores on the skin's surface

2. Reducing the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Glycolic acid also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It does this by speeding up the cell turnover rate whilst also stimulating the skin to reduce the breakdown of collagen and encourage the growth of new collagen fibers.

3. Exfoliating the Skin

Exfoliation is an essential process for improving the appearance of the skin, and glycolic acid is one of the best chemical exfoliators. A physical exfoliator would be something like a rough poof or body scrubber.

4. Helping Fight Acne

Another very popular outcome of glycolic acid is its ability to help fight acne. In much the same way as how it helps reduce the appearance of pores, glycolic acid can help reduce the amount of sebum produced on the skin's surface. Sebum is an oily, waxy substance produced by your sebaceous glands to protect your skin. Problem is an overproduction of sebum, which is quite common, can lead to acne by clogging up your pores. Glycolic acid will clear those pores of excess sebum and prevent acne from forming in the first place.

5. Helping Even Skin Tone

Finally, Glycolic acid can help even out the skin tone and reduce the appearance of discoloration. This is especially true when glycolic acid is used with other products that target hyperpigmentation, such as retinoids. When used in this way, glycolic acid works to exfoliate the skin, allowing other products to more effectively penetrate the skin to deliver on their anti-aging and skin-brightening benefits.

What are the Downsides of Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is a well understood ingredient and is generally considered safe and effective. Like most things, a degree of moderation is recommended. Different products use different concentrations of glycolic acid depending on their intended effect. A low level of concentration ranges from 5% to 10%, medium level from 10% to 50% and a high level above 50%. Overuse or usage at too high a concentration can cause stinging, redness, crusting, peeling and dryness. Sometimes these effects can last as long as a few weeks. The main culprit for these negative side effects are often at-home glycolic skin peels that are either too high a concentration or are left on for too long.

Should You Add Glycolic Acid to Your Skincare Routine?

When it comes to skincare, there are a lot of ingredients that claim to offer a variety of benefits. Some of those can be over-hyped or the ingredient-of-the-day but when it comes to glycolic acid, its stellar reputation is well-deserved. Adding glycolic acid to your daily or weekly skincare routine is an excellent idea if you're looking to improve your skin's overall look and feel. That said, don’t overdo it and go easy on the at-home skin peels and you should see great results.