All About GLYCOLIC ACID

September 08, 2020

All About GLYCOLIC ACID

ALL ABOUT GLYCOLIC ACID 

What exactly is Glycolic Acid (GA) and what does it do for your skin?

Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane and is one of the mostly heavily studied alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) and is the smallest, water soluble AHA that allows it to penetrate deeply into the pores to be extremely effective.  There are different percentages of glycolic acid (7, 10, 12, 20, 30+). The higher percentages of glycolic acid are typically in chemical peels, whereas the ones we use at home are on the lower side, such as 7, 10, 12. GA has many benefits including resurfacing (when in chemical peels), brightening, evening pigmentation, shrink pores, exfoliate, and decrease acne breakouts. 

Is Glycolic Acid considered a chemical exfoliant and why is this better than a physical option?

Yes, Glycolic Acid is a chemical exfoliant. It works by degrading the substance that holds together our skin cells. By doing that, it exfoliates the skin, which in turn leads to anti-aging properties, such as diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. Glycolic Acid also works to diminish hyperpigmentation and break down sebum and oil that clogs the pores subsequently helping control acneic skin. 

Why are you personally a fan of GA and why do you prefer it over other options?

GA’s have the ability to superficially exfoliate the skin but can also work deeper to strengthen the deeper layers. GA is great to peel off the superficial dead skin cells, which inherently leads to a brighter and more even skin tone and texture.   

How should you incorporate GA into your skincare routine? Is there a particular age you should start using this ingredient? 

Even at younger ages, incorporating a glycolic cream or lotion into your skincare regimen can be beneficial specifically in the winter months.  Glycolic Acid can be used to soften that “fish scale” appearance of the lower legs and accelerate exfoliation of those “stuck on skin cells,” while also softening and moisturizing. You can incorporate GA into your routine as both chemical peels and at home GA products, such as face washes and skincare pads.

AHA body moisturizers are also great for those suffering from Keratosis Pilaris. This can help soften those bumps.

GA can help expand the volume that we lose over age, including promoting the production of hyaluronic acid ground substance. 

Are there any ingredients that GA pairs well with and are there others that you should avoid?

When you are using exfoliating agents in your skincare regimen, your skin is much more sensitive to the ultraviolet rays from the sun. Therefore, it is extremely important to always use a broad-spectrum SPF, at least a 30+, every day on your face.  Additionally, because of the deeper strengthening properties of GA, when paired with tretinoin, can boost the collagen properties of our skin.  It has been shown that concomitant use of AHA peels and tretinoin can increase the efficacy of the antiaging effect seen with tretinoin as compares to tretinoin alone.

For patients with hyperpigmentation and conditions such as melasma, pairing a GA with a hydroquinone have been shown to be more effective.

How long should you anticipate using a product with GA before you can anticipate results?

 Consistent and prolonged use can significantly improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as promote the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid.

Lightens solar lentigines (“sunspots”) as seen primarily on the face, forearms, chest, and back of the hands.

Do you recommend apply GA in the morning or at night? Please explain why. 

Tretinoin should be applied at night and Glycolic Acid in the morning. GA is not as effective in a wash because is water soluble. A leave on product can leave you more sensitive to ultraviolet rays. It also makes you more sensitive to sunscreens and any other acid-based products you are using. Additionally, it may be blunted because of other moisturizers you are using. Moisturizers and sunscreens may sting after using a cleanser with GA.

Is there anyone who is not a great candidate for GA use? Explain why.  

GA does have a tendency to be drying to the skin, so if you are someone that has severely dry skin or is prone to dry skin, start off with using a GA every third night or every other night.  It can help to apply a hydrating serum or lotion after using a GA. Also, if you are using multiple exfoliating agents at the same time, skin irritation is more likely to happen.  Those with extremely sensitive skin or rosacea should avoid products with glycolic acid, as the skin is prone to irritation.

Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation can happen in darker or mare olive-skinned individuals. Therefore, use of GAs should be done with caution.

BE AWARE…. The amount of AHA in a product is actually extremely variable and you should be aware. This is called the “bioavailability” of a substance, and the percentage that is specified on a bottle is not always representative of the amount of active ingredient. This depends heavily on the pH of the product.




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