What is Glycolic Acid and what it's used for
What is glycolic acid?
Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane and is included in the group of substances called alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). They are also referred to as fruit acids. It is used for medical purposes to perform cosmetic skin peels; however, it is also used for non-medical purposes such as dying textiles, tanning leather, preserving foods, and making ink, paint, and adhesives. One of the most beneficial properties of glycolic acid is its ability to penetrate the skin quickly and effectively, making it a popular and widely-used chemical used for cosmetic skin peels.
Because of their milder effects, glycolic acid peels are most commonly used as minimally invasive cosmetic procedures to improve the subject’s appearance. In certain instances, the peel may be effective to treat pre-cancerous skin growths, reduce the appearance of acne facial scars, and help control acne. Glycolic acid peels are suitable for men or women of virtually any age who are showing mild effects of aging or have scarring caused by acne. Physicians often recommend the peels for patients who want a quick recovery and who do not need deep treatments to resurface the skin.
Benefits Of Glycolic Acid UseProvides a remarkably even exfoliation of the skin
Releases and dissolves dead skin cells - clearing up blocked pores and blackheads
A very effective acne treatment - particulary cystic acne which is caused by deep blockages of dead skin cells and sebumReduces fine lines and signs of premature aging by increasing cell turnover - meaning younger, healthier cells are now visible on the skin's surfaceAcne scars (and other scar lesions) respond well to consistent glycolic acid treatmentFurther products and treatments can penetrate deeper as it removes the 'barrier' of dead cells and surface grimeThe effects are compound - meaning frequent use will provide better and better skinIt minimizes the appearance of pores by keeping them clear and helping the surrounding cells to strengthen and regain elasticity
How Does It Work?
Glycolic acid works like tiny 'pacmen', eating away at the glue between cells:
It reacts with the top layer of skin, breaking it down by dissolving sebum and other substances that bind cells togetherDead skin cells are sloughed off revealing smoother, brighter, younger looking skin (more benefits below)Products range in percentage of concentration and pH levels. A product with pure glycolic acid in a lower concentration is much more effective than another which includes it along with other ingredients (for example in a moisturizer). Get the full benefits from a focused glycolic acid product, and let your moisturizer do it's proper job!
The Importance of Concentration (%) And Building Up
Over the counter products containing glycolic acid range in concentration from 1% to 30%.
Chemical peels performed by dermatologists range from 30% to 70%.
In order to get the benefits of using glycolic acid at home, it's recommended to use a low percentage consistently as part of your skin care routine and get great results.
Evaluate how your skin feels while you use it - a mild tingling is normal the first few times, and is an indication it is working.
If this is too much you can decrease the usage to every second day - or some people may need to start at every few days. This is fine, as along as you listen to your skin.After a 3 or 4 weeks you can increase the frequency or application time. By now your skin will be used to the acid and will be able to handle higher concentrations. This is optional - regular use of your favorite 5 - 8% product is absolutely fine!Some people claim anything lower than 20% concentration isn't worth doing - but this is dangerous as it can cause long term damage to skin if not used correctly. Low doses used consistently work best at restoring normal health, keeping it clear, and providing a fresh 'glow'.