Things to know before using glycolic acid

Everything You Need To Know Before Using Glycolic Acid Peel

Talking about cosmetics and excluding the glycolic acid just does not complete the ingredient list and mine certainly does not. Glycolic acid peel has become popular in the past for many skin treatments. It is performed by a physician. Now that home kits are available online, It is important that you know the pros and cons of using this powerful acid.

What is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is the smallest α-hydroxy acid (AHA) and the most commonly used in beauty products. Because of its smaller molecular size, it has a better capacity to penetrate the skin. It is non-toxic and tolerated by most people except the most sensitive one. It is used to improve the texture and appearance of the skin.

How does it work?

Glycolic acid works well because of its high solubility and acidity. Once applied, it reacts with the upper layer of the skin and weakens the bond that holds the dead skin cells exposing the live skin cells. In short, it exfoliates dead skin cells revealing younger looking skin.

Why use Glycolic Acid?

It has the ability to improve the overall appearance and texture of the skin. Before you get tempted to use it after reading all the goodness, you should learn how to use it properly with no side effects.

Here is some advantage:

  • Speeds up cellular renewal reducing fine lines and signs of ageing.
  • Clears blocked pores and blackheads by dissolving dead skin cells.
  • Helps in fading acne scars, pigmentation, age spots, melasma.
  • It also minimises the appearance of pores.
  • It hydrates skin well. Dry skin can be benefitted by using glycolic acid.
  • By removing the dead cell, it helps other ingredients to go deeper into the skin.
Who can benefit from using Glycolic Acid?

It is helpful in treating:

  • Acne
  • Age-spots
  • Wrinkles and Fine lines
  • Hyper-Pigmentation
  • Melasma
  • Ingrown Hair
  • Photo-Damage
  • Dry Skin
What is the risk of using Glycolic Acid peel?

Glycolic acid peel is an effective choice for a chemical peel for many skin problems. However, it needs to be neutralised to terminate its action. Otherwise, it may penetrate too deeply and over peel the skin.

  • Without proper guidance, a higher percentage can cause irritation, redness and in some cases turn the skin white that is called frosting.
  • At this point, a chemical peel is neutralised immediately with water or neutralising solution. This flaky skin may last for a few days turning darker day by day.
  • Skin is in healing mode under that scaling skin. It’s skin own defence mechanism to protect itself.
  • Picking at this peeling skin can lead to scars and hyper-pigmentation. So, keep your hands away from your face.
  • You should not use any other products containing salicylic acid, Retinol, Tretinoin at this moment. It can irritate your skin further and make it worse.
  • You can start using them once your skin is healed but with caution.
How to choose Glycolic Acid peel?

If you visit a dermatologist for a chemical peel, they will know the best for you. The percentage of the glycolic acid depends on your skin condition like Acne, Anti-ageing, Pigmentation, Age Spots, Melasma and stretch marks.

  • The best way is to start with a lower concentration (under 10% and a pH of 3.5 or higher) as skin needs time to get used to it.
  • Anything over 10% needs a proper guideline to use it. Starting with higher concentration can irritate your skin.

  • If you are already using other products like retinol and salicylic acid then your skin will take less time to get used to it.
  • The daily use of lower concentration of glycolic acid gives same benefits as a peel without the possible consequences of irritation and frosting.
  • Glycolic peels have a higher concentration of 30-70%. It is better to seek professional help with them.
  • pH plays a key role in glycolic acid product and their efficacy.
Glycolic Acid at different concentration

5-10% is a low concentration and found in many over the counter products. This relatively low concentration can be used daily. Daily use exfoliates the outermost layer of the skin resulting in smoother and blemishes free skin.

10-50% is a high concentration of glycolic acid peel and mostly comes in-home kit. These peels give temporary skin smoothing without long lasting effect. You should read all instruction carefully before using these kits at home. It is better to take a professional help.

Glycolic acid peel

50-70% is the highest concentration of glycolic acid peel and done by a dermatologist. It is used to treat acne, melasma, pigmentation and photo-damage. It gives beneficial results but multiple treatments are required for the optimal result.

How does pH affect Glycolic acid efficacy?

There are two factors that you need to keep in mind before buying Glycolic acid. First, the higher percentage of glycolic acid doesn’t make it more potent. Second, pH is the critical factor that determines the efficacy of the product. And moreover, it depends on the concentration of the glycolic acid and the pH of the medium in which it is used.

For example, for skin renewal, a lower pH and a higher concentration of acid are more effective. The lower pH of about 2 is more effective in peeling of the skin. And this pH value can go as low as 0.6 when done by a dermatologist.

This table shows how the efficacy of glycolic acid changes with concentration and different pH values. Higher pH gives low free acid value resulting in low efficacy of the product.

Glycolic acid and pH value efficacy

Most of the Glycolic acid product at home and market contain moisturising property and has the pH around 3-4% which is slightly more acidic than the normal skin pH of 5.5. This kind of range is effective with fewer side effects.

The moisturising product in the market that claims to have glycolic acid are less effective as their pH will be closer to skin’s pH thus neutralise the effect of glycolic acid.

Glycolic Acid Myths
  1. It causes dry skin
    No, it doesn’t. It draws moisture into the skin thus used in many dry skin condition treatments.
  2. Glycolic acid thins the skin
    It does not thin the skin. In fact, it increases the cell turnover resulting in increased thickness of skin and collagen deposition.
  3. You can not use glycolic acid on regular basis
    Yes, You can. A lower concentration of glycolic acid can be used daily as I have told earlier. It removes dead skin cell. In result, allows other ingredients to penetrate deeply.
Tips to remember:
  1. It makes skin sun sensitive. So, use Sunscreen of SPF 30 or more before stepping out in sun.
  2. Read all instruction carefully given with the product.
  3. Do a patch test first before applying on your skin.

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