Glycolic acid is an ingredient you may have come across in the skin care aisle; but, what does it exactly do for skin? For those seeking a powerful ingredient to add to their anti-aging regime, glycolic acid can be a powerful difference maker! Don't be turned off by the word, acid; on the contrary this ingredient is anything but harsh! Read on to learn what benefits glycolic acid has to offer and how to use it properly to achieve noticeable results.
What Is Glycolic Acid?
For starters, glycolic acid is a type of AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) which also includes lactic and citric acid. The other major acid group, beta hydroxy differ in molecular composition and includes the popular salicylic acid. AHA's are geared toward anti aging due to their rapid ability to increase skin turnover while exfoliating skin. It is derived from natural cane sugar which makes this ingredient sensitive skin friendly.
True to the adage that the best things come in small packages is true of this powerful acid. Compared to the other types of acid, glycolic is seen as the smallest in weight of the group. This distinctive trait allows it to travel through water based cell membranes effortlessly. In other words, its small size also equates to more dramatic results for even the most stubborn skin.
How Does Glycolic Acid Work?
How does this tiny molecule work to give you the skin of yesteryear? To break it down simply, glycolic acid works by squeezing itself between the matrices of cells. Strong bonds seen in sebum cells are held together by a glue like substance. Once glycolic acid has penetrated sebum cells by “burning” its way through, it further breaks down dead skin cells to reveal glowing, healthy and “new” skin cells underneath dermal layers.
This change also alters skin ph, the ideal ph for skin hovers on the more acidic end of the spectrum. This acid works to re-balance the ph of skin while effectively removing bacteria causing cells that can increase sebum production.
What Are The Benefits Of Glycolic Acid?
Aside from working as a powerful exfoliater and anti-aging agent, glycolic acid also offers the following benefits with regular use:
- Clears out pores (prevents blackheads and acne formation)
- Reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles
- Fade the look of acne scars
- Minimize the size of pores (less sheen)
- Changes the surface of skin to allow collagen to thicken
- Evens skin tone
How Can I Start Using Glycolic Acid?
There are plenty of over the counter products that can provide an effective concentration of glycolic acid. It is key to keep the amount of acid use to a minimum. If you mix too many acids together, you risk causing inflammation .
In addition the percentage level of the acid also makes a difference. The ideal ph level of acids should hover between 3 and 4 to effectively work. When a percentage is too high, you run the risk of causing skin to flake aka as “frosting”.
If you're using other vitamin A based products like a retinoid, keep usage minimum to avoid hypersensitivity. Both compounds work to “melt” dead skin cells; overuse can backfire and cause scarring.
Another key tip to keep in mind is that the use of any AHA or vitamin A based compound makes skin more sensitive to UVB/UVA light rays. As part of your skin regime, it is best to use glycolic acid at night to avoid hyper pigmentation or the deactivation of the active molecules in the acid. It is best to use glycolic acid 1-2 times per week, any more than that and you run the risk of drying out skin. As always, follow use with a moisturizer formatted for your skin type!