You’ve probably heard of glycolic acid. It may even be in a skincare product that’s already in your bathroom. If you haven’t, you might think that skincare ingredients with the name “acid” in them sound kind of scary, but this one is actually super gentle. And when glycolic acid is used correctly, it’s a superstar at treating a whole slew of skincare conditions and woes. And luckily for you, it’s more available than ever! Read on to find out why glycolic acid is a gentle giant and all the reasons you should incorporate it into your skincare routine.
Okay, first of all, what is glycolic acid?
Glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant that’s found in many skincare products and treatments. It’s a member of the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family, which is a group of exfoliants that are naturally found in fruits, milk, and cane sugar. Glycolic acid is naturally colorless and odorless, and it’s gentle enough for almost every skin type. It can be used to treat a number of skin care concerns, ranging from acne to aging and a ton of stuff in between.
Super effective, easy to use, and featured in a wide variety of products from cleansers to toners to lotions, glycolic acid has become a holy grail skincare staple for so many people for one main reason: it does what it says it’s going to. Not sold yet? Here are the six main reasons why you should be using glycolic acid.
1. It’s exfoliating.
Exfoliating is such an important aspect of skincare, and because glycolic acid is a real-deal exfoliant, it’s only appropriate that this one belongs at the top of the list. Glycolic acid works by penetrating the top layer of skin to break down and dissolve dead skin cells, dirt, and oil. So, if you want to get soft, bright skin in one step, glycolic acid has got you covered.
2. It’s gentler on your skin than other exfoliators.
Exfoliants fall into two categories: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants are those sand-like cleansers that use gritty particles to scrub dead skin cells away. Physical exfoliants do a great job ridding the skin of old growth so the new stuff can show through, leaving you looking bright and refreshed. However, because they can have a rougher texture, physical exfoliants can be a little harsh for anyone with skin concerns like inflamed acne, eczema, or sensitive skin.
The safest bet for most people is going the chemical route with an AHA like glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is able to break down dead skin without irritation thanks to its small molecular structure.
If you’re not sure where your skin stands on the issue of physical vs. chemical, look for a product that delivers a little bit of both. A body exfoliator that uses glycolic acid, lactic acid (an even gentler AHA), and willow bark extract plus small granules will work to exfoliate the skin without stripping it of the moisture and oils it needs to function properly.
3. It treats a ton of skincare conditions and concerns.
Acne and dull, rough skin are the most common reasons to treat with glycolic acid, but its powers don’t stop there! Thanks to those exfoliating properties, glycolic acid can be used to treat just about anything trapped under the surface of the skin.
This can be particularly helpful for anyone looking to rid their skin of dark spots or acne scars, which have resulted in pits or pockets tough to conceal. It’s also ideal for the rough, bumpy skin that needs exfoliation. Glycolic acid is great for ingrown hairs because it reduces dead skin buildup and inflammation.
4. It’s safe for just about anyone to use.
Among the other pros, glycolic acid is great for pretty much any skin type. Of course, as with any new product, it’s best to always start with a patch test to see how your skin reacts and start slow, working your way up to more frequent use. To be extra safe, start with weekly use, then slowly increase to every other day. If your skin reacts well, increase use to once a day to turn those cells over and reveal bright, healthy skin.
Pro Tip: Always use a sunscreen when using AHAs or BHAs, and try not to overdo it and use too many acids at the same time, as you’ll increase your risk of irritation.
5. It hydrates.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. Sure, it exfoliates, and yes, it’s gentle, but perhaps most surprisingly — glycolic acid is hydrating! Glycolic acid is a humectant, which means it helps pull water into the skin to retain and preserve moisture. This is so important for any skin type, from extra oily and acne-prone to dry and flaky, and anything in between.
Glycolic acid is the perfect place to start if you are looking for a way to treat and moisturize any dry, rough skin on your bod!
6. It boosts collagen.
In addition to scrubbing the skin, glycolic acid is also known for its anti-aging effects. A good slough already goes a long way in achieving a youthful glow and can reveal a brighter, more even skin tone, but glycolic acid’s effect on collagen is what really sets it apart from the rest. Because glycolic acid can increase collagen production over time, using it can help improve the skin’s texture, eventually revealing a smooth, healthy surface.