Glycolic Acid has been getting a lot of buzz lately in the world of skin care. But what is it exactly and what can it do for the skin? First, glycolic acid comes from sugar cane, though sometimes it is synthetically produced. It is part of the AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) family which includes lactic (milk), citric (oranges and lemons), malic (apples and pears) and tartaric acids (grapes) and of course, glycolic acid (sugar cane.) Second, glycolic acid functions as an exfoliant. Because of its ability to penetrate skin it is particularly useful as part of an anti aging skin care regime.
What Skin Care Woes Does Glycolic Acid Treat?
Glycolic acid aids in the exfoliation of the top layer of dead skin cells and reveals new, smooth skin. It works by loosening the “glue” that binds cells together like interlocking fingers thus allowing dead cells to slough off faster. Over time it helps lighten hyperpigmentaion and sun damage. Some studies suggest that glycolic acid, if used consistently and at a high enough percentage, prevents premature deterioration of collagen and helps build some new collagen to boot!
What Skin Types Benefit Most from Glycolic Acid?
Glycolic acid does a fabulous job at exfoliating skin giving it a smoother appearance and texture. Therefore, virtually every skin type can benefit from using glycolic acid. However, those with oily or acne prone skin may achieve better results with Salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid. I’ll talk more about BHA in a future post.
What Forms and Strengths Does Glycolic Acid Come In?
Glycolic acids can be found in liquid, gel, and cream form. Currently, the highest percentage companies can retail to consumer’s in Canada for at-home use is ten percent. Peels performed by professionals offer the most dramatic results. Glycolic acid peels range from 10 to 70 percent. Those who cannot tolerate glycolic can opt for lactic, another AHA, that is much milder. Generally, a series of peels (6) will be performed over a period of six months.
Though the percentage of at-home glycolic treatments are not nearly as high as those used by professionals, with consistent use you will see an overall improvement in clarity, tone, and texture. At-home glycolic treatments are a great way to maintain results from a professional peel. Furthermore, if you find that you can tolerate at-home glycolic peels then you will probably tolerate professional peels.
Precautions When Using Glycolic Acid (Or any AHA)
- Of course, if you are serious about achieving or maintaining healthy skin then wearing sunscreen, rain or shine, is indispensable. If you are using any AHA, however, it is especially important to protect your skin. Glycolic acid, or any AHA, works by removing the dead skin from your face leaving fresh new skin behind. This new skin is as fragile and susceptible to damage as it is beautiful so WEAR SUNSCREEN!
- Do not wax or use depilatories on areas treated for at least 2 weeks after peel. Ouch!
- Make sure you let your dermatologist or skin care therapist know of any previous or planned treatments. A client consultation is held to determine what treatments are appropriate for your skin type, your concerns, and to determine any possible contraindications.
Great At-Home Glycolic Acid Products
- Paula’s Choice Weekly Resurfacing Treatment
- Neostrata Oil Free Smoothing Lotion Level 3
- Biophora Bioactive Gel