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January 19, 2022

Glycolic Acid: What Is It and How Does It Help Your Skin?

Belen Arce
Glycolic Acid: What Is It and How Does It Help Your Skin?
Say hello to a smooth and clear complexion with these glycolic goodies!

If you’re anything like me and have been dealing with acne and hyperpigmentation for as long as you can remember, what you are about to witness will be the bright light to follow to get a clear complexion once and for all. Treating breakouts, evening out skin texture, and smoothing your face is a lot to ask from just one skincare product. But that might not be 100% true if we take a further look into one of the most popular Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)! Glycolic acid will be your ride-or-die if you haven’t delegated your skin concerns to this hardworking ingredient just yet.

Here, we break down everything you should know about glycolic acid. Yes, after reading this, you’ll be one step closer to the skin of your dreams, so read on to learn how glycolic acid actually works, what the benefits of using it are, and which products best make the most out of such powerful properties.

What is glycolic acid?

First things first, what glycolic acid is can be summed up by the following statement: A type of AHA that’s naturally derived from sugar cane, with the lowest molecular weight – which means that it penetrates the skin more easily than its counterparts. 

What does glycolic acid do for your face?

As we pointed out, glycolic acid is basically the solution to almost everyone’s skin concerns. The most common glycolic format in the beauty industry is as an exfoliant, where it helps buff dead skin cells while renewing brighter layers of your skin. AHAs in general are water-soluble, meaning they work great on the superficial layers of your skin, but, with glycolic acid, we can get to the deeper layers of the skin, unclogging pores and increasing collagen production. Is this something like a holy grail? We can say so!

Glycolic acid is best used in small percentages, and it’s recommended to start with weaker chemical exfoliants while working your way up to more potent formulas. Another pro tip: this ingredient works better when applied at night, so its hardworking molecules do all the work while you sleep. Be ready to wake up to a clearer and smoother complexion very soon, but remember, as always, consistency is vital if you want to achieve the skin of your dreams. So, to make the work easier for you, we have put together a round-up of the best glycolic-based products, from cleansers and toners to pads. There’s a product for every budget and need, so take your pick below!

The Best Glycolic Acid Products

Alpha H Liquid Gold

No hyperbole – if I had to choose just one of the products listed here, this one would definitely be my pick. I’m not sure how many bottles I’ve used over the past few years, and my skin still raves about it. As the name says, it feels like liquid gold on your skin. This toner treatment owes its success to the low pH formula that mixes the powerful star ingredient, glycolic acid, with liquorice extract to cause a brightening effect, revealing fresh and luminous skin after a couple of uses. If you are an acid beginner, it’s recommended that you use it every other night until your skin gets used to it, followed by every night.

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The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

This budget-buy proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune on products to get the best results. This toning solution works to even out skin texture, soothe redness, and boost radiance all at once, thanks to a blend of 7% glycolic acid, amino acids, aloe vera, Tasmanian pepperberry, and ginseng root. Compared with other glycolic products, this one has been proven to be gentler on the skin, which you will love if you’re starting out with acids.

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Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Pads

If you have been into skincare for a while, you probably won’t need any introduction to this one, but for the newbies, all we have to say is that the hype is genuine – these pads are a best-selling product for more than one reason. First and foremost, they work as a home-peel, delivering professional while gentle and effective results. Suitable for every type of skin, the formula is a blend of the golden trio: glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acid. This product not only unclogs pores but also reduces signs of ageing, and the best part is that you only need to wipe them all over your cleaned face.

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Drunk Elephant T.LC. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Another beloved goodie by beauty editors and fanatics around the globe, this product not only looks very cute in your beauty cupboard but also does a pretty decent job as a night serum. What you can expect is an improved skin texture led by faded dark spots and marks, as well as unclogged pores, thanks to a powerful formula made of glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids on a 12% AHA combo – all balanced with raspberry extract to soothe the skin. 

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Skinstitut Glycolic Cleanser 12%

Although it might sound a bit harsh to use a cleanser formulated with acids, this Skinstitut one is the opposite – a perfect go-to for acne-prone skin types, this gel formula dramatically increases luminosity by promoting a healthy cell turnover while reducing the appearance of breakouts, fine lines, and dullness. Here, glycolic acid is mixed with tea tree oil to help with inflammation.

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Mario Badescu Glycolic Eye Cream

This very gentle eye cream is your port of call for discolouration, wrinkles, and fine lines all around your eye area. Formulated for such a sensitive area, the cream is as nourishing as it can get, with ingredients such as cocoa butter, vitamin E, and olive leaf. After introducing this overnight treatment to your skin, you will wake up to a youthful face every day.

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Cover Photo Credits: LIUBOV POGORELA

@liubovpogorelaphotography

If you liked this article, you might like our feature about the best faux-tanning products.

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