Glycolic Acid - Benefits and Uses
Glycolic Acid is an Alpha-Hydroxy-Acid (AHA), which is a group of acids commonly used in topical skin products to improve skin tone and texture. Concentrated Glycolic Acid is used in chemical peels, usually ranging from 20-40% strength. Glycolic Acids is effective treating hyperpigmentation (sun or age spots) and improves skin texture by smoothing fine lines and wrinkles.
Glycolic Acid is a derivative of sugar cane and is composed of very small molecules, making it an effective ingredient, penetrating multiple layers of the skin. Glycolic Acid has high bioavailability, meaning it is easily absorbed and processed by the skin.
Glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant, breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells and healthy skin, shedding the dead skins and stimulating new cell growth. Glycolic Acid smooths the skin by breaking down the outer layer of dead skin, exposing a layer of softer new skin. Glycolic Acid brightens the skin and lightens problematic dark spots by shedding sun damaged and hyperpigmented cells. Glycolic Acid strengthens the skin by creating a thicker skin barrier, and has decongestant properties, clearing pores by breaking down dead skin, oil, and debris. Glycolic Acid also has keratolytic properties, meaning it can break down scars and thick, tough skin.
Glycolic Acid is an active ingredient and is too harsh to use on a daily basis. For most over-the-counter strength cosmetic products, it is recommended to use Glycolic Acid 2-3 times a week. Overuse can cause dryness, irritation, redness, and sensitivity. Glycolic Acid should NOT be used aggressively on darker skin tones (Fitzpatrick scale 5-6+). It is safer to use less concentrated forms of Glycolic acid and caution should be used when treating dark skin tones. Hypopigmentation (light spots) can occur with overuse of Glycolic Acid, so it’s important to alternate use of Glycolic Acid products with gentle, less active products. Using high quality products purchased from an esthetician or dermatologist, and following their instructions, can help you use Glycolic Acid safely.
If you are nervous, sensitive, or getting a chemical peel for the first time, it is always recommended to meet with your skincare provider for a thorough consultation and patch test. A patch test can be done in a small, inconspicuous area, to assess how your skin reacts to a peel, before treating the face and/or areas of concern.
You will want to avoid certain ingredients – such as Retinol, Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, and other harsh products, for an entire week in preparation for your chemical peel. Use of Vitamin A or Retinol derived products will intensify the effects of Glycolic Acid. After your chemical peel, you will want to avoid strong active ingredients and exfoliation for 7-10 days. Until you are done peeling, use gentle and hydrating products to cleanse and moisturize. Make sure to protect your skin after a chemical peel – you are susceptible to sun damage after a chemical exfoliation service. It is essential to be using proper sun protection (SPF, sun hats, avoidance of direct sunlight, etc.) if you are using Glycolic Acid products and before/after getting a chemical peel.
What to expect after a Glycolic Peel –
Everyone’s skin is different – there’s no “one size fits all” instructions when it comes to skincare. Results will vary depending on skin type, skin history, product habits, products used during aftercare, and how well you follow aftercare instructions. Using products made for sensitive skin is recommended following a chemical peel.
In general, most people experience –
Day 0-2: Your skin will feel tight and dry. Applying moisturizer every 2-3 hours can help alleviate the dryness. Keeping your skin hydrated will help the healing process.
Day 2-3: You may experience some flakiness. Applying moisturizer will help decrease the flaking. DO NOT PICK at skin flakes. Flakiness ranges from minor, dry skin, to major, scaly texture, depending on skin type, hydration levels, and products you are using at home.
Day 4-5: Your skin will start to clear up, revealing smoother, brighter, more youthful skin.
Day 6-7: Most people notice an overall improvement of skin tone and texture. Maximum results can be achieved by completing a series of up to 6 peels.