If you want to simplify your skincare routine with a product that offers all the benefits of minimized pores, younger-looking skin, and a clear, glowing complexion, keep your eyes peeled for glycolic acid.


Glycolic acid


While it's by no means the newest or trendiest ingredient on the market - it's been used in dermatology for many decades - it's a proven staple for its long list of proven benefits.



Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and it exfoliates dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. This peel reduces existing fine lines and wrinkles, fades hyperpigmentation and clears acne.

Glycolic acid, derived from sugar cane, is also a humectant, meaning it has the chemical ability to attract moisture to itself. This means that glycolic acid adds moisture to your freshly exfoliated skin. 

Slight stinging, redness and burning are completely normal until your skin gets used to the glycolic acid. Always wear sunscreen when using this ingredient as your skin will be more sensitive to UV rays.



In general, glycolic acid is an exfoliant and it combats:

  • acne
  • wrinkles

In addition it also brightens and smooths complexion, hydrates dry skin, fades hyperpigmentation and increases penetration of ingredients.

Works deeper in the skin and stimulates collagen production. The effects of glycolic acid are not limited to the surface of the skin. It has been found that it also works in the deeper layers of the skin to promote collagen synthesis, which is why it is considered a good anti-aging ingredient

Because it has the smallest molecular weight of all alpha hydroxy acids, it penetrates the skin more easily. For people with acne, the benefit of glycolic acid is that the exfoliating effect results in less "gunk" that clogs pores. This includes dead skin cells and oil. When the pores are less clogged, the skin clears and you usually have fewer breakouts.



Not all glycolic acid products are the same, so it is best to follow the instructions for the particular product you are using. Some rely on glycolic acid alone, but many combine it with other acids that are specially formulated to not irritate.

You also don't have to use multiple products containing glycolic acid. Consistent use of one product with occasional spot treatments is often enough to keep your skin clear. Glycolic acid works best when applied to the entire face (just avoid the eyes, lips, and mouth). Since glycolic acid dissolves dead skin cells, applying it to the entire face provides even exfoliation. 

A good idea is to use glycolic acid products only at night. This is very important because glycolic acid (and all other AHAs) make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. Apply the products during your bedtime and apply sunscreen in the morning to protect your freshly exfoliated baby skin.

While there are many acids and active ingredients (e.g. retinol) that improve skin cell turnover, it is important not to use them in excess because they dry out the skin.

Salicylic acid and glycolic acid can work well together as a spot treatment. But retinol and glycolic acid can be too drying for most people.