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Do you remember #FormulaFriday? A series of posts on cosmetic ingredients, where I study an ingredient and tell you everything I’ve learned about it. Is it good for you? Is it bad? What exactly does it do? Well, I am bringing #FormulaFriday back, and the first comeback post is everything on glycolic acid. An ingredient that has become very popular in the cosmetic industry. Why? Sit back and find out!
What is it?
Glycolic acid is one of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids, which are also known as AHAs. Besides the glycolic acid, AHAs include lactic, malic, citric and tartaric acids.
In its raw state, glycolic acid is a powder, made of colorless crystals, and it has no scent. It is typically derived from sugar cane, pineapple and sugar beets.
What does it do?
Products containing glycolic acid are usually chemical peels. So, its main benefit is exfoliation.
Our skin is constantly changing, and there are dead skin cells on the surface that cause clogged pores, which can eventually lead to acne. Also, the skin that is not exfoliated can seem less vibrant, and there can be texture.
Glycolic acid comes to the rescue, as it removes the outer layer of dead skin cells on a microscopic level, and unglues them from the surface of the skin. That way, the skin will appear more vibrant, luminous and it will be smoother. Glycolic acid can also help with pigment, especially pigment caused by acne scars, age spots or sun damage.
It has also been proven that glycolic acid stimulates collagen (which I already wrote about in the #FormulaFriday series) production, which drastically reduces around the age of 25, and the decline in collagen production is one of the main reasons we get wrinkles.
Besides these general benefits of glycolic acid, it can also help to treat some skin conditions like Psoriasis or Melasma, and even Keratosis Pilaris (or chicken skin). However, do consult your doctor or dermatologist before you start using it.
It is also great for hydration. Not only does exfoliated skin absorb moisture more easily, but also glycolic acid can transfer water molecules from the air into the skin tissue. That makes it a great ingredient in daily moisturizers when the percentage of it is low.
How does it work?
Glycolic acid reacts with the top layer of the skin, and it dissolves sebum and other substances that bind the dead skin cells together.
Since it is made up of small molecules, it can easily penetrate the skin.
Things to consider
It is advisable to start with low percentages to help your skin get used to it. If the concentration is too high, it can cause redness, flaking and over-sensitivity.
Glycolic acid makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it is very important to use SPF. It can cause pigmentation and further damage, because the skin is exfoliated, and it doesn’t have the layer of dead skin cells to protect it.
Don’t use products over 10%, if you don’t have the knowledge, and know for sure it will work with your skin, but you can use products up to 30% at home. You can get treatments with glycolic acid with higher percentages, but you should only do it every 6 months. Not more often than that.
pH is also important. Anything around pH 2 – 3 is very effective for at home use, since it’s slightly more acidic than the skin (which is around pH 5.5), but even more acidic products are the most effective.
Mixing glycolic acid with other ingredients
Retinols and retinoids
Unless your skin is very oily, it is not advisable to use retinols or retinoids on the same day as glycolic acid, since the effect can be too drying, or it can even cause redness and irritation.
Skin brightening products
The products used to lighten the skin could intensify the darkness in a hyper-pigmented area because they increase photosensitivity which can irritate the skin.
Since both vitamin C (which I already wrote about) and glycolic acid are acidic, this combination can irritate your skin.
This is an ingredient that helps with acne, just like glycolic acid. However, the combination can irritate the skin and cause redness and flakiness.
How to use it?
Basically any skin type can use glycolic acid, besides very sensitive skin types or in case you have rosacea.
The best way to start using glycolic acid is to incorporate it a few times a week. That way, if it does irritate your skin, you have some time to recover your skin before the next application. Later on, you can increase frequency, when your skin gets used to it. After a few weeks, you will probably be able to use it every night.
However, if you are outside, in the sun for extended periods of time, skip glycolic acid altogether. Don’t forget to always use SPF, especially when you are using glycolic acid.
Don’t make DIY glycolic acid products, as it can be very dangerous, and can make serious damage on your skin. Always stick to pre-made products.
Because it stimulates collagen production, I prefer to use it at night, when the skin is actively regenerating. Another reason to use it at night is not to apply it right before going out to the sun. However, it can be used both in the morning and at night, so you can decide for yourself.
I started using glycolic acid a while ago, and my first product was The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution. It does contain glycolic acid (it is the main AHA), but it contains other AHAs, too. It did help clear out my skin, but my skin was never problematic, so I didn’t see mind-blowing results. You can’t use it too often, so I would often forget about it.
I think it is way more beneficial if you have oily, acne-prone skin. It will help unclog your pores, and with acne. My skin is normal to combination, often dehydrated.
When did I start seeing results? In mid-November of 2018, when I bought my first Pixi product. I am using the Pixi skintreats Glow Tonic. It is an exfoliating toner with 5% glycolic acid.
In the 3 months of using the Glow Tonic, I have seen a lot of benefits to my skin. My skin is smooth, it is plump, and it is no longer dull. I don’t have as much texture as I used to have and I have been getting compliments on how good my skin looks. I am really happy with the results.
I don’t use it every single day, but I do use it at least 3 times a month, sometimes even more than that.
In the three months I’ve been using this product, I have used up just over a half of the 250 ml bottle. This means that I will probably use it for 5 months, which is great, since the bottle isn’t cheap. It is £18.00 on the Pixi website.
I think this ingredient is amazing, and I can’t wait to try even more products containing glycolic acid. I think the benefits are amazing!
BUT don’t forget to wear SPF!
And that’s it for this post! Do you use any products containing glycolic acid? Have you tried any of the Pixi products? Are there any other ingredients you would like me to write about?
Thank you for reading!
See you soon x