Glycolic acid is a worthy friend for anyone who is battling acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. You might have been seeing the initials BHA and AHA a lot in skincare lately. Well, glycolic acid belongs to the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family. It's a key ingredient in chemical exfoliation as it helps remove the outermost layer of dead skin to reveal new and glowing skin.
While physical exfoliation makes use of finely ground seeds, microbeads, and the like, glycolic acid works on a cellular level and is a gentler way to exfoliate. If you find that using salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinol to combat acne is getting too harsh on your skin, glycolic acid is the way to go.
Dermatologist Dr. Kenneth Howe explains that what makes glycolic acid unique is its low molecular weight. This allows it to penetrate the skin deeper and be an effective ingredient in skincare products. It also aids in collagen production and will make skin smoother, more radiant, and more even in texture.
It's best to introduce glycolic acid into your skincare routine slowly. Those with dry and sensitive skin and those with eczema or rosacea should be especially careful. However, since the amount of acids in over the counter products are strictly controlled, you should be safe as long as you follow instructions properly. If you're hesitant, seek advice from an expert.
When using glycolic acid at home, less is more. Anything that has over 10% glycolic acid in its ingredient list should be approved by your dermatologist. Also, remember that glycolic acid and other AHAs make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it is a must to wear sunscreen.
Dr. Anita Sturnham, the founder of skincare line Decree, recommends starting with a glycolic acid cleanser, although a toner can work, too. Harper's Bazaar suggests SkinCeuticals Glycolic Renewal Cleanser Gel.
Other options include Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser, Peter Thomas Roth 3% Glycolic Solutions Cleanser, and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser. Toner suggestions include The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner, and the cult favorite Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic.
A leave-on serum is also a great way to reap the benefits of glycolic acid. While there are a lot of serums now that can be used every night, it's still best to start slowly until your skin gets used to it. Harper's Bazaar suggests using a serum once a week and if there are no adverse reactions, continue using it until it gets to be a nightly routine. Again, always use sunscreen once you start using AHAs.
Some of the best serums with glycolic acid include Alpha H Liquid Gold, iS Clinical Active Serum, Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum, Clear Skin Days by Sephora Collection Clarifying Serum, and Sunday Riley Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment.
Finally, a glycolic moisturizer will help reveal bright, spotless, and smoother skin. If dark spots are your concern, try Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Overnight Cream. For those with dry skin, skip stronger acids in other formulations and go for a moisturizer instead. Try Mario Badescu Glycolic Skin Renewal Complex. For oily skin and acne-prone skin, Vichy Normaderm Anti-Aging Resurfacing Moisturizer has a matte finish, is non-sticky, and does not clog pores.
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