The Edit

What is Glycolic Acid?

Posted on Sunday, 14 April 2019 - By Courtney

Glycolic Acid seems to be popping up a lot in the skincare industry lately so what exactly is it, what does it do and is it worth the hype?

Now I'm no scientist but I'm going to give you guys a slightly better insight to Glycolic Acid while still keeping it as simple as possible.

I'll start with some basics. Skin has a pH level of roughly 5.5. Anything with a pH of 8-14 is classed as an alkaline, anything with a pH of 0-6 is classed as an acid.

Most soaps and shampoos have a pH of 8-11 making them efficient at removing excess oils and sweat. Toners are slightly acidic (roughly a pH of 4) to help re-balance the skin after the use of cleansers and soaps. A healthy pH means happy skin.

So what exactly is Glycolic Acid and what does it do?

Gylcolic Acid is an acid (duh) that is part of a group of active compounds known as Alpha Hydroxy Acids, also know as AHA's. Once it's applied it reacts with the upper layer of the skin (the epidermis) and weakens the bindings that hold dead skin cells together.

This allows the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin) to be exfoliated to reveal live skin cells giving a fresher, more even complexion!


What strength should I be using?

It really does depend on what you're wanting to achieve, how sensitive your skin is and how frequently you're wanting to use it. Because it's an acid, if it's not used correctly you can do more damage than good.
  • Anything above a 10% concentration is high and needs to be used with knowledge and caution. Talk to a specialist before using anything with this sort of strength.
  • Most Glycolic Acid products that we stock (and that are suitable for daily use) are between a 5% and 7% concentration. Using milder concentrations can provide the same benefits as a salon strength peel with less risk of adverse reactions. The more sensitive your skin is the milder the concentration should be. 5% is a really good starting point and is generally the most common concentration.

Things to keep in mind

  • Glycolic acid makes skin more sensitive to the sun. You should be wearing an SPF everyday anyway but it is VERY important when using any kind of AHA's to avoid any damage to the skin.

  • On application a little bit of tingling is normal but if there's any burning or uncomfortable sensations wash it off.
  • Always follow the product instructions. The people who make these products know what they're talking about.
  • Vitamin A products, some medications and other AHAs can can cause reactions. Talk to your doctor before introducing any AHAs into your skincare regime especially if you're on medication that affects the sensitivity of your skin.
  • Always, always, always do test patches before introducing AHAs and new products into your regime and always do your research before spending your hard earned dollars on products.
So to sum up: - Glycolic Acid is an alpha hydroxy acid. - It's highly effective at exfoliating which helps to brighten and even the appearance of skin. - It restores skin to a healthy pH when used in milder concentrations, and helps to minimise the appearance of blackheads, texture and acne. - Knowledge and a good SPF is important when using these products to avoid damaging the skin.

We have a blog post on The Ordinary range which is a great way to start learning even more about these specialised treatments, what works well together and what doesn't.

Remember, everyone's skin is different so do your research instead of buying something just because it worked for someone else.

Till next time, Courtney xx

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