A Guide to Glycolic Acid: Get the Low-Down on the Greatest Ingredient to Hit Your Skincare Regimen

Before you read further, we’ll issue a warning: once you experience the skin-altering magic of glycolic acid, your life, or rather your skin, will be forever changed.

Thankfully, it’ll only be for the better, so keep reading to discover the skincare ingredient where the only regret you’ll have is that you didn’t discover it sooner. 

Side Note: if you’re thinking “glycolic” sounds like something scary from high school chemistry, have no fear because we’re breaking down the science like the skincare nerds we are and answering the top five questions we get about this superstar ingredient: 

1 – What is glycolic acid and what does it do for the skin? 

Also known as hydroacetic acid or hydroxyacetic acid, glycolic acid is a naturally-occurring alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and is the smallest molecule of the AHAs, which enables it to penetrate the skin deeply and easily to deliver gentle chemical exfoliation through daily-use skincare products including cleansers, toners, serums and creams.

You may have also heard of a glycolic peel, which delivers a much higher concentration of glycolic acid than the previously mentioned daily-use products, which typically range from a 5-10% concentration. 

2 – What are the primary benefits of using products that contain glycolic acid?

From exfoliation to brightening to smoothing as well as addressing anti-aging and acne concerns, there’s little that glycolic acid doesn’t address, and that’s thanks to the aforementioned chemical structure of this small-but-mighty molecule. 

Due to its small size, glycolic acid can penetrate the skin more deeply to be more effective. 

In regards to acne-prone skin, glycolic acid works to lift dirt and dead skin from the surface resulting in unclogging pores to minimize future breakouts as well as a refined pore appearance. 

Those looking for anti-aging benefits will find that glycolic acid results in softer and smoother skin as the top layer sloughs away along with discoloration caused by sun damage, age spots, and hyperpigmentation. 

Finally, with its claim to fame being the clearing of dead skin cells, this paves the way for superior product absorption allowing the other ingredients in your skincare regimen to do their job more effectively as well. 

( See, we told you this skincare staple was a superstar. )

3 – Who should use glycolic acid and when should you start using products containing glycolic acid? 

If you experience moderate to advanced acne or are looking to lighten hyperpigmentation and scarring, layering glycolic-containing products into your regimen can be extremely beneficial. 

Glycolic is also gentle enough that it can be used by those with sensitive skin types, and it’s an ingredient that’s ideal to begin using in your mid-twenties for prevention and to boost overall skin health, or at the first signs of sun damage or rough and textured patches of skin. 

One key thing to keep in mind is that depending on the concentration of glycolic acid in a product, you may want to alternate days of application because although glycolic acid is gentle enough for sensitive skin types, overuse and combining use with other products containing active ingredients such as Vitamin C or retinol can lead to irritation. 

It’s best to alternate these active ingredients and do so under the guidance of your licensed skincare professional

4 – Where do you use it in your skincare regimen? 

As a chemical exfoliator, glycolic acid can be present in a number of products including cleansers, toners, serums, and moisturizers. 

You’ll only want to use one product containing glycolic acid and find the specific product that is going to provide you with the right concentration needed to achieve the results you’re after. 

For those who want to use glycolic acid on a daily basis, choosing a cleanser is our go-to! 

5 – What are the top glycolic-based products I should try? 

There’s a reason we crafted our own line of L&H Skin glycolic products and that’s because we wanted to have high-caliber products that we would feel 1000% confident recommending to anybody looking to add the power of glycolic acid to their skincare regimen. 

In our collection we have two products, our Advanced Glycolic Foaming Cleanser and our Glycolic 10% AHA Cream

The cleanser isn’t just a skin saver, it’s a time saver, too! From removing make-up to cleansing impurities to removing dead skin cells and excess oil (thanks to its multiple acid approach that cleanses while gently exfoliating), our Advanced Glycolic Foaming Cleanser is the best first step to refreshed and renewed skin. 

The Glycolic 10% AHA Cream is a match made in heaven for the multi-tasking go-getter as this product is a high-powered cream that delivers a multi-action approach to reveal smoother, softer and brighter looking skin. Formulated with ultra pure Glycolic Acid, this creamy formulation kicks rough and flaky skin to curb to make way for smoother tone and texture and boosted firmness and elasticity. 

Need help navigating the best glycolic-containing product for your skincare regimen? Book a free virtual skin consultation with a Lemon + Honey esthetician who can help guide you on you skincare journey and help you craft a customized routine to fit your goals, or head to the Lemon + Honey Apothecary to shop all of glycolic products in a click!

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