From salicylic and mandelic to glycolic and lactic, the sales of acid-based skincare is on the rise. Not only are these ingredients highlighted on the labels of serums and creams, but more brands are unveiling formulas dedicated solely to individual acids.
As more of us become ‘skintellectuals’, we’re beginning to appreciate the value of chemical exfoliation, via alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids. But how do you know which one is right for you?
What is Glycolic Acid?
Along with lactic acid, glycolic is another alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). It’s actually one of the smallest AHAs, which means it’s more effective at penetrating the top layers of your skin, and it is usually derived from sugarcane.
What are the skincare benefits of Glycolic Acid?
Glycolic acid helps to gently exfoliate the surface layer of your skin and works by dissolving the bonds between dry, dead cells, so that they can be sloughed away. It takes away the need to scrub your skin, which can be abrasive and stripping. It also helps to not only boost the texture and tone of your complexion, but also encourages cell turnover.
It’s one of the most recommended acids for evening out skin tone and reducing pigmentation as it removes dead cells and allows ingredients, such as Alpha Arbutin 2% and Kojic 1% Acid Serum, £12, to penetrate deeper. Use of glycolic acid over time as also been shown to thicken your dermis layer of skin, helping to protect your collagen and elastin.
Is Glycolic Acid safe for sensitive skin types?
Glycolic is an acid that encourages chemical exfoliation, so irritation can occur. That said, a lot of people would argue that the skin-boosting benefits outweigh the cons. If you have sensitive skin try introducing glycolic acid into your routine with a cleanser, such as QRx Labs Glycolic Acid Gel Cleanser, £14. Apply to damp skin for a diluted impact and dry skin for more of a kick.
It goes without saying that regardless of your skin type, you need to use sunscreen the morning after you’ve applied glycolic.
What percentage of Glycolic Acid should you use?
If you want to use a glycolic acid regularly then opt for a formula with between four to ten percent. This will help to gently exfoliate your skin over time.
Anything higher, say QRx Labs Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel, £12, can provide incredible results, but you should approach with caution. Use it once a fortnight and only leave it on for three minutes max for the best results. To reduce redness and irritation, follow-up with the Chemical Peel Neutralizer, £15 – it might seem like an extra step, but it’s well worth the investment if you want to minimise redness.
For a milder form of glycolic that you can use a couple of times a week, look to Garden of Wisdom’s Glycolic Acid Serum 5%, £12. The formula exfoliates and hydrates skin, while also helping to treat pigmentation. Both Derma E Overnight Peel, £20, and Time Bomb Overnight Peel and Reveal, £42, also contain a blend of AHAs, including glycolic acid and are also good options for those who want milder multi-tasking, multi-benefit peels.