Glycolic Acid - The holy grail of exfoliation

Who doesn’t desire to have that flawless, glowing skin devoid of dark spots and dullness? Everyone wants to achieve that perfect, clear and healthy skin. People go bonkers buying those skin serums and spend an eye-widening amount on radiance treatments. Everybody joins the bandwagon and try to maintain the 12 step Korean skincare routine. But we often fail to understand what exactly our skin needs and what a particular substance does to your skin. We have heard the terms salicylic acid, melanic acid, retinol and glycolic acid. And some of you might have even tried them out to see if they work and magically turn your skin smooth overnight. We will discuss one such magic elixir today, the glycolic acid which might be the miracle that your skin needs.

What is Glycolic Acid?

Let’s get into the chemistry jargon for a little while. Glycolic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid or AHA (Don’t worry, it’s nothing scary as the name suggests). It is derived from sugarcane or fruit sugar like pineapple, papaya, sugar beet (and not a green chemical bubbling in a cauldron). It is widely used in spa treatments and facials to give you that instant dewy, glowy and celebrity-like complexion. So you don’t need those half a dozen filters and a dozen photo beauty apps to make your selfie postable.

How does it work?

Just like other exfoliators, the glycolic acid exfoliates your skin. Duh, then what’s so special about it? The glycolic acid breaks down and dissolves the gluey stuff holding your dead skin cells together and blocking the pores. It cleans and shrinks the pores. So now you don’t have to smear your face with primers and pore fillers. It helps the skin to thicken and boosts collagen generation. It clears the dead skin cells and uncovers the fresh, clean skin underneath. The glycolic acid also breaks oil and sebum, which helps with acne and blackheads.

Okay, so what are the perks?

Since the glycolic acid is water-soluble, it penetrates deep into the skin, which makes the products useful. It’s small molecules get easily absorbed in the skin. It is widely used for acne as it reduces oil and sebum production. It clears the existing pimples and prevents the formation of new ones. It is used in anti-ageing creams for fine lines and wrinkles. Glycolic acid helps with skin firming. It reduces dark spots (finally, a remedy for those annoying spots), evens out patchy skin and gradually improves skin texture. The resultant skin is smooth, bright and evenly toned. Just like the Korean glass skin you dream of having.

Are there any Side Effects?

Glycolic acid is undoubtedly a great way to keep many skin problems at bay. It does not have any severe reactions or side effects on the skin. But it can react with the sun and irritate your skin, so using SPF (at least 30 or more) is a must. The glycolic acid makes your skin sensitive to sun damage. The glycolic acid might be used along with your other skincare products but do so only after consulting your dermatologist. Glycolic acid can dry out your skin, especially if already have dry skin or sensitive skin. In such cases, you should use glycolic acid in mild proportions. Start with a 7% or 10% of glycolic acid to see if it suits you. Conduct a patch test if you have extremely sensitive skin. Using a good moisturizer is a must as it tends to dry out the skin. In what all products is it used? A million-dollar question if you want to give it a try. The Glycolic acid is used in cleansers, toners, scrubs, serums and even creams and peels. The peels contain concentrated glycolic acid, which gives instant rejuvenating effect. The peels should be a part of your weekly skincare routine. They provide the best results when used at night. Daily use of peels and masks is not recommended. The serums and creams contain a mild percentage of glycolic acid. They are to be used long term to gain desired effects. Usually, the products containing glycolic acid will show their effects in 3 to 6 weeks. However, the peels produce instant effects as the glycolic acid content is high.

Where will you get it?

You will get glycolic acid products anywhere right from the beauty centre around the corner to online stores. Some companies have unique skincare kits containing glycolic acid. The price range varies from affordable to ridiculously expensive. But you should look for the percentage of glycolic acid that you need irrespective of the price.

The Verdict

The glycolic acid is undoubtedly an all-rounder and a perfect remedy for many of your skin problems. You will need a good hydrating lotion or moisturizer to replenish your dry skin after using glycolic acid. You must use a sunscreen to prevent the sun from reacting with Glycolic acid. After prolonged usage, if your skin starts feeling sensitive, then you should stop using Glycolic acid products. And lastly, do not use it along with other acids like salicylic acid or retinol without taking advice from your dermatologist. Do not try anything funny before asking them. They know what your skin needs.

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