Benefits: Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that serves as a chemical exfoliant. It removes dead skin cells like other BHA’s, yet also prevents the collection of sebum and oils while preventing bacterial overgrowth. On top of this, glycolic acid thickens the skin by stimulating collagen growth. Hence, it is often used as both a preventative measure to make sure no more acne grows and as a restorative solution for acne affected skin.
A 2010 study published in the Official Journal of the Italian Society of Dermatology found that effectiveness of alpha-hydroxy acids was high in 64.2% of patients, decreasing mild to moderate acne in participants, and that it was very tolerable on the skin.
Use: Glycolic acid can be used in a cleanser, gel, cleansing pad, or foam wash. It should be used once or twice a day, depending on your provider’s recommendations and suggested use on label. The use of sunscreen should be added to your skincare routine if using glycolic acid, as AHA’s can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation. Glycolic acid is often used to treat facial acne.
Concentration: Concentrations can range from 1% to 8% depending on tolerance and previous use. As glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant, lower concentrations are advised due to potential itchiness, tingling, and dryness especially if used before going outside in the sun. A good target is around 2%, as higher concentrations do not mean higher effectivity.
Results: Glycolic acid works fairly quickly and you can see results in a week or less.