Ahhh, the wonderful world of skincare acids! It actually sounds a little scary if you don’t know anything about them. Putting acid on your face? Yikes!
The thing is that there are certain types of acids that we are capable of putting on our faces without completely burning all of our skin off. One type is called, alpha hydroxy acids. While there are several acids people can choose from that fall under this label, my post will be focusing on one of them-glycolic acid.
So, let’s do this!
What alpha hydroxy acids are
Alpha hydroxy acids (or AHAs) are acids that come from the same chemical compound group and are all water soluble. One thing that sets them apart is that they are taken from different sources.
There are said to be six different types of alpha hydroxy acids. They include glycolic acid, malic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid and citric acid. Out of all of these, glycolic and lactic acid are used/talked about the most.
Alpha hydroxy acids are commonly used in skin care products and have been for many years. This is because they have antiaging, acne reducing, dark spot lightening and skin tone brightening benefits due to the chemical exfoliation they provide.
Some of them are better for certain things than the others are but they all have tremendous value.
These acids can be found in various skin care products at different percentages. They are also sold in standalone form so that one can make their own products.
All about glycolic acid
Glycolic acid is taken from sugar and considered to be the strongest acid out of the six. It has consistently provided great results for people over the years.
This acid is said to be a great choice for the following benefits:
- Antiaging- Because this is the strongest of the AHAs, glycolic acid is shown to reduce the signs of aging (ex. lines and sun damage). This is due to the exfoliation powers and collagen production capabilities it has.
- Skin tone brightening and evening- The chemical exfoliation properties can make the tone of the skin look fresh, healthy and fade dark marks.
- Acne reduction- Glycolic acid has some antibacterial and pore clearing effects that can be helpful in the treatment of acne.
- Texture improvement-Glycolic acid helps to slough off unpleasant skin texture and smooths it out.
Glycolic acid can be found in many different products and treatments. These include the following:
- Cleaners- The ones with glycolic acid in them will provide exfoliation along with the cleansing.
- Toners- Gets rid of the last bits of dirt left over from cleansing.
- Moisturizers- The ones with glycolic acid in them will up the moisturization factor while providing the other benefits it has.
- Serums- Glycolic acid serums work to address multiple different issues. They are typically applied at night.
- Peels- Glycolic acid based peels have a higher strength of the acid in them than daily products do. This means that one will get better results in a shorter amount of time.
The strength percentage of glycolic acid in products and treatments ranges from 10-70%. The higher percentage, the better results. Daily glycolic acid products will most likely contain 10-30% of it. Products/treatments over 30% are recommended to be applied by professionals but there can be at-home use if one is really careful.
As great as glycolic acid can be, there are also some adverse effects that may occur. Here are some of them:
- Burns- This can happen if your skin is sensitive, your skin wasn’t ready for the strength of the glycolic acid and/or you left an at-home peel on too long.
- Acne- Even though it helps acne in some people, in others it can actually cause/worsen acne.
- Hyperpigmentation- For some people, glycolic acid will actually cause dark marks or worsen them.
Overall, glycolic acid is a great ingredient to have in one’s skincare routine. If you are just getting started with glycolic acid, it may be a good idea to do daily treatments that have lower percentages of it. This will prime the skin for peels which would be of higher strength.
If interested in glycolic acid products, the following are two really popular ones to consider:
The first product (top one) Is by L’Oreal Paris and is a 10% glycolic acid serum. It is for skin tone evening, lightening dark marks and decreasing the aged appearance of one’s skin. This serum should be applied once a day, in the evening.
The second product (bottom one) is by Mario Badescu and is a glycolic acid cleanser. It is to provide a deeper cleanse than what one may typically get each day. Because of this, it should only be used up to two times a week.
My product reviews
In my ongoing (think years!) quest to find products that will help my skin to look better, glycolic acid has been something I have tried. I have dealt with bad skin issues going back many years and I need something strong to make it look better.
This led me to picking up a couple glycolic acid at-home peels and a glycolic acid based serum from Makeup Artist’s Choice. I decided on doing these peels because I wanted to have faster results than the daily serum would give me. In using the serum, I was hoping that it would maintain and enhance the results that the peels might give me.
I chose the 30% and 40% peels. They are the two lowest strength ones offered by the company. The other two are 50% and 70%.
With the peels, I was hoping for an improvement in my skin tone evenness (or lack thereof), texture improvement and the reduction in the darkness of my hyperpigmentation marks. My plan was to do ten peels of each percentage. This meant that I would do one peel every week for 20 weeks.
For each peel percentage, I started off with one minute. I then increased the time each week by a minute. This was because the instructions say that a peel is not to be done for more than ten minutes.
If you don’t know already, there are certain instructions one has to follow for an at-home peel. This is essential so that you are safe from burns and you get the best results. Here are the steps to a great peel experience:
- Stop using products with acids and retinoids 24 hours before doing the peel.
- Cleanse skin and wait for it to dry.
- Apply a pH prep to the skin (not needed for every type of peel). This ensures that the peel will penetrate your skin as well as possible. Let it dry for 20 minutes.
- Squeeze out the peel on a Q-tip, cotton pad or your fingers and apply to your skin. Leave on for up to ten minutes.
- Rinse of the peel and cleanse the skin again.
- Apply a good moisturizer and make sure to use sunscreen the next day (you should be using it daily anyways).
I followed all of these instructions to a “T.”
After getting to ten minutes with the 30% peel, I saw absolutely no effects-good or bad. This was disappointing to me but I thought that maybe the 40% would yield something. So I went on and finished a ten week course of that as well.
Unfortunately, I got no results from the 40% either.
I was even more disappointed by this. My skin looked no different save for the lovely cyst on my cheek I ended up with. I decided that the 50% and 70% weren’t worth it to try because they probably wouldn’t do anything for me either.
A week or so after finishing the 40% peel course, I also finished off the bottle of serum. Of course I had no results from that either. Ugh!
Instead of just throwing the peels out (there is a lot left), I made a decision to try them out on my body. I will be doing ten courses of each peel in the near future.
As far as my face goes, I guess I will just continue to look for other products and treatments. I am currently doing a course of another peel from Makeup Artist’s Choice when I am done.
I still recommend glycolic acid!
Even though the peels and serum did not work for me, I still think that glycolic acid is a an excellent skin care ingredient. It has helped so many people obtain great looking skin.
If your skin could use a boost and you haven’t tried glycolic acid yet-consider picking up a product that has it.
Have you ever used glycolic acid before? If so, did it change your skin at all?
Thanks for reading!
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