Glycolic acid for the skin: the best Benefits and how to use it

Glycolic acid for the skin is a fruit acid with multiple skin benefits, giving the skin a softer and smoother touch.

It offers an effective solution to various skin concerns such as dull complexion, skin texture and uneven complexion, dehydration, imperfections or signs of aging

Present in many treatments -lotion, serum, cream-, its exfoliating power allows it to stimulate cell renewal and thus improve the clarity and uniformity of the complexion and the homogeneity of the skin texture.

What is glycolic acid?

Of natural or synthetic origin, glycolic acid , formerly called hydroxyacetic acid, is the shortest of the alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) . It also responds to the denomination of fruit acids alongside in particular citric acid, malic acid and lactic acid . 


This molecule is generally derived from sugar cane, grapes or beets. It stands out among AHAs for its powerful keratolytic activity and for its small size allowing it to penetrate the skin deeply . 

It is considered the reference active ingredient when you want to boost the radiance of the complexion, treat acne, hyperpigmentation and even wrinkles,

Glycolic acid is used in the formulation of a large number of skin care products: tonics, serums, shower gels or creams. Its concentration in cosmetic products, varying between 4 and 20% , depends on the needs identified. 

Beyond 20%, the concentration of glycolic acid makes it possible to perform a chemical peel. As a result, its use is then strictly supervised by a professional and falls into the category of dermatological or aesthetic treatments. 

Besides the concentration, the pH of the formula will have an influence on the intensity of the exfoliation. Indeed, the higher the pH, the more the action of glycolic acid is neutralized

Glycolic acid Benefit #1: Refine skin texture and limit pimples.

Glycolic acid Benefit

Renowned for its exfoliating power, glycolic acid regulates the production of sebum in oily skin and thus inhibits the formation of imperfections , caused by clogging of the pores by the dead cells at the origin of the appearance.

blackheads and acne. Thus, as the pores are unclogged and less dilated, pimples and blackheads are rarer. In addition, this active ingredient reduces acne scars thanks to its exfoliating action for the benefit of cell renewal. 

As a result, these skin irregularities are blurred. Thus, glycolic acid promotes the homogeneity of the skin texture and allows to find a smooth skin.

Glycolic acid Benefit n°2: Fight against pigment spots for a radiant complexion.


Thanks to its peeling effect, glycolic acid effectively removes dead, dull and dehydrated cells from the surface of the epidermis. This exfoliating action therefore allows healthy cells to emerge (cell renewal), which restores radiance and luminosity to the face .

It can also reduce hyperpigmentation. Indeed, depending on the concentration of glycolic acid, exfoliation helps get rid of melanin-rich skin cells on the surface of the skin. 

This phenomenon can even go so far as to cause cell renewal in the basal layer of the skin, ie the deep layer of the epidermis, where the melanocytes, the melanin-producing cells, are found. 

This therefore helps to reduce brown spots.due to age or the sun (including the pregnancy mask) and thus lighten the complexion. 

It also participates in the synthesis of hyaluronic acid and provides a moisturizing effect to the stratum corneum of the skin. Result: the epidermis regains its firmness and the complexion its radiance, and the skin is plumped, softer and smoother.

Glycolic acid Benefit No. 3: Limit skin aging.

Glycolic acid also acts on several levels to combat the signs of skin aging, in addition to its depigmenting action against brown spots, caused by an accumulation of melanin, which can appear with age. Indeed, glycolic acid can penetrate to the dermis. 

In this context, it can stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin which weakens with age, responsible for the firmness and elasticity of the skin, and also the production of hyaluronic acid, a natural humectant responsible skin hydration, which tends to gradually decrease with age. 

Thus, glycolic acid helps the skin to maintain a good level of hydration, to firm and tone up,

What contraindications?

Even though glycolic acid is compatible with all skin types, it is a skin irritating ingredient . Used incorrectly or in excessive doses, this active ingredient can cause skin reactions, namely redness, itching or allergies appearing in the skin. When using a treatment based on glycolic acid, it is completely normal to feel a little tingling.

However, when they turn into an intense burning sensation, the area of ​​application should be rinsed quickly with water. Glycolic acid is also a photosensitizing active which reacts to exposure to UV rays. It is thus judicious to apply it in the evening and to put a sunscreen during the day, the time of the use of the product.


Q: Is it OK to use glycolic acid everyday?

A: It is not recommended to use glycolic acid every day as it can cause over-exfoliation, leading to skin irritation, dryness, and redness. It is best to start with a low concentration and gradually increase the frequency of use based on your skin’s reaction. It is also important to follow up with moisturizing and sunscreen to protect your skin from further damage.

Q: What does glycolic acid do to face?

A: Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that exfoliates the skin by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells, revealing brighter, smoother, and more even-toned skin. It can also stimulate collagen production, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and improve the overall texture of the skin.

Q: Which is better retinol or glycolic acid?

A: Retinol and glycolic acid have different mechanisms of action and benefits for the skin. Retinol is a form of vitamin A that can stimulate collagen production, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and improve skin texture. Glycolic acid, on the other hand, exfoliates the skin, reduces hyperpigmentation, and enhances skin radiance. Both can be effective for anti-aging, but it depends on your skin type and concerns. It is best to consult with a dermatologist to determine which one is best for you.

Q: How long does it take glycolic acid to work?

A: The results of glycolic acid can vary depending on the concentration and frequency of use. Some people may notice an improvement in skin texture and radiance within a few days, while others may take several weeks to see visible results. It is important to be patient and consistent with the use of glycolic acid and to always follow up with moisturizing and sunscreen.

Q: What not to mix with glycolic acid?

A: It is best to avoid mixing glycolic acid with other exfoliating ingredients, such as salicylic acid or physical scrubs, as this can lead to over-exfoliation and skin irritation. It is also important to avoid using glycolic acid with retinol or other vitamin A derivatives, as this can increase the risk of skin irritation and sensitivity.

Q: What to apply after glycolic acid?

A: After using glycolic acid, it is important to follow up with a gentle moisturizer to hydrate and soothe the skin. It is also important to apply sunscreen to protect your skin from further damage.

Q: How do you know if glycolic acid is working?

A: You may notice an improvement in skin texture, radiance, and tone, as well as a reduction in the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. However, it is important to be patient and consistent with the use of glycolic acid to see visible results.

Q: Does glycolic acid lighten skin?

A: Glycolic acid can help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and dark spots, leading to a more even skin tone. However, it is not a skin lightening agent and should not be used for this purpose.

Q: Should you moisturize after glycolic?

A: Yes, it is important to moisturize after using glycolic acid to hydrate and soothe the skin. It is also important to use a gentle moisturizer that does not contain harsh ingredients that can further irritate the skin.

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