By now, we all understand the importance of exfoliating our skin. Exfoliation sloughs away dead skin cells, keeping skin happy and healthy, and ensures pores don't get super clogged, which can cause breakouts. But knowing what to exfoliate with has become a bit of a minefield. Gone are the days when popping down to your local Boots to grab a St. Ives face scrub was sufficient; now we're a little more advanced, particularly when it comes to understanding our acids.
Glycolic acid is a staple for many skincare routines, and it's one of the most effective exfoliants out there. It's typically a derivative of sugar cane, and is an alpha-hydroxy acid that penetrates the skin's surface in order to effectively exfoliate away dead skin cells and even skin tone.
So what are the benefits of using it over other acids available out there? "Glycolic acid is an AHA with the smallest molecular structure of the group, which allows it to penetrate the skin for the deepest exfoliation," explains Dennis Gross, MD, skincare expert and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare.
Because of its ability to deeply penetrate skin, it has some unique and impressive benefits. "It's used to improve the skin's appearance and texture through exfoliation while also reducing fine lines, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and uneven skin tone," continues Gross.
The fact that it's able to penetrate deeper than other AHAs means you should approach with caution if you have particularly sensitive skin. Glycolic acid suits most skin types, but the regularity you should use it with may vary. "Those with sensitive skin need to start once to twice a week and build up," explains Mark Curry, co-founder of The Inkey List.
By comparison, normal to oily skin types can begin with a three to four-days a week, with the potential to build up. When it comes to the type of product you can find the ingredient in, you'd be hard-pressed to find a category that hasn't dabbled in glycolic acid. From cleansers to serums, the way you use glycolic acid is really down to preference. However, Mark does recommend first trying a toner or leave-on serum/moisturiser in order to ensure that you get the benefit of deep exfoliation.