Glycolic Acid for Skin: A Complete Exfoliant and Brightener

by BiE - Beauty in Everything
Glycolic Acid for Skin: A Complete Exfoliant and Brightener



When it comes to acids & peels, you might conjure up a frightening image of your skin literally peeling off with the chemical peel. Such adverse reactions impact your opinion about exfoliation, enticing you to reject your AHAs and BHAs forever. However, that would not be wise of you. Exfoliation is crucial for glowing, clear skin! The hero of all these acids is glycolic acid. Considered the gold standard of AHAs, glycolic acid for skin runs the gamut from exfoliation to skin brightening.

What is Glycolic Acid For Skin?

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid, derived from sugarcane, beets and fruits. Marvelled for its many attributes, glycolic acid for skin, in its synthetic form is most effective for treating hyperpigmentation, reducing fine & wrinkles, unclogging pores & hydrating skin.

Glycolic Acid For Skin

Glycolic Acid for Skin: Why Exfoliate and Brighten?

As mentioned earlier, exfoliating your skin is vital to reveal bright, smooth & radiant skin. Our skin naturally exfoliates dead skin cells, but sometimes this process slows down with age or other environmental factors. This buildup can lead to dullness, clogged pores, and uneven skin tone. Here's where exfoliation comes in. What is exfoliation? It helps slough off these dead cells, revealing the brighter skin underneath.

Brightening goes in tandem with exfoliation. By removing the dead skin cells, exfoliation accelerates the cell renewal process, resulting in brighter-looking skin.

Understanding Glycolic Acid for Skin

Derived from sugarcane, and some other fruits, glycolic acid skincare is considered holy grail in the family of AHAs, due to its small molecular structure & exfoliating properties. Additionally, it also reduces the appearance of ageing lines, enhances the efficacy of other products and deeply hydrates the skin. Exactly why glycolic acid is touted as a superstar ingredient in the world of skincare.

Chemical Structure and Properties of Glycolic Acid for Skin

Chemical Formula: HOCH₂COOH

Glycolic Acid For Skin

Tiny But Mighty. Glycolic acid for skin has the tiniest molecular structure compared to the other acids from the AHA family. Its small molecular composition is her strength, they quickly penetrate to the deepest layers of your skin to promote collagen synthesis, unglue the dead skin cells from another or enhance penetration of other ingredients.

Glycolic acid is keratolytic, a compound that accelerates the process of breaking apart the dead skin cells and unclogging pores. This helps in reducing the appearance of acne scars and tackling bacteria that could trigger further breakouts.

How It Works on the Skin

Glycolic acid for skin works by gently ungluing the bonds that hold dead skin cells together on the surface of the skin. This helps in the removal of dead bacteria to reveal a fresh layer of skin for brighter, softer & smoother skin.

However, it's important to note that glycolic acid uses can be irritating, especially at higher concentrations. It's recommended to start with a lower concentration and gradually build it up to a percentage suited by your skin.

Benefits of Glycolic Acid for Skin

Exfoliation: Glycolic Acid for Renewing Your Skin's Surface

Our body's natural mechanism is to shed dead skin cells for fresher skin. However, as we grow the process slows down. This build-up leads to dull complexion, fine lines & wrinkles, uneven skin tone, & clogged pores. Glycolic acid for skin emerges as a hero ingredient, sloughing off all the dead skin cells. It dissolves into the skin & breaks the bond glueing the dead skin cells together by resurfacing the skin with fresh, bouncier & plumper skin cells. This process can lead to several benefits:

  • Enhanced radiance
  • Smoother texture
  • Minimise pores
  • Better product absorption
  • Reduces the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles
  • Improved hydration

Glycolic Acid For Skin

Brightening: Glycolic Acid for Achieving Radiant Skin

Glycolic acid benefits are widely used for treating hyperpigmentation, discolouration, sun spots & uneven skin tone. Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition that leads to discoloured or darker-appearing skin on the top surface of the skin. The skin underneath that is less pigmented. Glycolic acid sheds off all the pigmented skin cells to accelerate the process of cell regeneration, revealing a fresher layer of even-toned skin & luminosity. However, good things come to those who wait. Being consistent with its use is crucial for the pigmentation to fade away effectively.

Incorporating Glycolic Acid into Your Skincare Routine

We have understood the prowess of glycolic acid, now comes the tricky part: How & When to use it in your skincare routine?

Glycolic acid should only be used at night. Be weary of incorporating this ingredient in your morning skincare routine and stepping out in the sun without SPF. It could be detrimental for your skin. Glycolic acid makes your skin sensitive to the UV rays. Apply sunscreen (this is non-negotiable) to protect your newly exfoliated skin from the harsh rays of the sun.

brightening skin care products

This superhero is the most effective in the form of creams, masks, & serums in your skincare routine. Capsule concentrations allow the glycolic acid skin benefits to sit on the skin for a longer period of time, and work its magic. Cleansers formulated with glycolic acid have short contact with your skin and will be as effective. Leave-in products, like serums, masks and creams with higher concentrations are recommended for better results. However, one has to be mindful of the glycolic acid percentage level and frequency of using the product.

Conditioning your skin to glycolic acid could be a little tricky. Higher concentration, ranging between 5%-10% can lead to irritation, redness or bumps on sensitive skin. Start with products with lower concentrations, i.e. below 5% and keep building up once your skin is acclimatised to glycolic acid exfoliation.

With serums, creams and masks, do not overuse it & overwhelm your skin. Start with once or twice a week and apply it only during your bedtime routine. Additionally, apply SPF every single day to avoid inflammation or redness. Cleansers with low concentrations can be used daily. However, if you experience any irritation with glycolic acid exfoliation within 24 hours, consider switching to another AHA ingredient.

Who Should Use Glycolic Acid For Skin?

Glycolic acid for skin is usually considered safe for all skin types, however there is no one-size-fits all solution in skincare. Below are skin types that can benefit from glycolic acid exfoliators.

  • Normal Skin: Normal skin types can typically tolerate glycolic acid very well. It can help maintain a healthy glow, minimise pores, and promote even cell turnover.
  • Oily Skin: For oily skin, glycolic acid can be a game-changer in the skincare routine. It helps unclog pores, regulate sebum production, and combat breakouts by keeping pores clear.
  • Combination Skin: Glycolic acid can address both concerns; it can help control oil in the T-zone while gently exfoliating drier areas.

Potential Side Effects:

Slight tingling, mild redness or irritation is normal on the skin when you use glycolic acid. Skin takes time to acclimatise to this glycolic acid exfoliator, and the tingling wears off in a few minutes. However, it is important to note that tingling does not validate the efficacy of glycolic acid. Slight redness and ticklish sensation is normal, but if you feel like your face is on fire, rinse it off immediately.

glycolic acid side effects


The bottomline is, glycolic acid for skin definitely packs a punch and emerges as a top notch ingredient in the world of skincare. It has many superpowers, ranging from exfoliation, enhancing product penetration, hydration to brightening the skin. But it is important to be mindful of its use & frequency. SPF is critical once you incorporate glycolic acid into your skincare routine. Rest assured, be consistent, be mindful and you’ll be marching your way towards radiant, clear and healthy skin.

Leave a comment


Blog Categories

  • Beauty cocktails
  • Ingredients 101
  • What's new?
  • Related Blogs