Glycolic Acid. Many people talk about it and lots want to use it, but it’s very important to know exactly what these ingredients do, where they come from, and how they will effect your skin immediately, and more importantly, over time.
Glycolic Acid is a natural ingredient that is extracted from sugar cane (but is also made synthetically). It’s classed as an alpha-hydroxy-acid or AHA.
Glycolic acid has a great ability to penetrate into the deeper layers of the epidermis, which is why it is so popular in cosmetics. It aids in the keratinisation process, which basically means that it helps to maintain the renewal of living healthy skin cells that come up from the dermis and eventually make their way to the surface of your skin and die off. The benefit of this, is that it helps to keep plump, fresh skin cells constantly cycling through. These fresh skin cells are more hydrated and healthier, which helps with that fresh glowing skin that we all crave!
Glycolic (and AHAs) are a type of exfoliant. But they work very differently to a scrub (or something with grains that you can feel) – a glycolic product doesn’t actually need grains in it to work.
The way that it exfoliates the dead skin cell layer, is quite unique. What it does, is it targets the ‘intracellular glue’, which is the glue that bonds skin cells together, including the dead ones. As we get older or if we don’t look after our skin properly, it loses it’s ability to naturally regulate it’s balance of skin living and dead skin cells. Glycolic (in the right concentration) specifically targets the stratum corneum (which is a name for one of the epidermis layers – one that helps to form our natural skin protective barrier). It dissolves this glue and allows the skin cells to naturally desquamate (or exfoliate themselves) much faster, promoting new cells to come through to replace them.
Glycolics and peels can have fantastic results on skins that have pigmentation and acne problems. The encouragement of new skin cells helps (over time) to bring those pigmented cells up from the deep-down layers of the skin.
One thing that I would keep in mind though, is those brand new, fresh healthy cells that are happily parading themselves on your face. They aren’t used to the world! They need a lot of extra love, and most definitely a good layer of sunscreen, all the time. Especially if you are in Australia, the land of the ozone layer hole!
So, this is why I wouldn’t recommend continuous use. Use a glycolic to target a specific skin woe, or to just inject a little life into it, but give your skin a rest, too. Overuse could lead to irritated skin, or even worse, pigmentation issues.
If you have ongoing pigmentation or acne issues, and are thinking about going on a course of peels, I would recommend speaking to a dermatologist first, especially if you have any kind of sensitivity issues.
Using glycolic at home, in home-safe concentrations, you may notice a slightly uncomfortable tingling. This may stick around for a little while after applying too. It shouldn’t be painful, and it shouldn’t colour your skin any more than a pink flush. If this happens, use something gentle straight away to cleanse your skin. Apply a gentle, light moisturiser, something with Allantoin or a similar soothing ingredient, is ideal.
Glycolic Acid is a great, effective product, no need to be scared if you’re properly educated, and you know your own skin.