Have you ever looked at the label of your skincare products and wondered to yourself whether any of those ingredients were actually good for your skin? Especially the ones with names that might sound a little caustic, like glycolic acid? You’re smart to want to know everything you can about the products you put on your skin, including the ones that have become so popular they’re basically household names at this point.
Glycolic acid is one of those skincare ingredients that many people are familiar with by name but have no real idea of why it’s beneficial for their skin. Let’s help unveil the mystery by talking about what glycolic acid is, and why it might be your skin’s best friend.
What Is Glycolic Acid?
Let’s start with the basics – what exactly is this great stuff called glycolic acid? Glycolic acid is a type of AHA or alpha-hydroxy acid. If you’re someone who reads the labels on every skincare and beauty product you see, you might already be familiar with the AHA family. Of the Alpha-hydroxy acids, glycolic acid has the smallest molecular structure. For those of us who didn’t major in chemistry, its small structure means that it’s super easy for glycolic acid to penetrate the skin. This is important because there are a lot of skincare ingredients that claim to produce incredible results but simply can’t because their molecular structure is just too big. This isn’t the case with glycolic acid.
Being derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is a natural, plant-based AHA. Other alpha-hydroxy acids can be created synthetically or come from other natural sources. You’re probably already familiar with lactic acid that’s often derived from dairy products, and citric acid from citrus. Other AHAs include mandelic acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid, in addition to our friend glycolic acid.
Why Glycolic Acid Is Good for Your Skin
When you apply glycolic acid to your skin, its tiny molecule immediately gets to work penetrating your skin. The most important benefits glycolic acid provides are centered around its exfoliating properties. It’s this exfoliating mechanism that everything we’ve come to love about this skincare ingredient stems from.
Glycolic acid isn’t the gritty type of exfoliant that leaves your skin feeling raw afterward. (By the way, avoid those types of exfoliants at all costs). Glycolic acid is an enzymatic exfoliant, which means it gets in there under those dead skin cells that have been clinging to the surface of your skin and loosens the “glue” that holds them in place.
The outermost layer of your skin, which glycolic acid acts on first, is normally packed with layers of dead skin cells. This is true for even the healthiest looking skin if you aren’t regularly doing something to slough all those dead skin cells away. For some people, an accumulation of dead skin cells just might cause their skin to look a little dull and lifeless. For others, it can be more problematic.
So many of our skincare woes are caused by dead skin cells. Every acne blemish begins with dead skin cells piled into your pores, where they mix with oil and dirt to cause problems. Dead skin cells also don’t allow all the good stuff you put on your skin to fully penetrate the outermost layers. If you’re using an anti-aging serum or cream but not exfoliating, you’re only seeing partial results. We can also add sunscreen into the mix. While a few layers of dead skin cells aren’t going to completely negate the effects of sunscreen, you would get more benefit on freshly exfoliated skin.
Glycolic Acid for Aging Skin
Glycolic acid is one of those rare skincare ingredients that can be used by a variety of skin types. Even for those with the most sensitive skin, glycolic acid produces few issues, when used as directed. Whether you’re an adolescent who is experiencing their first real go around with acne or someone who is looking in the mirror wondering how to regain that youthful glow, glycolic acid is your skin’s friend.
Glycolic acid does wonders for your skin as it matures. First, because it’s an exfoliant, glycolic acid speeds up cellular turnover. All those older skin cells hold onto extra melanin that leads to a splotchy appearance and discolorations. The mechanisms of glycolic acid also leave your skin looking smoother and more radiant.
As if that wasn’t enough, glycolic acid also stimulates collagen production. As collagen begins to break down, we start to see more fine lines and wrinkles staring back at us in the mirror. A little glycolic acid goes a long way in stimulating production, which helps minimize the signs of aging that have already appeared and helps protect your skin against future premature aging.
Witnessing the Results for Yourself
There is something incredibly rewarding about looking in the mirror and seeing a radiant complexion looking back at you. There’s a lot of hype in the skincare and beauty industry, and it’s important to be able to cut through all of it and find the skincare products that support and protect your skin in the most natural, gentlest way possible. Glycolic acid is the perfect addition to your skincare routine, regardless of your skin type. Start protecting your skin against damage in the future by adopting a skincare routine that includes glycolic acid today.