Glycolic Acid: 21 Best Products & Their Benefits

As mentioned earlier, unlike other AHAs like lactic and citric acid, the light molecular weight of glycolic makes it the most powerful and effective of all the Alphas because it can sink deeper into the skin dermis.

What are the benefits of glycolic acid?

Just like all AHAs, glycolic acid works to weaken and dissolve the bonds that hold dead skin cells together and speed up cell turnover. “As an exfoliant, glycolic acid is used in the treatment of several skin conditions such as acne, scars, pigmentation, skin dryness and wrinkles by acting on the epidermal and dermal layers. Clinical trials have shown the effectiveness of this ingredient in reversing the effects of photoageing and improving wrinkles, skin elasticity, tone and hydration,” reveals Dr Zamani.

In short, you can expect clearer, more even, glowing skin with regular use.

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Does glycolic acid have any side effects?

As with all acids, glycolic comes with some baggage. And due to its low molecular weight, incorrect use can actually prove more problematic than it might with other AHAs. Dr Zamani says: “Overusing glycolic acid can leave the skin red, dry and more sensitive to the sun. This can cause premature ageing, thinning of the skin and heightened risk of pigmentation.”

As a result of these risks, there are some other ingredients you need to steer clear of if you’re using glycolic. “If you have sensitive skin then it is best to be cautious with some products. For example, skin that is sensitive to retinol may also have a similar effect when using glycolic acid.

“Using products that contain both those ingredients at the same time could cause problems. This is due to the retinol accelerating cell turnover and the glycolic acid contributing to exfoliation. Also, ingredients such as peptides should not be used with glycolic acid as this will alter the pH of the skin and reduce the efficacy of the peptides,” says Dr Zamani.