Glycolic acid is part of the alpha hydroxy family of natural ingredients. Glycolic acid is used for acne treatments as well as anti-aging treatments.
Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane and is essentially a fruit acid. It is applied to the skin and can be found in concentrations that range from very low (such as 3%) up to much higher concentrations used by dermatologists for in-office treatments.
Because glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane, it is considered a natural product and falls under the same classification as citric acid from citrus fruits like lemons and oranges.
People can use glycolic acid products for a variety of reasons relating to anti-aging to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and to make the skin look smoother, tighter and younger looking overall. It is also used as an acne treatment.
Uses for Glycolic acid
If you are worrying about aging skin, someone might recommend that you use a glycolic acid treatment product to refresh and refine the skin.
As you get older, your skin has a harder time turning over new skin cells, particularly on the face. The regeneration still happens, but at much slower pace than when you’re younger.
Glycolic acid works as an exfoliant. Because it’s highly acidic but is also highly soluble, it goes under the damaged areas of the skin and essentially “burn” off the top layer of skin. When washed off, it leaves behind smoother skin that is also more youthful looking.
Glycolic acid is also found in many acne treatments. By removing that top layer of skin, the newer (healthier) skin below the acne layer can be revealed, resulting in less oily and acne-prone skin.
The level of acidity is determined by the product used. If you have the procedure done at a dermatologist’s office, it could have as much as 50% or more concentration of glycolic acid, while many over the counter products that contain glycolic acid along with other ingredients might only have a very low concentration.
Glycolic acid can be found in over-the-counter facial cleansers and treatment creams and in chemical peels applied by dermatologists.