• Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid

One of the cosmetic ingredients which has been proven to work is Glycolic Acid. There are numerous independent and scientific studies which have been published about the effectiveness of Glycolic Acid. Glycolic Acid has, among other things, a positive effect on pigmentation, ageing and dry skin and belongs to the group ‘fruit acids’ (also known as Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHA’s).

Beautiful skin!

Glycolic Acid helps to eliminate dead skin cells; it ‘exfoliates’ the skin. Although young skin can deal with this naturally and doesn’t need much help, it becomes more difficult to get rid of dead skin cells after the age of 30. Through the build of dead skin cells, the skin becomes dull and the chances of blemishes and flaking are increased. Use of an Exfoliant is a great way to get a smooth and fresh complexion back. Your skin can also retain more moisture and surface pigment spots become less visible. As if that’s not enough this ingredient can, according to research, protect against damage from the sun (abstract). This means that the chances of premature ageing and skin cancer will decrease. If used in higher concentrations (>15%) Glycolic Acid can stimulate collagen and elastin production.

A possible anti-oxidant

Research at Yale Medical school has revealed that applying Glycolic Acid for a period of 7 days before exposure to the sun reduces redness and inflammation by 16% (abstract). The presumption is that this ingredient reinforces the action of anti-oxidants in the skin.

Some conditions of use

Glycolic Acid is a very good ingredient then, but has a few ‘conditions of use’. It only works if used in sufficiently high concentrations (>5%). If this is the case, then you’ll see it listed as ‘Glycolic Acid’ in the top third of the ingredients list. Along with this, it is important that a product with it has a low pH. Unfortunately this is often more difficult to control. It can cause irritation and it is wise to gradually build its use up.

Remain cautious!

Using Glycolic Acid makes your skin become more sensitive to sunlight. This is due to the stratum corneum (the outermost skin layer) becoming thinner with the removal of dead skin cells. It is even more important therefore to protect against the sun when using Glycolic Acid. If you don’t take care then it could have the opposite effect. And that would be a waste.


There are also peelings available which use a higher concentration (>15%). They can be very effective, but strict guidance is very important. Peelings with concentrations above 30% need to be carried out by a skin therapist or doctor.

Regards Jetske.

(Dr. Jetske Ultee-Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)

You can read more about:
The Exfoliant (with Glycolic Acid) as Part of Your Step-By-Step Plan
Glycolic Acid Versus Salicylic Acid
Help with Choosing the Exfoliant
Different Types of Pigmentation
Other options with pigmentation: Vitamin C or Hydroquinone
Anti-oxidants in a cream: Do They Work?

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