What Does Glycolic Acid Actually Do? All You Need To Know

glycolic acid

If you know anything about skincare, you’ll know that glycolic acid has been a trending ingredient for some time now, and this certainly doesn’t look set to change. Hailed as a hero alpha-hydroxy-acid (AHA), glycolic acid is the most popular and most researched AHA, with the most proven skin benefits.  

From glycolic acid serums, to glycolic acid toners and glycolic acid creams, this amazing active can be found in all manners of skincare products. A plethora of studies have proved how effective glycolic acid is at rejuvenating the skin and it is regularly praised by editors and influencers for its multifaceted benefits. But, what does it actually do? 

What Is Glycolic Acid? 

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane. Of all the AHAs, it has the simplest structure and the smallest molecules; meaning that it is easily absorbed and able to effectively penetrate the deepest layers of the skin.  

What Does Glycolic Acid Do? 

The main function of glycolic acid is to exfoliate the skin by essentially ‚Äėungluing‚Äô dead cells from each other and removing them from the skin. It gently resurfaces the skin, making way for newer, fresher skin cells whilst kick-starting cellular regeneration. Due to its small chemical structure, glycolic acid gets deep into the skin, where it stimulates the production of collagen and elastin.¬†¬†

What Are The Benefits Of Using Glycolic Acid? 

Glycolic acid for skin has numerous benefits including: 

  • Fighting acne
  • Improving scarring¬†
  • Minimising the appearance of pores¬†¬†
  • Reducing fine lines and wrinkles¬†¬†
  • Fading dark spots and hyperpigmentation¬†
  • Evening out skin tone¬†
  • Brightening the skin¬†

How Do You Use Glycolic Acid In Your Skincare Routine? 

It’s important to be mindful of the fact that less is more when it comes to glycolic acid; using too many products that contain the powerful ingredient could lead to irritation or even damage your skin. If you have sensitive skin, start with a glycolic acid cleanser to get your skin used to the active, rather than jumping straight into leave-on glycolic acid products.  

Glycolic acid makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight so make sure that you use sun protection when using this active. Also, avoid using other AHAs or products containing vitamin A (such as retinol), as your skin may become sensitive or irritated.  

Is Glycolic Acid Suitable For All Skin Types? 

Whilst glycolic acid is generally well tolerated, it’s most suited to those with normal, combination and oily skin.  If you have dry, or sensitive skin you need to implement glycolic acid into your skincare regime with caution as it may cause irritation. If you have rosacea or eczema it’s best to avoid glycolic acid products.    

Our Top 5 Glycolic Acid Products  

1. Jan Marini Bioglycolic Face Cleanser 

Suitable for all skin types, Jan Marini Bioglycolic Face Cleanser is a gentle glycolic acid cleanser with a non-irritating, soap-free formula. It is their most popular daily cleanser and  is recommended by Harper’s Bazaar, Red and Sheerluxe. 

Jan Marini Bioglycolic Face Cleanser also works as a glycolic acid exfoliator; removing impurities and dead cells to help resurface the skin. Added sorbitol also softens and hydrates the skin.

glycolic acid cleanser

2. Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Pads 

Recommended by The Guardian, Stylist and Sheerluxe, Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Pads are daily glycolic acid pads with an innovative moisturising formula that helps you to obtain smoother, brighter, and younger-looking skin. The exfoliating Nip and Fab glycolic pads resurface skin; reducing uneven tone, texture and boosting radiance. In addition to glycolic acid, these cleansing pads also contain witch hazel to tone the skin, hyaluronic acid to hydrate and blue daisy to soothe and calm.  

nip and fab glycolic pads

3. Skinceuticals Blemish + AGE Defense Serum 

The innovative formula of Skinceuticals Blemish + AGE Defense Serum combines salicylic and glycolic acid to create a product that not only prevents the formation of acne, but also minimises hyperpigmentation and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Recommended by Vogue, Glamour, Red, Stylist and Sheerluxe, the oil-free serum is specifically created for blemish-prone skin, inhibits excess sebum production, decongests clogged pores and clears and refines the look of open pores.   

glycolic acid serum

4. Avant Skincare Intensive Redensifying Glycolic Acid Day Moisturiser 

The ultimate anti-ageing cream, Avant Skincare Intensive Redensifying Glycolic Acid Day Moisturiser is suitable for all skin types, especially those with very dry skin seeking a glycolic acid cream that provides optimal comfort to the complexion. Working to volumise the skin, boost firmness and smooth fine lines and wrinkles, this daytime moisturiser aims to lessen the effects of epidermal ageing.  Formulated with glycolic acid, mica and urea, the rich cream also treats blackheads, reveals radiance and keeps skin smooth and soft.   

glycolic acid cream

5. Medik8 Sleep Glycolic  

If you’re searching for glycolic acid products that give maximum results with minimum downtime then look no further than Medik8 Sleep Glycolic.  This bi-weekly time-release overnight at-home peel, which contains 10% glycolic acid works while you sleep to transform texture and tone, lessen hyperpigmentation, decongest skin and minimise signs of ageing.  Recommended by Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Get the Gloss, an independent study showed that 97% of customers felt that Medik8 Sleep Glycolic smoothed their skin's surface, while 94% felt their skin was visibly illuminated. 

glycolic acid exfoliator

For all the products featured and more, shop online now. For personalised skincare advice, take our online skin test now and receive personalised product recommendations direct to your inbox.

Written by Sarah Blake