Why you need to get in on glycolic acid ASAP, and our top recos!

When I first got into acids, I immediately zeroed in on the BHA-based products because of my oily, acne-prone skin. But over time and after using products like the In Her Element Glow Job, I’ve learned my skin can benefit from AHAs, too. Glycolic acid is the most commonly used AHA for both professional and at-home treatments alike because it quickly delivers visible results. If you haven’t tried it yet, read on to know more about why you should add glycolic acid into your skincare routine.

What is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is a type of Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) that is usually derived from sugar cane. Dermatologists often prefer to use glycolic acid for professional-grade peeling because it has very small particles that allows it to go deep into the skin’s layers, creating a more pronounced effect versus other acids.

Its main function is to exfoliate the skin to remove the dead skin cells. Our skin’s ability to shed dead cells naturally often slows down as we age, so skin ends up looking dull and uneven. Glycolic acid helps to hasten this process by “ungluing” the dead cells and exposing the new skin underneath. As a result, skin looks more radiant with a smoother texture. It also helps in getting rid of excess pigment caused by old acne scars, sun spots, or melasma so you can achieve an overall even skin tone. Finally, the exfoliation unclogs pores of any excess oils and dirt, which helps to reduce acne, blackheads, and other breakouts.

This acid is also an excellent anti-aging treatment as it encourages collagen production and has humectant properties that helps skin to retain moisture. More collagen in the skin can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and create a bouncier appearance.

How to use glycolic acid

For at-home treatments, look for glycolic acid products that have between 4% to 10% in concentration. A higher percentage may need supervision from your derma. Apply the acid after washing with a low pH cleanser and drying your face; leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes before putting on your next skincare product for best results. You may experience a slight warm and stinging sensation after applying glycolic acid. This is fairly common and goes away after a while, but if it feels too uncomfortable, you can opt to wash it off.

As with using any acid for the first time, it’s best to use only once a week for the first two weeks. Because of its ability to permeate skin deeply, it’s possible to overexfoliate with glycolic acid use, so it’s recommended to increase usage up to a maximum of twice a week, and only once your skin is used to it already.

It’s also important to note that glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it is crucial to always apply sunscreen when using glycolic acid treatments. The photosensitivity effect actually lasts for as long as a week so it won’t matter so much if you apply glycolic acid during the day or at night. You may want to stop usage a week before prolonged sun exposure though (such as a beach trip) to minimize risk of sun damage.

Products to try

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Pixi’s Glow Tonic (P995 at Sephora PH) is one of the more popular glycolic acid products. This is an exfoliating toner which has 5% glycolic acid. Liz shares that this really did give her an instant glow and a noticeably smoother skin texture but later caused her to develop painful cystic acne. It’s worth mentioning that this contains witch hazel extract, which causes breakouts in some people.

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A popular option from the Asian Beauty section is the CosRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid (P850 at theskincarecurator.com). This has 7% glycolic acid and is an exfoliating toner similar to Glow Tonic. It also contains niacinamide to help brighten skin, and hyaluronic acid to improve moisture retention.

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How can we go through a glycolic acid list without mentioning the In Her Element Glow Job (P775 at inherelement.ph)! This has 5% glycolic acid and has a gel cream texture. I love using this twice a week when my skin looks bleh. This also helps to fade dark spots after continued use.

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One of Den’s first AHA products was the Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Sensitive (P2,250 at Beauty Bar stores). This is Juice Beauty’s best-selling product with good reason: it’s like a pro-level facial in a jar without the painful stinging! It’s gentle enough to use up to twice a week, and leaves skin smoother and brighter in just a few uses.

Liz tried out the Drunk Elephant Sukari Babyfacial ($80 at drunkelephant.com) which contains a whopping 25% AHA and 2% BHA. It may be too strong if you’re not used to acids at all. While she had great results with it, it stung badly for a good 7 minutes and she experienced micropeeling afterwards. As this is very potent, it’s best to limit use to just once every 2 to 3 weeks.

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My personal fave in the list is the In Her Element Petal Skin Rose Clay Mask (P875 at inherelement.ph). I enjoy clay masking once a week, and I love how this not only draws out the impurities from my skin but also gives me an instant glow. And it smells soooo nice, too. It’s quickly become my fave clay mask in my stash.

Have you added glycolic acid into your routine? Which products have you used? Share your glycolic acid experiences with us below!

Sources: US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, JAMA Dermatology,  HuffPost, The Cut