The Ultimate Guide to Glycolic Acid

AHA 101

AHA 101

What is Glycolic Acid?

A widely used exfoliating ingredient found in a variety of skincare cleansers, moisturizers, scrubs, and masks. Glycolic Acid, an alpha hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane, works by loosening and removing old, dead skin cells revealing the soft, smooth skin beneath. One of several fruit acids with skincare benefits, Glycolic Acid is the most widely used, in part due to its small molecular size, which allows it to easily penetrate the outer layer of the skin without damaging or irritating the skin.


There is another group of hydroxy acids called beta hydroxy acids (BHA). Both AHA's and BHA's are great for exfoliating dead skin cells, reducing inflammation, improving skin texture and tone, and unclogging pores.



Penetrate the outermost layer of skin


Absorb into deeper levels of the skin


Surface Level Concerns:

  • Uneven skin tone
  • Age spots
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Mild to moderate acne

Deep Skin Concerns:

  • Advance acne [2]
  • Increasing pH of acne-prone skin to optimal levels in the range of 4-6
Good For

Dry Skin Types 

Oily or Combination Skin Types


AHA Myths, Debunked



Glycolic Acid Is Drying

When used properly, Glycolic Acid exfoliates only as much as is needed. Plus, Glycolic Acid promotes production of skin-hydrating hyaluronic acid.


Glycolic Acid Is Irritating

When you first start using Glycolic Acid it's possible to overdo it and cause irritation by choosing a concentration that is too high or by applying too frequently. Instead, start slowly with a low concentration and gradually increase.


Glycolic Acid Causes Permanent Thinning of the Skin

Glycolic Acid initially thins your skin by removing the excess buildup of cells, then the exfoliation process promotes new cell growth and collagen formation, producing fuller, healthier skin.



Glycolic Acid Promotes Cellular Turnover

Glycolic Acid prevents ingrown hairs by exfoliating and promoting rapid cell turnover.


Glycolic Acid Reduces The Appearance of Pores

Glycolic Acid makes large pores appear smaller by removing buildup of dead skin cells.


Glycolic Acid Combats Discoloration

Glycolic Acid evens skin tone and reduces the appearance of hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure.

Top 5 Reasons

Glycolic Acid Should Be a Staple in Your Skin Care Regimen


Immediate Results and Better Absorption of Treatments

Glycolic Acid's exfoliating action produces noticeable results with each use. And with the old cells gone the skin can better absorb the active ingredients in skincare products and start each day with a fresh, radiant glow.


Youthful Skin: Reduces Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Regular use of Glycolic Acid ensures that the outermost layer of cells is removed before they build up. This gives skin a smoother texture and reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and surface scarring. Regular exfoliation also promotes collagen formation and moisture retention, resulting in plumper, healthier skin.


Less Acne Symptoms

Glycolic Acid is proven to significantly reduce acne through its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity. Additionally, its moisturizing effects prevent over-drying skin, which occurs with other types of acne medications and can cause the skin to overproduce oils.


Suitable for All Skin Types

Whether your skin is young or not-so-young, or if it's normal, dry or oily, or a combination, you can safely use and benefit from Glycolic Acid.


Can be Used on Your Whole Body

Not only can Glycolic Acid give you a great complexion it can help improve skin health and appearance all around. You can use Glycolic Acid for acne on the chest or back, rough dry skin on elbows and heels, and even keratosis pilaris, those dry, goosebump-like patches that typically appear on the upper arms.

Power Duos:

How to Use It?

Combining skincare ingredients can significantly improve the overall performance and effectiveness of any skincare routine and Glycolic Acid works well with a number of other ingredients. The key to success is to learn how your skin responds to each ingredient and use products according to their directions in order to maximize benefits and avoid irritation.

Works Well With


Hyaluronic Acid

Provides immediate hydration that fends off any temporary dryness or tightness that may occur following Glycolic Acid application and enhances Glycolic Acid's longer lasting moisture-promoting effects for optimal hydration benefits.



When used in the right proportions, a small amount of retinol complements Glycolic Acid's surface level benefits by absorbing into the skin's deeper layers, where it works to improve skin health and reduce acne scarring.


Salicylic Acid

The BHA counterpart to Glycolic Acid; the combination of Salicylic Acid with Glycolic Acid can help with a variety of chronic skin conditions. This comprehensive approach has been shown to improve acne, decrease oiliness, and improve skin texture. Washing multiple times per day can clear up acne.


Phytic Acid

Provides antioxidant benefits that, along with the antioxidant effects of Glycolic Acid can reduce hyperpigmentation and give the skin a more luminous appearance.



Adds anti-inflammatory and skin brightening benefits that complement those of Glycolic Acid.

Don't Use With


Abrasives or Chemicals

Avoid using Glycolic Acid with other types of chemical exfoliants, such as AHA or Retinoid.


Vitamin C

Combine Glycolic Acid carefully with ingredients that alter the skin's pH, such as Vitamin C, which can result in excessively low pH, leading to skin burn.



When to Talk to
Your Dermatologist

  • You have never used Glycolic Acid
  • You have sensitive skin
  • You are no longer seeing results
  • Your skin becomes irritated after using Glycolic Acid