The Truth About Putting Glycolic Acid On Your Face

When it comes to skincare, some products are worth their cost, while others definitely are not. It can be hard to sort it out, but right now, there is some buzz about glycolic acid. What is it all about, anyway? Not only are beauty brands are all over the world incorporating the ingredient into their products, both new and old, but it's also said to be a complete game-changer. What exactly does glycolic acid do?

Glycolic acid is an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid). According to Loretta Ciraldo, a board-certified dermatologist and co-creator of Dr. Loretta Skincare, it's just like a facial exfoliator and works by freeing dead skin cells. Speaking to The Huffington Post, she explained, "Chemically, it's a really nice, small molecule, which means when you put it on the skin, it can penetrate pretty readily."

In addition to being an exfoliant, Ciraldo says that glycolic acid can help clear acne, fight wrinkles, and smooth skin. Kenneth Howe, M.D., a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City, agrees, telling Glamour, "Glycolic acid stimulates fibroblasts in the dermis to produce increased amounts of collagen."

Dermatologists recommend applying glycolic acid daily to reap the benefits

"It's unbelievable how much nicer your makeup looks if you've got the great glycolic exfoliator for your skin," says Ciraldo, "Everything goes on so much more smoothly." To begin with, Ciraldo recommends using a face wash with glycolic acid a few times a week to see how your skin reacts. If you're noticing a positive difference, she suggests upping it to nightly to reap the benefits. 

If your skin reacts to glycolic acid with anything worse than tingling, however, you should stop using it. "Tingling is one thing, burn is another," Ciraldo said. "If you're feeling a tingle, some people describe it as pins and needles, [or] a little itch, any of that you can sometimes get from glycolic. But, if at any point you feel like your skin is feeling a bit of a burn, almost like you've gotten a little sunburn feeling, that is too much."

While glycolic acid is generally suitable for all skin types, Ciraldo warns that those who use it will likely be more sensitive to sunlight, and as a result, should wear sunscreen daily and stay out of direct sunlight when possible.