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Glycolic Acid Cleanser

Glycolic Acid Cleanser

Glycolic acid cleanser works by exfoliating the upper layers of skin, making it clear and radiant in the process.
Kalpana Kumari
Glycolic acid is the smallest alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). It is also known as hydroxyacetic acid. Glycolic acid is chemically described as a water-soluble, crystalline, colorless, and odorless substance that is hygroscopic by nature. It is commonly obtained from sugarcane crops. Glycolic acid has the excellent ability to penetrate skin. This particular property makes it suitable to be used in a wide range of skin care products. It is mostly used as a chemical peel to exfoliate the upper dead layer of skin.


Dermatologists have been making use of glycolic acid to lighten the complexion of skin and treat a number of skin disorders such as actinic keratosis, seborrheic keratosis and hyperkeratosis. They may use it in concentrations anywhere between 10-70%, which depends upon the objective of the treatment. A concentration higher than 20% is generally not recommended for over-the-counter cosmetic products.

For cosmetic purposes, glycolic acid is mainly used for skin exfoliation. It removes all traces of makeup, dirt, and dust from the skin pores quite effectively, yet gently. Therefore, it is an active ingredient in many skin cleansing products. These cleansers usually use a combination of it with a number of other potent skin care substances such as chamomile, orange or grapefruit seed oils, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C and E. The regular usage of this cleanser is known to visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores from the skin. To add to these, it increases the radiance of the skin as well.

This cleanser is especially good for those having oily and acne-prone skin. It cleanses the pores of dust, dirt, and cell debris, and removes excessive oil. The directions for usage are usually given on the pack. It has to be applied on dry skin and should be allowed to stay for a couple of minutes before wiping or rinsing off. Glycolic acid is an irritant by nature, so a mild tingling sensation is expected. However, if intense burning is felt, you should immediately wash it off.

The concentration of glycolic acid in the skin care products available in the market is generally between 10-15%, and is supposed to be used once or twice a week. Daily usage is not recommended because of its acidic content, which may damage the skin over time. However, nowadays, mild glycolic acid cleansers with 3-4% concentration are available and are absolutely safe for daily usage. Such cleansers are especially beneficial for those having oily and acne prone skin as it helps keep the skin clean and oil free.

There are certain precautions that need to be taken when using this cleanser. For one, never apply the cream on or around the eyes and mucous membrane. It is also necessary that you never go out in the sun without wearing a sunscreen lotion. This is because, the cleanser exfoliates the upper layer of your skin (epidermis), making it more sensitive to sunlight. It is also important that you never ingest glycolic acid or products based on it because it gets converted to oxalic acid on digestion, which may lead to adverse effects on your health.

Even though it is considered to be quite safe for long-term external application, it is always recommended that you consult a dermatologist if you are suffering from skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, etc. It is advisable not to use a cleanser with glycolic acid that has more than 10% concentration to be on the safe side.