Glycolic acid, also known as hydroxyacetic acid, is non-toxic, colorless, odorless, and has multiple uses. It forms an integral part of a number of cosmetics that range from acne gels, acid toners, peels, and skin lotions. Hence, it forms an indispensable part of a skin-care routine that can be very effective in the treatment of wrinkles and acne scars. It is also very efficacious in treating dry, oily, sun-damaged, and acne prone skin.
Hydroxyacetic acid is a part of a naturally occurring group of alpha hydroxy acids, or AHA, which are derived from fruits and other natural substances. It is the smallest AHA. Some of the other examples of AHA are tartaric acid found in wine, malic acid in apples, lactic acid in sour milk, and citric acid in citrus fruits. This acid is also obtained from sugar cane.
If glycolic acid is applied in concentrations that are very high, it can be corrosive. Hence, any product that has a concentration of more than 10 percent of this acid is regarded as hazardous. Most skin products do not have it in concentrations of more than 10 percent.
However, if too high a concentration can be unsafe, conversely, if the concentration is too low, it can result in the product being ineffective. Therefore, products that have concentrations in the range of 8 - 10% are generally recommended for use in skin care. However, peel products are an exception, as they have concentrations that are much higher.
How is Hydroxyacetic Acid Beneficial?
Since it is a natural moisturizer and exfoliant, it is an ideal ingredient in skin-care products. The high acidity is what makes it an excellent exfoliant. When applied on the skin, glycolic acid permeates through the skin's superficial layers and breaks up the sticky matter that binds the dead skin cells.
Once the layer of superficial skin cells gets loosened up, it can be easily removed. This leaves the skin smoother and softer. This acid also helps in the easy absorption of moisturizers into the skin. Many cosmetic product lines that contain this fruit acid offer a complete skin-care protection and also help in neutralizing its corrosive effects on the skin.
Products Containing Hydroxyacetic Acid
Toner for Facial Skin
This is a formulation that helps in cleansing and refreshing the skin and improving the skin's pH balance, clarity, and smoothness. Toners are filled with anti-irritants, such as allantoin, hyaluronic acid, and aloe vera gel that are soothing and prevent the stinging sensation that is often felt with other products containing glycolic acid. After cleansing the face, toner should be applied by using the fingertips or a moistened cotton, and pat it all over the face. However, ensure to not rub it in. The skin is then ready for a cream or any other day or night cream.
Peel for Facial Skin
Whether you want to restore the natural beauty of your skin or get rid of acne blemishes, hydroxyacetic acid peels are effective and safe for achieving a rejuvenated, beautiful, and smooth skin. The concentration in peels can be up to 50 percent, which enables you to decide the strength of the peel you wish to use. Typically, peel treatments involve facial peels that last for a period of about 4 - 6 weeks.
Treatment for Acne
When hydroxyacetic acid is used for treating acne, it is usually mixed with salicylic acid. While hydroxyacetic acid helps in breaking up skin cells that are dead, salicylic acid helps in removing the dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, thus, resulting in opening up of pores. It revitalizes the skin and makes it smooth as well.
Precautions and Side Effects
When you apply glycolic acid on the skin, it becomes more sensitive to sunlight. Hence, a sunscreen should always be applied after using it. If you are worried about getting acne, choose an oil-free and non-comedogenic sunscreen.
After applying hydroxyacetic acid peel, the skin may appear sunburnt. This usually lasts for a few days. During this time, while your skin is recovering from the effects of a peel, it is important to not expose your skin to sunlight. In case of a skin problem due to the application of creams or cosmetics, do seek the advice of a dermatologist at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This BeautiSecrets article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.