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What is glycolic acid and what does it do for the skin?

Sitting in the hydroxy acid family, glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) commonly used in chemical exfoliants. During the exfoliation process, its gentle effect on skin has made glycolic acid one of the most popular chemical exfoliants used in the skincare industry. Originally derived from sugarcane, glycolic acid was the first alpha-hydroxy acid utilized by dermatologists to encourage a visibly balanced complexion. By learning the benefits of this active ingredient when incorporated into an effective skincare routine, you will be able to understand the recommended practice for daily use and therefore achieve the best possible results.

SkinCeuticals Blemish Age Defense Serum 30ml glass bottle with glass dropper


As an effective chemical exfoliant, glycolic acid benefits the skin by renewing and reviving the skin’s active cell cycle. Glycolic acid achieves this by loosening the ionic bonds that hold the skin cells together, easing this ‘glue’ allows dead or damaged skin cells to gently shed. Once the external layer of the dermis has been cleared, it can replenish itself with new skin cells and decongest any clogged pores from unwanted dead skin build-up. Glycolic acid benefits the skin by targeting beyond the outer layer, helping to stimulate cell renewal from within the skin. A faster skin cell turnover rate means younger cells are forming to minimise signs of damaged skin, including hyperpigmentation, dark spots and ageing skin. By incorporating glycolic acid products into a facial care routine, this will help enable visibly younger-looking skin.


Glycolic acid can be found in a variety of skincare products like facial cleansers, toners, serums and exfoliating peels. When introducing glycolic acid into a skincare routine, it is important to understand which other ingredients are complementary and which should be avoided. Generally, it is safe to use glycolic acid with other alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid, and when combined it will raise the strength of the chemical exfoliant. Hyaluronic acid is a hydrating ingredient used in the skincare industry and maintains a powerful molecular structure that can retain up to one thousand times its weight in water, giving the skin a boost of hydration. Glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid are generally quite complementary and can be used in the same skincare routine. Whereas, retinol is a high-strength vitamin A derivative that generally should not be used in conjunction with glycolic acid. Being an active skincare ingredient, retinol also encourages a higher skin cell turnover rate and can interfere with glycolic acid’s efficacy by becoming too harsh or irritating to skin. It is often recommended to avoid using glycolic acid and retinol on the same day, or instead apply them at alternating times of the day. Glycolic acid’s renewing properties make it an effective ingredient for managing your individual skin concerns through targeted daily use.
Tip: It is important to protect the skin with a high protection broad-spectrum sunscreen after applying glycolic acid and other exfoliating ingredients.



With a typically gentle nature, glycolic acid is a versatile alpha-hydroxy acid chemical exfoliant that can be used to manage several different skin concerns. Best suited for normal, combination and oily skin types, glycolic acid will exfoliate the skin and reduce the build-up of dead for visibly balanced and younger-looking skin. These exfoliating properties are also important for skin concerns such as acne, ageing and hyperpigmentation.
Acne-prone skin forms as a result of the unwanted build-up of dirt and oil creating clogged pores. To minimize this congestion, it is recommended to apply an effective facial exfoliator that utilizes powerful ingredients such as glycolic acid.
The appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and ageing skin are another significant concern for those wishing to prolong youthful-looking skin. Ageing skin results from several factors including sun damage, a decline in natural collagen production and an overall slowing of skin functions as you get older. Using glycolic acid for anti-ageing skincare can help stimulate the natural cell turnover rate for more youthful skin renewal.
Hyperpigmentation and dark spots can form when there is an overactive melanin production in the skin, which happens as a result of threatened or damaged skin cells. Refreshing and replacing the old skin cells through the use of glycolic acid can help visibly reduce hyperpigmentation and dark spots as new, healthy skin cells work to balance the appearance of the skin. Glycolic acid is an important ingredient with multiple benefits and should be utilized for its targeted exfoliating properties.


With many skincare products featuring glycolic acid as a key ingredient, it is important to understand how it is best applied within a formula in order to achieve effective results. Glycolic acid is affected by the pH level of the formula it is part of and therefore the acidity level. As the pH increases, the efficacy of glycolic acid decreases. This is due to the free acid value in glycolic acid products, as pH levels and free acid values directly impact each other, determining the results of glycolic acid skincare products. Typically, a glycolic acid concentration between 4-10% with a lower pH level is ideal for daily use.


Finding suitable glycolic acid skincare products is necessary when developing an effective daily skincare routine. SkinCeuticals offers an array of alpha-hydroxy acid products to gently exfoliate dead skin for visibly smoother results.

SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight

Incorporate the SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight into your evening skincare routine and allow this rich formula to seep deeply into the skin. Formulated with a 10% free acid value, glycolic acid is the hero ingredient in this night cream. Use this glycolic acid moisturizer to encourage skin cell turnover rate for a more balanced looking complexion. The SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight will address skin concerns like ageing skin, a dull complexion, unwanted breakouts and dark spots to reveal more visibly balanced skin.


SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense

Target ageing skin that is prone to breakouts with the SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense, a glycolic acid serum designed to rebalance your skin. Many are unaware that acne can persist well into adulthood and this glycolic acid serum can manage concerns around breakout-prone and ageing skin. Formulated with alpha-hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, this serum works to reduce the appearance of blemishes and visibly revive the skin.


Blemish and Age Cleansing

Giving the skin a deep cleanse, the Blemish and Age Cleansing works to effectively remove any dirt and impurities for a fresher result. Utilizing the power of glycolic acid and other hydroxy acids to slough away dead skin cells and revive skin for a visibly improved complexion. The Blemish and Age Cleansing also works to decongest pores which can minimize acne-breakouts and unwanted blemishes. Use this glycolic acid cleansing gel to effectively wash the skin both morning and night.


SkinCeuticals Blemish and Age Toner

The second step in the cleansing process is toning, it allows for a deeper cleanse whilst rebalancing the skin. SkinCeuticals offers the LHA Toner to address clogged pores and manage problematic skin concerns like acne-breakouts and visible signs of ageing. Use the SkinCeuticals LHA Toner to chemically exfoliate the skin and gain a visibly even complexion through the benefits of glycolic acid.
SkinCeuticals skincare products are developed by dermatologists and use effective ingredients to manage common skin concerns. Target your individual skin issues and gain healthier-looking skin when you incorporate glycolic acid into your skincare routine, an alpha-hydroxy acid with scientifically proven results.






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