It is obtained from sugar and is considered a precious beauty ally, both for mature and young acne-prone skin. Glycolic acid is certainly a very useful and interesting product to combat wrinkles, spots, boils and acne scars, as shown by scientific research, however it must be used carefully, as we will see better below, to avoid incurring side effects.
Glycolic acid, properties against wrinkles and photo-aging
Glycolic acid is a natural substance belonging to the group of alpha hydroxy acids. These acids, such as glycolic acid, but also lactic, malic, mandelic or tartaric acid, have been used for years as a peeling to exfoliate the skin and eliminate dead cells (Prestes et al, An Bras Dermatol, 2013). Glycolic acid is the best known and most used among the alpha hydroxy acids. It is made from cane sugar and beetroot and has been shown to be beneficial for skin that has prematurely aged due to sun damage. In fact, glycolic acid increases the thickness of the epidermis, activates the fibroblasts, which are cells that synthesize all the components that represent the supporting structure of the skin, increases collagen, since it increases its production by the fibroblasts, counteracts dark spots and stimulates skin renewal. Three applications of 70% glycolic acid, kept for three minutes on the skin, are enough to reduce fine wrinkles (Prestes et al, An Bras Dermatol, 2013 - Smith et al, Int J Cosmet Sci, 1996).
Glycolic acid against acne
Glycolic acid is also useful in case of acne. In fact, applications of products containing glycolic acid between 20 and 50% are considered useful in reducing acne inflammations. Not only that, glycolic acid, even at very low concentrations, below 1%, proves to have an antibacterial action, capable of removing the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, responsible for acne, and useful to counteract the scars left by acne and excessive sebum production (Valle-González et al, Sci Rep, 2020).
Glycolic acid, how it is used
Glycolic acid can be purchased at different concentrations in pharmacies or specialized shops. However, for home use it is better to opt for products with low concentrations, perhaps milder but safer. In fact, even if online you can easily buy products with high glycolic acid concentrations, even 70%, it is better to avoid such so strong peelings if you are not a professional in the sector in order not to incur unwanted effects. In any case, several applications are required to obtain results, at least three or four, on different days, preferably a few weeks apart, to give the skin time to regenerate, and possibly in the evening (Erbagci et al, Int J Dermatol , 2000). A few drops of the product are applied to the skin and left to act for a few minutes. Its action is directly proportional to the time it passes on the skin, but we must not exaggerate because otherwise the risk is to obtain the same effect that we are trying to counter. For example, as we have seen, applying glycolic acid for three minutes attenuates fine lines, while leaving the glycolic acid on for a long time, around fifteen minutes, is also useful in reducing deep wrinkles (Prestes et al, An Bras Dermatol, 2013). However, in this case, the appearance of spots could increase in predisposed people since glycolic acid can make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. According to the indications of the authors of the experiments performed on glycolic acid, it is possible to avoid hyperpigmentation by protecting the skin with sunscreens and pre-treating it with substances that reduce the production of melanin, but in this case the advice is to ask a dermatologist. In general, for use at home, it is good to prefer a short time application. And here is another point to be explored. To stop the effect of an application of glycolic acid, you need to use a product that neutralizes it, you can buy it in specialized stores, or rinse it off with water once the application time has elapsed.
Glycolic acid… from sugar!
It is possible to exploit the properties of glycolic acid simply by going ... in the kitchen! In fact, glycolic acid is contained in cane sugar, which releases it when it comes into contact with water. Of course, the action in this case will be milder but in any case beneficial. In a small bowl pour two tablespoons of brown sugar and a few drops of water, just to obtain a slightly creamy mixture. Apply to your face and massage the scrub, you can leave it on for a few minutes then rinse your face with water. Spray a floral water, such as lavender water, which is soothing, excellent for calming any redness, then complete with a drop of serum oil and / or a little face cream.
Glycolic acid, warnings
As we have seen, applying glycolic acid for too long can cause the appearance of spots on the skin. But even normal use of this product can have side effects, such as red skin, itching and erythema (Soleymani et al, J Clin Aesthet Dermatol., 2018). In any case, following treatment with glycolic acid, it is always better to pay attention to sun exposure as the skin may be more sensitive and delicate.