Here's what you need to know about Glycolic Acid

I’m still waiting for acid washed jeans to make a comeback. In the meantime, I’ll just stick to using some acids on my face instead.... But with so many acids on the market, it’s definitely hard to navigate. So I turned to my dermatologist husband for advice. “Beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid are great for treating acne and oily skin, while alpha hydroxy acids are ideal for anti-aging,” he says.

So I decided to to a little of my own research on glycolic acid to see what it would do for my skin. Glycolic acid is the prototypical example of an alpha hydroxy acid. (The terms alpha and beta relate to the structure of the acid itself, which is way above my level of understanding.) It is made from sugar cane and works by dissolving the connections between cells on the surface of the skin. Translation - it helps you shed those dead cells that build up on your skin and make it look dull. This means that glycolic acid can make this skin look more radiant and help lighten up dark spots. Glycolic acid has even been shown to help our skin cells make more collagen to fight off pesky lines and wrinkles.

I have brown spots. My skin could look more radiant. I have lines and wrinkles. I NEED Glycolic acid.  But where to start? A cleanser? A scrub? A serum? Glycolic acid is everywhere. After doing some research I tried out a little of everything. 

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Here are some of the products I decided to test... 

(1) L’Oreal Revitalift Bright Reveal Daily Scrub Cleanser ($7). Since my skin wasn’t used to glycolic acid,  I started out my glycolic testing with a face wash. This product is reasonably priced and relatively mild. It combines physical exfoliation as you rub it into the skin along with the chemical exfoliation of the glycolic acid. It definitely left the skin looking bright after using it, but when I tried to use it every day my skin started to feel a bit dry. So every other day works best for me.


(2) The Glytone Enhance Brightening Complex ($74) targets pigmentation, so I was immediately drawn to it. It is a cream that contains both glycolic and azelaic acid in one product. Azelaic acid is an ingredient that comes from rye, oats, and barley. My husband tells me that that it is commonly used in prescription strengths to treat conditions like acne and rosacea. But, it also is can brighten the skin because it blocks production of abnormal pigmentation. So exfoliating glycolic acid along with brightening azelaic acid is a winning combo.  The cream is light and dries quickly on the skin without leaving you feeling heavy or greasy. I was happy to report that it did not cause any dryness or irritation. 


(3) SkinMedica GlyPro Renewal Cream ($94) is much more than just your average glycolic acid cream. It is loaded with other ingredients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and olive extract with antioxidant benefits. It also has a peptide reported to “diminish the look of wrinkles.” I would call this product more of an overall skin rejuvenator than just your average glycolic acid exfoliating cream. It left my skin feeling smooth and bright.


(4) The Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Baby Facial  ($80) is anything but babyish. It packs a big punch giving immediate results. I found my skin to look brighter right away. It is packed not only with glycolic acid, it also contains tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids. It is also loaded with antioxidants like matcha and calming niacinamide. Oh, and it is a yellow, tan color. This is definitely not an every day treatment, but could see myself incorporating it into my routine once a week or so.


So because of its abiltiy to brighten and improve radiance of the skin, I declare glycolic acid as #TheDermWifeApproved.

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