For centuries people have actually been using glycolic acid to reduce the looks of age spots and wrinkles. It is one of the ‘alpha hydroxy acids’, or AHAs, and can be naturally derived from sugar cane.
Like the other AHAs, glycolic acid treats the skin by loosening the protein bonds that hold dead, dry skin cells to the very top layer of the skin, or the ‘stratum corneum’. When these dead cells are scrubbed away, the skin automatically looks brighter and feels softer.
Glycolic acid also increases the synthesis of ‘mucopolysaccharides’, which are chains of sugar molecules that lock moisture into the skin. It stimulates the body to produce springy collagen beneath the deeper layers of the skin, which makes them firmer and juicier. Some researchers found that glycolic acid and other AHAs act as antioxidants and protect the skin from damage from pollutants and the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Glycolic acid is not considered a drug and is not strictly regulated, so it can be found in all types of skin care products. An over-the-counter skin cream can contain about 1 percent glycolic acid, while the cream used by a professional salon can contain as much as 15 percent. Cream prescribed by a dermatologist may have as much as 20 percent. Glycolic acid is also used in chemical peels. It is probably the most popular of the AHAs because it has a very small molecule size. Because of this, it is able to more effectively penetrate the skin.
Dermatologists believe that glycolic acid helps to fade age spots by encouraging the turnover of cells before the melanocytes can impart color to them. Melanocytes are the pigment producing cells.
How To Use Glycolic Acid Products At Home
The best way to use a skin care product that contains glycolic acid is to put it on in the morning and at night. Products with larger concentrations of glycolic acid should be used only at night after the face has been washed.
Glycolic acid can be used with vitamin A based creams, especially Retin-A. In this case, dermatologists and aestheticians recommend that the Retin-A be put on at night and the glycolic acid be used in the morning. Morning use protects the skin, which is a little bit acidic, from the alkalines of many makeup products. While being more effective than other AHAs, glycolic acid is known for stinging a bit more, but the sensation goes away in less than a minute. People with sensitive skin may wish to use glycolic acid or other AHAs sparingly.
Since glycolic acid takes away the dead skin cells of the stratum corneum, it is a good idea to use sunscreen when going outside.
Glycolic Acid In Chemical Peels
Glycolic acid is famously used as part of a salon based chemical peel formula. It is painted on your face and left on for a few minutes to soften roughened skin and reduce the look of lines, wrinkles and uneven pigmentation. A chemical peel is admittedly not the most comfortable procedure, but most people enjoy the way it leaves their skin.
Glycolic acid is used for light or medium peels, while more powerful acids are used for deep peels. After a light peel, you can return to their daily tasks right away but may experience some mild swelling. It takes about a week to recover from a moderate peel, but you will likely see a reduction in age spots and an improvement in the overall look and texture of their skin.