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Beauty Ingredients Demystified - Glycolic Acid

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Welcome to my first installment of “Beauty Ingredients Demystified.” In this series, I will provide you with everything you need to know about the hottest beauty ingredients including what they are, how they work, and where to find them. Today’s topic is GLYCOLIC ACID.

You may have heard of glycolic acid at your dermatologist’s office or med spa, where it is widely used in popular treatments usually referred to as a chemical peels. However, the ingredient has become increasing popular in many at-home facial skincare products including cleansers, moisturizers, serums, and scrubs.

Glycolic Acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) most often derived from sugar cane. It’s more potent than other AHAs like lactic or citric acids because it has the smallest molecular structure, allowing it to better penetrate the skin.

As we age, skin has a harder time turning over new skin cells. A powerful exfoliant, glycolic acid works by breaking down the intercellular “glue” that holds dead skin together. It’s highly water soluble, making the product easy to remove, along with the dull surface skin cells, revealing the smoother, brighter skin below. Exfoliating with glycolic acid also helps to stimulate collagen and elastin production for a firmer, younger appearance.

The exfoliating properties of glycolic acid make it a terrific choice for acne-prone skin. Because it is dervived from sugar cane and is therefore, “natural,” it can even be used on women who are pregnant. This is great news for women who break out during pregnancy when many popular treatments are not advised.

Glycolic acid treatments and products come in a wide variety of strengths. Higher concentrations, up to 50% or more, can be found in dermatologist’s offices or spas. Some of these services are nicknamed “party peels” or “lunchtime peels” because offer little to no down time. Be sure to check with your technician to make sure she is using an appropriate concentration if this is a priority for you.

At-home products usually contain lower concentrations. Be warned that some experts warn that any potency less than 10% is ineffective. However, I’ve been using a 5% glycolic facial wash I got from my dermatologist and it’s done wonders for my skin, particularly in reducing blackheads.

Interested in trying a product with glycolic acid? Visit my slideshow of 18 fantastic products containing the ingredient.

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