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Published: August 26, 2021


One of the most commonly known and widely used alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) is glycolic acid. Boasting a plethora of anti-aging properties, glycolic acid is considered by many skin care professionals as the gold standard of AHAs. It’s oh-so-gentle yet oh-so-effective at combating acne, hydrating skin, and reversing the appearance of aging.

AHAs are derived from naturally occurring substances like fruit, milk, and sugar. Glycolic acid is derived from sugarcane and classified as a humectant - which means its molecules are inclined to attract moisture to them, rather than repel. This aids in the naturally-occurring acid to provide ample moisture to skin.

When added to skincare products, glycolic acid’s properties are powerful. It acts as a chemical exfoliant instead of a mechanical one so it can be employed for a variety of skin types. After gently exfoliating dead skin cells, dirt, and grime away, its molecules pull in moisture, amplifying the effectiveness of your hydrating toners, moisturizers, and creams. In doing this, glycolic acid products help prevent further wrinkling, aging, and fine lines.

This super skincare ingredient has a whole host of benefits that can greatly improve the overall health, appearance, and feel of almost any skin type. Here’s what you should know about this powerful alpha hydroxy acid.

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Glycolic acid is the smallest in molecular size out of all AHAs. Its miniscule size allows it to move down into pores, lifting dirt, grime, and sebum up and out. Many other cleansers are only able to remove top-layer slough, leaving blackheads, clogged pores, and a dull appearance in their wake.

Because it can penetrate deep, glycolic acid is a great option for those battling acne or hormonal breakouts. Exercise enthusiasts also tend to choose glycolic-acid based products because of its penetrative powers. Hair follicles and large pores tend to ensnare sweat and other microscopic debris, exacerbating breakouts and possible infections. Glycolic acid moves through multiple layers of the dermis and dissolves this gunk while replacing moisture. Your skin won’t feel the need to overreact in replacing sebum but will be able to remain free and clear from pesky pimples.

woman touching her face using glycolic acid
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woman applying glycolic acid and skincare


We’ve touched on a few direct benefits of using glycolic acid-based products but here are even more ways in which this wonder ingredient works to improve the skin. 

Removes dead skin cells

Do you want glowing skin and dew-kissed cheeks without having to apply makeup? It’s hard to achieve without an effective exfoliating cleanser. Glycolic acid dissolves dead skin cells that often caters to a drab, lackluster skin tone and removes the top layer of build up. By then attracting moisture to newly uncovered skin, it helps your face appear bright, dewy, and glowing.

Anti-aging properites

Fine lines, dark spots, and wrinkles lend themselves to an older, tired appearance. Plus, aging skin tends to lose moisture more easily than youthful epidermises. Glycolic acid’s hydrating and exfoliating properties combat each by encouraging cell turn over and attracting even more moisture to aging skin. 

Ability to allow other skincare products to penetrate deeper into the skin

Glycolic acid boosts the efficacy of your anti-aging products, like retinol serums and vitamin C boosters. It removes the top layer of dirty, dead skin, which allows your creams and serums to penetrate deeper, elasticizing the skin, plumping fine lines, and injecting moisture into a dehydrated dermis. Because it exfoliates so well, GA clears a path for other products to work their magic on newly minted skin. 

Brightening and smoothing

As a chemical exfoliant, glycolic acid disbands dead dull skin cells and prompts cell turnover. This leads to a smoother appearance of the forehead, cheeks, and chin. Glycolic acid also helps minimize the appearance of acne scars, age spots, and sunspots. 


Because of its size, glycolic acid penetrates deep, unclogging surface dirt and subcutaneous blockages. Blemishes are caused by trapped dirt and grime that irritates the pore and causes pus to build. Blackheads are also a result of clogged pores and are trickier to extract without irritating the skin and risking infection. Glycolic acid helps minimize the appearance of pore size with frequent use. 

Combats dryness

Women experiencing menopause struggle with extreme dryness, flaking, and acne, often at the same time. Glycolic acid can help improve skin texture while fighting dryness when paired with other hydrating products like hyaluronic acid and antioxidant rich moisturizers. 

Cleansers and toners that contain glycolic acid can benefit almost all skin types, no matter the condition or age. It’s gentleness, effectiveness, and myriad benefits mean that regardless of your skincare routine, glycolic acid can most likely benefit you in some way. 


Glycolic acid is generally well-tolerated by all skin types because it is so mild. Additionally, it doesn’t exacerbate irritation like mechanical exfoliants may sometimes do. However, because it does exfoliate very well, extremely sensitive skin types like those with psoriasis, eczema, or rosacea may want to first test the ingredient in extremely small doses.

When seeking to add this ingredient into your skincare routine, don’t just select any product with “glycolic acid” in the ingredient list. For a gentle exfoliation, start with a smaller concentration (less than 10%) and wash with it consistently for an extended period of time to see how your skin reacts.

If you can, consult your dermatologist first and discuss whether glycolic acid is a good option for your skin. If redness or irritation does arise, discontinue use and discuss with your dermatologist. Sunscreen is an absolute must when using cleansers with glycolic acid as your skin’s new layer will be particularly sensitive to sunburn and damage.


Find a face wash with a low concentration of glycolic acid and use every other wash to give your skin time to adjust. Additionally, here are other effective ways to incorporate this ingredient into your face and body skincare routine. 

  • Pair glycolic acid with a gentle toner and nourishing moisture to keep skin healthy, clean, and hydrated. 
  • If you can’t make it to the spa for a chemical peel or don’t have the time to recover from this anti-aging treatment, use Sublime Skin Peel Pads to perform an at-home facial. After this glycolic acid peel, your skin will feel refreshed, restored, and radiant without the cost or time of a professional chemical peel. 
  • Counteract the first signs of aging by using /skin regimen/ GLYCO LACTO PEEL. Apply after cleansing and watch as wrinkles melt away. 
  • Those struggling with chest or back acne can use an exfoliating body scrub made with glycolic acid. Removing dirt, sweat, and sebum from these pores is also a must to minimize the risk of whiteheads, blackheads, and cystic acne. Those with acne prone skin should consider using Body Strategist Peel Scrub to effectively combat breakouts no matter where they occur. 
  • Include a daily sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF as part of your morning routine. Be sure to ramp up the protection for additional time spent in the sun and use an after-sun care product like Watersoul Aloe Gel to replenish depleted skin.  


Regardless of your skincare goals, glycolic acid can help you achieve a youthful glow, minimize breakouts, and restore skin to health by increasing the efficacy of other products. [ comfort zone ] invests an abundance of time and energy into creating products that are beneficial for the people who use them and the planet from which they are derived. Our glycolic acid products are mild yet effective, helping our customers achieve the skin they’ve always dreamt of and promoting beauty from the ground up

close up of an ampoule with glycolic acid


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