The Benefits of Glycolic Acid for Your Skin

The Benefits of Glycolic Acid for Your Skin

Glycolic Acid (GA) is a natural exfoliating ingredient found in select skin care products. It treats facial scarring, acne, pigmentation-related issues, and overall rejuvenation. It holds a strong and long-lasting reputation within the cosmetic industry for its efficacy and safety in application, despite its ability to penetrate well into the epidermis.


Originally obtained from sugarcane, Glycolic Acid is the smallest of the alpha-hydroxy acid group, a group of acids derived from fruits that also contain other well-known ingredients such as Lactic Acid.

Alpha-hydroxy acids have reached renown within acne treatments for their ability to moderate excess skin production, treat epidermal issues (like superficial scarring and pigmentation), and increase collagen within the skin for improved elasticity.

Glycolic Acid, as the smallest alpha-hydroxy, contains smaller molecules than any of the other acids within its group. As such, it can go deeper into the epidermis to treat acne scars with more localization and efficacy. Due to its gentler nature, it is regularly used for those with sensitive skin or with a higher risk for hyperpigmentation following other treatments.

GA is also an antioxidant, contains bactericidal properties that help to kill the bacteria responsible for acne (propionibacterium acne), and is hydrophilic in nature (which allows it to penetrate the water barrier of skin cells). This creates an exfoliative property for Glycolic Acid which allows it to thin the outer layer of the skin in order to disperse melanin, create a thicker epidermis, and restore skin texture.


Glycolic Acid is an excellent exfoliating agent because it can deconstruct the epidermis and reduce protein buildups in blackheads and acne. Also, it reduces pustules and papules, which are infected and inflamed skin. Following the controlled destruction of certain areas of the skin, GA also helps with fibre restoration.

This exfoliating property allows GA to effectively target superficial and medium-depth issues of the epidermis, allowing natural healing to occur at the point of penetration. This enables a renewal of healthier and replenished skin tissue, which addresses many issues related to scarring, texture, and aging.

This is accomplished through the low pH of alpha-hydroxy acids, as they are able to increase transmembrane permeability in cells. The newly fragile barrier enables GA to force the mobilization of epithelial cells to repair and replace damaged skin, as it uses epidermolysis (a temporary loosening of the skin to force healing) on the old/deteriorated skin.

The acidic nature of GA helps it to rejuvenate skin once entering the epidermis by reducing follicular pores, acne-scarring, melanosis, and the development of new acne lesions. Despite these acidic properties of GA, it is also an anti-inflammatory and positively treats inflamed areas of the skin (such as acne lesions) with a high efficacy — helping to prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation following the controlled removal of the treated skin.

The actual mechanism that helps to treat skin and pigment issues is referred to as epidermal remodelling or skin peeling which allows Glycolic Acid to force the healing factor of the skin to begin and replenishes the old or damaged areas of the epidermis with newly-renewed skin. This ability disperses melanin/pigment in areas of sun damage, or those suffering from post-acne hyperpigmentation, and restores collagen and elasticity in the affected areas.


Glycolic Acid primarily targets acne, acne scars, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, melasma, dry skin, and fine lines or wrinkling. Its bacteral properties are effective for both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne.

Clinical studies about GA conclude that there’s a significant reduction in the reproduction of new acne spots. There is also a high ability to treat blackheads and inflamed acne following its use for exfoliation. Along with its ability to cleanse pores, it is also able to increase the absorption of other topical agents used for acne — allowing even further healing when used in conjunction with other ingredients.

Beyond treating acne, Glycolic Acid treats the after effects of acne and sun damage. Both commonly result in pigment and texture issues within the skin, such as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, melasma, and acne scars.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) follows the over-production of melanin and/or an irregular dispersion of pigment. We commonly associate it with any type of skin infection, sun damage, or dry skin. When sun damage causes PIH, we call it melasma. But, both are a result of too much melanin within the epidermal and dermal cells.


Glycolic Acid assists with PIH and melasma because it can disperse melanin during the exfoliation process. It also inhibits the tyrosinase enzyme responsible for more melanin production. Its use as an exfoliant in the treatment of PIH and melasma is clinically proven to result in new and less-pigmented skin with renewed texture.

Because Glycolic Acid has a replenishing factor, it can treat dry skin, acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkles. When applied, you will notice a reduction of follicular pores, protein build-ups, and inflammation. Afterwards, newer and more elastic skin is more evident and certain skin fibres can be effectively targeted and healed.

The ability to exfoliate and replenish skin, reduce inflammation, and inhibit melanin production improves overall texture and pigment. With all these benefits, people regularly study and use Glycolic Acid to treat many skin disorders. All of the studies about its effectiveness have promising results!


It all depends on your application, concentration and underlying condition. For example, chemical peels are most effective with five treatments every two weeks at a concentration of 70%. But, people typically do their home applications once a day. You should definitely follow the application instructions for the best results.

Results can vary in efficacy and time depending on the modality of treatment and severity of the condition. So, timelines can be difficult to establish on a continuous basis. However, some studies record demonstrable results after twelve weeks in the improvement of acne, scarring, pigmentation, and texture.


Glycolic Acid has no significant or lasting side effects, and most patients do not experience any. Obviously, it is one of the most reliable ingredients to use as an exfoliant. People with safety concerns regularly use this ingredient for its versatility and ability to penetrate the epidermis without side effects.


Curious to learn more about Glycolic Acid and experience the benefits for yourself? Try our versatile Clear Skin Solution, clinically proven clear and prevent acne, control excess oil and reduce blackheads.