What is glycolic acid, and should you be using it?

As a true skincare junkie and self-taught pimple-popping pro, I totally geek out on skincare science and new discoveries.

But even with new and improved formulas and technologies hitting shelves, no ingredient could ever compare to how I hold glycolic acid. 

This magical active acid has been my pore-minimising, acne and scar-clearing confidant for many years, leaving my skin smooth and bright and enhancing the look of my skin with and without makeup.

What is Glycolic Acid and when do I use it?

Falling under the alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) family, glycolic acid derives from sugarcanes. Best known for restoring the skin's radiance and luminosity, this water-soluble acid exfoliates the outermost layer of skin, the stratum corneum, eliminating debris, dead skin cells and excess sebum and preventing acne breakouts. As my gold standard for quickly eliminating stubborn hyperpigmentation and acne scarring, it also helps stimulate collagen production and elasticity.

Of course, like all other skincare ingredients, glycolic acid may not give you the same results as it gives me. Yes, it's great for quickly eliminating breakouts, but if you’re regularly dealing with hormonal cystic acne, you may want to layer glycolic acid with a BHA (beta hydroxy acids) like salicylic acid, which is oil-soluble and can deeply penetrate the blemish and tackle the problem head-on. But with that said, glycolic acid is super safe for all skin types, especially if you have oily and/or mature skin. 

So if you're experiencing either one or all of the following: enlarged pores, blackheads, hyperpigmentation and or fine lines, and now with winter upon us, dehydration, I highly suggest getting familiar with this superstar ingredient. To help you out, I've listed some of the best glycolic acid-infused skincare products on the market.

REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic - $45.40

If you’re on the hunt for an all-in-one face exfoliator and resurfacing toner then this product is for you. REN’s tonic contains AHAs and BHAs to help even out skin tone and texture, brighten your complexion, minimise the look of pores and reduce breakouts. It’s meant to be used either morning or night but if your skin feels too sensitive, cut down to once or twice a week and always use sun protection when you go outside.

Pixi Glow Tonic- $28

This bestselling cult-favourite toner gently accelerates cell renewal to reveal a brighter, glowing complexion. Skin tone is clearer, texture is smoother and more even. This alcohol-free formula gently tones and refines the appearance of pores & soothes for radiant, healthier-looking skin.

Dr. LeWinn’s Reversaderm Glycolic Cleanser - $34.99

If you want to start resurfacing and correcting skin tone and imperfections from the beginning of your skincare routine then Dr. LeWinn’s Reversaderm Glycolic Cleanser is a skin cleanser that does just that. It contains 12 per cent glycolic acid and deep micro exfoliates which lift away daily residue and helps to minimise pores. Apply to face and neck with wet hands morning and evening and leave for one to two minutes for increased exfoliation.

Youth To The People Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner - $59

If you’re looking for fast results, Youth To The People’s AHA toner will give you the softest feeling skin after just one use. It contains 11% AHAs (lactic acid and glycolic), which promise to smooth skin texture while also minimising pores. The tree bark and kombucha black tea ferments aim to enhance the skins natural defence and relieve congestion.

Reporting by Sarah Carty and Alyssa Tria

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