Glycolic acid (alpha hydroxy acid - AHA)
Naturally occurring acid which powerfully exfoliates
Introduction to Glycolic Acid
Evidence that glycolic acid works
Many of us here at acne.org have known for years that alpha hydroxy acid helps keep us clearer. Finally, the scientific community is backing us up:
... experiments performed by Atzori et al. and by our group showed significant improvement of imflammatory eruptions from the first application."
... Patients assess their skin as more tensile, firmer, smoother and more youthful looking after the use of AHA containing products. For mild acne, the efficacy has been proven by double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials."
... superficial peeling will hasten the transition of closed comedones to the surface of the epidermis resulting in a quicker clearance of the lesions."
... available trials do provide support to the widespread clinical impression that superficial chemical peels have utility in the management of acne and oily skin."
[Hydroxy acids] play an important role in cosmetic formulations, as well as in many dermatologic applications, such as ... acne."
Alpha- and beta-hydroxy acid peels both offer successful adjunctive treatment of facial acne vulgaris."
Based on the results of this study, we can state [glycolic acid] and [amino fruit acid] peels are efficacious for comedonal acne."
Uses for Glycolic Acid
All over treatment
Glycolic acid can take The Regimen to the next level, helping you to achieve even more reliably clear skin. After you've been on The Regimen for at least 1 month, try using glycolic acid in place of your usual nightly moisturizer every 2-3 days. Alternately, mix an equal amount of glycolic acid and moisturizer in your palm and apply this way every night.
Usage: Use a thin line when applying to the face. More than this and it may sting too much.
Flakiness control: If you are on The Regimen and are having problems with flaky skin, adding in glycolic acid as outlined above will completely eliminate flakes.
If you see a zit forming try blasting it with 10% glycolic acid after you have applied 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and allowed it to dry. Many people find that this prevents the zit from maturing. Keep in mind that the way this works best is if you catch it very early.
Usage: Use a tiny amount.
When anything rubs against the skin repeatedly, such as a chin strap or baseball cap for example, it irritates the skin and can cause a breakout. Attempt to avoid or reduce irritation when possible. If you do end up irritating your skin, you may find that applying glycolic acid after your next Regimen application can help prevent an irritation-induced acne flare up.
Usage: The amount varies depending upon how large of an area is irritated.
AHA may increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun and particularly the possibility of sunburn. Use a sunscreen and limit sun exposure while using AHA and for a week after discontinuing its use.
Do not use AHA until you have been on The Regimen for 3-4 weeks. It can produce a severe sting if you use it at the onset of a benzoyl peroxide regimen.
Where to get it
- Takenaka Y, et al. "Glycolic acid chemical peeling improves inflammatory acne eruptions through its inhibitory and bactericidal effects on Propionibacterium acnes." The Journal of Dermatology. 2012: 39(4): 350-4.
- Babilas P, Knie U, and Abels C. "Cosmetic and dermatologic uses of alpha hydroxy acids." Journal of the German Dermatological Society. 2012; 10(7): 488-91.
- Kempiak S, Uebelhoer N. "Superficial chemical peels and microdermabrasion for acne vulgaris." Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. 2008; 27(3): 212-220.
- Aztori L, at. al. "Glycolic acid peels in the treatment of acne." Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 1999; 12(2): 119-122.
- Kornhauser A, Coelho S, Hearing V. "Applications of hydroxy acids: Classifications, mechanisms, and photoactivity." Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2010; 3: 135-214.
- Kessler E, et. al. "Comparison of Α- and Β-hydroxy acid chemical peels in the treatment of mild to moderately severe facial acne vulgaris." Dermatologic Surgery. 2008; 34(1): 45-50.
- Ilknur T, et. al. "Glycolic acid peels versus amino fruit acid peels for acne." Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 2010; 12(5): 242-245.