Glycolic acid: what it is, indications and risks
What is glycolic acid?
Glycolic acid is an organic acid in the same family of lactic acids, which is known to facilitate the penetration of substances into the skin, as well as to act as free radicals and aid in the formation of collagen. It is considered a more aggressive exfoliant, and is best used on lighter, more resistant skin.
Indications for glycolic acid
Glycolic acid reduces the thickness of the skin, has an exfoliating effect on the skin, provides whitening and stimulates collagen formation in the dermis, thus reversing and preventing skin aging, in improving spots, acne scars and stretch marks, in addition to closing pores and improving acne. It can be applied to the face and body as per medical advice. It’s a less irritating alternative to retinoic acid, which is known to be more aggressive on the skin.
Another advantage of this substance is the increased absorption of other active elements associated with the composition, in the case of cosmetics. In rosacea, due to the stimulating effect of collagen and secondary thickening of the skin, it enhances vascular pressure, improves redness.
It can be used anywhere on the body, you just need to pay attention to the concentrations that will be used, that is, in the most sensitive areas, you should choose a lower concentration of glycolic acid. For example, on the neck and chest area, use a concentration of 2 to 3%, so as not to harm the skin of these areas.
How to use glycolic acid
It can be found in dermatological cosmetics in concentrations from 2 to 10%, prepared in manipulated formulations in various concentrations. When used in exfoliation, the product may have a higher pH, as it will be used by a professional. For greater safety in the daily use of glycolic acid, it is recommended that cosmetics have a pH of at least 3.5, with a concentration of 10% at most. Use of tampered creams should be done with medical advice.
Unlike retinoic acid, glycolic acid can be used during the day and summer because it does not cause photosensitivity. At home, it should be left on the skin for two to three hours.
Glycolic acid can also be used in the office for chemical peels that are considered superficial. In these cases, its concentration is higher, as well as the pH may be lower.
If peeling, it should be left on the skin for 15 to 20 minutes and removed in the office. Each session of this peel can last from 45 minutes to an hour and the number of sessions needed depends on the treatment focus and varies. Maintenance is usually done after using the cream at home.
Peeling with this substance is preferred by dermatologists.
Precautions before using glycolic acid
First of all, glycolic acid cannot be used without a prescription, since the specialist will know the most appropriate concentration of acid in the product.
Before peeling, it is better that the skin is clean and degreased. The same goes for the cream which should be used after washing the face but drying it to improve product absorption. The patient cannot shave the skin two days before, do not peel it, and must not have undergone any violent surgery.
Care after using glycolic acid
Glycolic acid makes the skin more sensitive, so after using it the ideal is not to expose the skin to the sun without adequate protection, or it can cause strong skin irritation with flaking, redness and even spots.
Any product containing glycolic acid should not be used on inflamed, eczema, or sunburned skin.
Glycolic acid is contraindicated in those with active skin infections such as herpes simplex or bacterial infections and should be avoided by people with very sensitive skin. In addition, ideally, they should not be performed by people who necessarily expose themselves to the sun, whether for sports, travel or work outdoors.
Black people should be careful as they can have a rebound effect of hyperpigmentation, which can stain the skin.
Can pregnant woman use it?
The use of glycolic acid is contraindicated for pregnant women.
the potential risks
People with glycolic acid sensitivity may experience reactions. If used in very high concentrations, it can burn and stain the skin, as well as pimples, so it should be done by a professional you trust.
Before and after glycolic acid
Results are variable and depend on the concentration of glycolic acid, length of stay (in case of peeling) and the characteristics of the patient’s skin. In general, results can be seen from the second or third month of use. When performed as a peel, in which the concentrations are higher, results are seen more quickly, within weeks. Sequential peeling can be indicated in gradually increasing concentrations and provide fast and satisfactory results for most of the indicated cases. Other principles and procedures can be associated with treatment to enhance results.