Glycolic acid is this season’s new buzz ingredient.
Dr Preema Vig explains glycolic acid’s role in skincare, from the professional treatment to the high street buy..
- WHAT IS GLYCOLIC ACID?
Glycolic acid is a molecule originally derived from sugar or sugar cane. Now, it is most often made in the lab because it is simple to synthesise and chemical production is much cheaper than looking for natural sources. The molecule itself belongs in the group of alpha-hydroxy acids or AHAs, which remove dead skin cells.
- HOW IS GLYCOLIC ACID USED IN SKINCARE?
It is used as a resurfacing agent in its natural form sourced from sugar cane or made in the lab in various concentrations. The most common percentages used in products range from one to twenty percent. It can be used in a home product usually at the lower concentrations, or a professional product used in an aesthetic practice at greatly varying concentrations. AHAs, with their resurfacing activity, have a wide range of skincare applications, ranging from anti-ageing to acne and any other condition benefitting from resurfacing.
- IS IT BETTER TO USE A COSMACEUTICAL GLYCOLIC PRODUCT OVER A HIGH STREET ONE?
That depends on the quality of the ingredients as some cosmeceutical products still use ‘cosmetic grade’ ingredients rather than ‘pharmaceutical grade’. It is certainly better to use a product containing ‘pharmaceutical grade’ ingredients, as their purity and effectiveness are verified by lab analysis. High street products usually contain cosmetic grade ingredients rather than pharmaceutical grade.
- WHAT RESULTS CAN BE ACHIEVED BY USING A GLYCOLIC PEEL?
Improvements in ageing, hyperpigmentation, acne, and other conditions can be seen with appropriate resurfacing, especially if combined with other ingredients targeting the other processes involved in the cause of the individual conditions.
- WHAT PERCENTAGE OF GLYCOLIC ACID NEEDS TO BE IN A PRODUCT TO MAKE IT EFFECTIVE?
Although we judge product efficacy on the percentage of glycolic acid in the product, modern formulating has moved away from that. Due to scientific formulating advancements, higher percentages are not required to give a more dramatic result. In fact, a poor quality high-percentage glycolic acid product made with cheaper ingredients will give much poorer results than a product made with pharmaceutical grade lower-percentage glycolic acid combined intelligently with other key ingredients.
- IF USING A HIGH STREET GLYCOLIC PRODUCT WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR?
A high street product may be less ‘agreeable’ to skin than a better quality product. But, some benefits can be obtained and sometimes results can be quite acceptable. It would be advisable to patch test a small area of skin with the product first to ensure you don’t have a reaction
- HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU USE A GLYCOLIC PEEL PRODUCT?
About every two to four weeks, providing it is well tolerated and the results you get are good.
- WHAT CHANGES YOU SHOULD MAKE TO YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE IF USING GLYCOLIC PRODUCTS?
Using an excellent sunscreen is an absolute must, otherwise sun damage will negate any gains made and cause further damage to your skin. Also if the glycolic acid product is used too frequently it can lead to a thin, shiny, damaged epithelium, which gives that ‘over-processed’ look.
Dr Preema Vig’s Glycolic Acid treatment recommendation: iS Clinical Fire & Ice Facial £110 – £150 treatment, 60 mins