What Does Glycolic Acid Do for Skin?

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What Does Glycolic Acid Do for Skin?

What Does Glycolic Acid Do for Skin?

Whether your issue is dryness, sun damage, blemishes, or dullness or you just want your beautiful skin to continue to be beautiful as you age, glycolic acid—like other alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids—is one of the best ways to improve your skin in both the short and the long term.

Used in combination with physical exfoliants in an instant-glow face polish, as the key ingredient in a powerful once-a-week overnight peel, or as an adjunct to make a great self-tan work even better, AHAs and BHAs are incredibly effective compounds that deliver noticeable results.

Glycolic, lactic, citric, and malic acids are all in the exfoliating AHA category and work by gently removing the top layer of dead skin cells (along with pollution, grime, makeup, and anything else that might potentially clog pores) through natural chemical exfoliation. Salicylic acid works in a similar manner. The advantage of chemical exfoliation is that it’s extremely even—unlike physical exfoliation, which is less uniform. (The two work well together—a combination of chemical and physical exfoliants like the microminerals in GOOPGLOW Microderm can be extremely beneficial.) The results are the reason glycolic acid and other AHAs are so beloved by so many different skin types: They can help unclog pores, soften the appearance of wrinkles, minimize the look of dark spots, and even increase moisture in skin. After a good exfoliation with AHAs, your skin should be soft and smooth and look decidedly glowier.

For Allover Glow

goop Beauty
GOOPGLOW Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator
goop, $125/$112 with subscription
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Like all exfoliants, AHAs and salicylic acid facilitate the absorption of any treatment that follows. Different types of acids yield different benefits, so it’s often useful to combine them in skin treatments. Glycolic acid, for instance, is the smallest molecule among the alpha hydroxy acids, so it can go deeper into the layers of the skin; it was initially developed for the treatment of extremely dry skin. Salicylic acid has soothing and antibacterial properties, so it can be helpful for breakout-prone skin. A combination of glycolic and salicylic acids in treatments can help smooth texture; the blend of glycolic and phytic acids in the G.Tox tonic helps clear pores and soothe blemishes.

The concentrations of a particular acid within a formula, as well as the way the acid is delivered, can make a big difference in results: At lower concentrations, AHAs can be gentle enough for even sensitive skin. New clean skin-care tech allows treatments like the GOOPGLOW Flower Acids Resurfacing Toner—a gently exfoliating cocktail of citric, hibiscus, and prickly pear flower acids that works for every skin type, including sensitive—to deliver significant results without the irritation often associated with retexturizing formulas.

goop Beauty
GOOPGLOW Flower Acids Resurfacing Toner
goop, $45/$40 with subscription
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goop Beauty
G.Tox Malachite + AHA Pore Refining Tonic
goop, $75/$68 with subscription
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At higher concentrations, like the 15% glycolic acid in the GOOPGLOW Overnight Glow Peel, AHAs can work powerfully to retexturize, clarify, and refine. Inspired by professional treatments, the peel goes to work refreshing and resurfacing skin overnight and costs a fraction of what an in-office session goes for.

goop Beauty
GOOPGLOW 15% Glycolic Acid Overnight Glow Peel
goop, $125/$112 with subscription
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Radiance-Boosting Masks

While the GOOPGLOW peel is swiped on before bed so the active ingredients can work overnight, you can leave more traditional masks on for just a few minutes, allowing the botanicals, alpha or beta hydroxy acids, and phytonutrients to work in synergy. Smooth the formula that best suits you onto cleansed skin, wait the suggested amount of time (or less, depending how sensitive you are), rinse—and relish the glow.

For Moisturizing Dry Skin

Okoko
Beauté Majestique Cleanser
goop, $116
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For Breakouts and Oily Skin

Follain
Dual Detox Mask
goop, $34
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For Smooth Skin All Over (and a Better Tan)

In the same way exfoliating your face has an instant (and long-term) brightening effect, sloughing away dead cells on your body results in silkier, more-even skin and, again, has the added benefit of allowing any treatment you put on next—like body butter or self-tanner—to penetrate more easily.

Nécessaire
The Body Exfoliator
goop, $30
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Saltyface
Tanning Water
goop, $44
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Essential Cleansers

No matter your skin type, the cleansing step is a powerful way to use glycolic acid and other alpha and beta hydroxy acids to boost skin.

Daily Scrub

goop Beauty
GOOPGLOW
Cloudberry Exfoliating Jelly Cleanser

goop, $28/$25 with subscription
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Gel

Plantkos
Phyto Exfoliating Cleanser
goop, $37
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Cream

Humanrace
Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator
goop, $46
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AHA Essences

These water-based formulas are great for both hydrating and balancing skin, and they help prep for treatment products to follow. Apply them after cleansing and before moisturizing or smooth or spritz them on throughout the day for an instant skin pick-me-up.

Lactic Acid

Vintner’s Daughter
Active Treatment Essence
goop, $225
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Salicylic Acid

Tata Harper
Hydrating Floral Essence
goop, $72
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Best AHA Serums

Serums’ silky texture makes them brilliant for targeting any number of skin issues, including dullness, blemishes, dryness, and more.

For Firming

Tata Harper
Elixir Vitae
goop, $475
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For Brightening

Alpyn Beauty
Bearberry & Vitamin C Glow Serum
goop, $59
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For Evening Tone

True Botanicals
Repair Nightly Treatment
goop, $140
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Face Moisturizer

Moisturizing makes lines and wrinkles less visible; moisturizers that have even small concentrations of alpha hydroxy acids can have an even more significant line-smoothing effect.

Ultrarich for Dry Skin

Alpyn Beauty
Plantgenius Melt Moisturizer
goop, $60
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Soothing (and Rose-Scented) for Normal Skin

Skin Design London
Alpine Rose Glow
goop, $150
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Acids in a Breakout Routine

AHAs and BHAs can dissolve oil, dirt, makeup, pollution, and other residue, making them excellent for oily skin; salicylic acid, in the spot-treatment stickers below, both exfoliates and soothes.

Step 1:

goop Beauty
GOOPGLOW
Cloudberry Exfoliating Jelly Cleanser

goop, $28/$25 with subscription
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Step 2:

goop Beauty
GOOPGLOW Flower Acids Resurfacing Toner
goop, $45/$40
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Step 3:

ZitSticka
KILLA Kit
goop, $29
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Why Are There Acids in Shaving Cream?

Even a small dose of AHAs or BHAs in shaving cream helps produce a smoother finish. This one also includes soothing botanicals to protect against razor burn and smells fantastically of spruce and ginger.

Ursa Major
Stellar Shave Cream
goop, $26
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