Go back

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is an AHA or alpha hydroxy acid, a water-soluble ingredient that brightens skin and evens tone. Glycolic acid exfoliates the outermost layer of dead skin cells to let new skin show through. This improves the reflection of light on the skin, making it luminescent. When used at the right percentage it’s a gentle way to exfoliate the skin.

Glycolic acid helps fight and prevent acne by getting deep into hair follicles to loosen and unstick trapped bacteria and grime. Clean skin and unclogged pores mean a clearer, brighter complexion.


  • How Does Glycolic Acid Work?

    Glycolic acid can be found in cleansers, serums, and moisturizers. It works by breaking down and sloughing off the top layer of skin. A 10% solution is recommended as higher concentrations may actually cause your skin to burn, especially if glycolic acid is on for too long. Using over-the-counter 10% concentrate solutions greatly reduce side effects. The pH is an important factor as well, as glycolic acid should be acidic enough. Recommendations are to aim for an ideal pH of 3.5.

    Start using glycolic acid slowly by using it every other day and increase the dosage as your skin adapts. The bonus is as skin loses its rough texture and becomes smoother, it becomes more vibrant. Glycolic acid paves the way for better absorption of other acne medications like retinol and is known to improve skin for better makeup application.

  • Where Can I Find Glycolic Acid?

    Glycolic acid is available in lower concentrations over the counter in numerous products. For stronger applications, a prescription may be required. Over-the-counter creams and moisturizers start at around $10.

  • Are There Any Precautions?

    Always use sun protection. Since glycolic acid strips the outermost layer of skin, it leaves the underlying layer vulnerable.

    Glycolic acid shouldn't be used if you have rosacea, as it can burn or cause redness or peeling.

    Glycolic acid is safe for dark skin tones as pigmentation shouldn't be affected by low glycolic acid concentrations. Preteens can safely use over-the-counter glycolic acid as an acne treatment or preventative.

  • Are There Any Side Effects of Glycolic Acid?

    • Drying
    • Peeling
    • Flaking

    Side effects may occur when you first start using glycolic acid. It's a good idea to use moisturizers and sunscreen to offset the acid's effects. You might also feel a slight tingling — but not burning — sensation when applied. Burning sensations indicate a problem. Stop using glycolic acid and consult your doctor for a possible allergic reaction.

  • What Else Should You Know?

    Glycolic acid is safe for pregnant and nursing women to use. Because of glycolic acid's low concentration, it causes little to no irritation. It isn't known to interfere with medications like birth control.

  • What Type of Skin Does it Treat?

    Great news! Glycolic acid works for all skin types whether it's to treat acne or reduce fine lines and wrinkles. And it's great for all ages. Aging slows the skin's natural exfoliation process and glycolic acid helps to speed it up.

  • What's the Difference Between Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) and Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)?

    Beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble and penetrate deeper into pores making them the choice for acne treatment. Alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble and work mainly on the outer layer of skin. Although they might not get as deep as BHAs, alpha hydroxy acids help clean pores and even rough texture.

  • Can I Use Glycolic Acid Every Day?

    Yes, you can. Keep the glycolic acid concentration to 10% and feel free to use glycolic acid every day. Keep in mind that your skin may still need time to adjust, so start with every other day at first.

  • Does Glycolic Acid Get Rid of Blackheads?

    Yes, it does and pretty effectively. Because it helps cell turnover, glycolic acid keeps blackheads from coming back.

  • What is Nurx?

    Nurx™ is a free platform offering easy online access to doctors and seamless delivery of medications. No more time-consuming trips to the clinic and no more frantic pharmacy runs. We put you in control of your own health, empowering you to get the care you need, when you need it. From diagnosis to delivery of prescriptions, we make every part of getting healthy and staying healthy, better.

    For more information and to sign up, visit www.nurx.com and follow us @nurxapp on Twitter and Instagram.

Back to top