Glycolic Acid: What is it? Uses and Precautions


Most of us love getting new skincare products, especially those with ingredients that promise numerous benefits. It becomes almost impossible to wait for the outcome. With every other product in the store or people around mentioning glycolic acid, there’s no way we can skip it. 

What Are Glycolic Acids?

It is an AHA or alpha-hydroxy acid that is water-soluble. You’ll be amazed to know that it comes from sugarcane and fruits. Some of the other AHAs you may have come across are lactic acid, citrus acid, malic acid and tartaric acid. 

What Are the Benefits of Using Glycolic Acid?

  • Several anti-ageing products have glycolic acid as it helps in the process of cell renewal
  • It works by dissolving the bonds that help hold the skin cells together, allowing dead skin cells to come off quicker than usual. 
  • It enhances your skin texture and tone along with reducing the fine lines. 
  • Glycolic acid helps boost the hydration level in your skin, making it soft and supple. 
  • It helps generate more collagen, making the skin firm and plump. 
  • It helps fight damage caused by the sun and fades hyperpigmentation. 
  • Being an excellent exfoliator, it can effectively prevent ingrown hair too. 
  • Glycolic acid is acidic, which makes it highly soluble. Therefore, it quickly gets into the skin and aids in curing acne. 
  • It keeps the pores clean and prevents the formation of blackheads and comedones. Hence, you may find it in several acne-related products. 

How to Use Glycolic Acid?

It is available in several forms, such as peels, face washes, serums and lotions. 

  • If you are using it for the first time, it’s safer to begin using a lower concentration and eventually work your way up.
  • Ensure that it should agree with your skin. You can check that by taking a patch test.
  • Take a small portion and apply it near the back of your thumb. If you feel a tingling sensation, that’s alright. It just means it’s entering the dermis layers of your skin. However, if your skin turns red and starts itching, then this could mean that you’re allergic to this.
  • Instead of trying things on your own, consult a dermatologist to understand what will work for you and the usage directions. 

Point to Remember

Glycolic acid as a peel removes the outer layer and exposes an undamaged new layer of the skin that’s glowing and beautiful. However, keep in mind that this can make your skin more sensitive to the environment, especially the sun. Hence, it’s essential to care for your skin post-peel treatment. Specifically, if you have to step out in the sun, it’s always best to apply a good quality sunscreen. 

Precautions Related to the Usage of Glycolic Acid

  • Those with a darker skin tone should talk to a dermatologist before they start using glycolic acids as there is a possibility that sometimes the acid can cause skin irritation, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or dark spots. 
  • Avoid using too many glycolic acid-containing products and stick to lower concentrations to reduce risk.
  • Stay away from it if you have recently undergone some kind of treatment for pigmentation, microdermabrasion or any treatment that removes the top layer of your skin, leaving it sensitive.  
  • If you are a frequent user of sunbeds or are out in the sun often, then you probably should not be using it.
  • For those on any sort of medication for acne, it’s better to stay away from using products that contain glycolic acid.
  • Never use it after you have undergone waxing.
  • In case you have acne and have already gone for some kind of treatment such as laser treatment, you need to stay away from glycolic acid.

Are There Any Side Effects Associated With Glycolic Acid?

There are a few common side effects which include stinging, swelling and burning. If you have sensitive skin, you can be at a higher risk of these side effects. So, it’s always better to either find an alternative to glycolic acid or use lighter doses.

Summing Up

Glycolic acid is an excellent ingredient that can be a valuable addition to your skincare routine. However, it is vital to follow precautionary and safety measures to avoid damaging your skin. In case of concerns and queries, talk to your doctor for guidance. Start slow, take it easy and let glycolic make your skin glow!!


1. Is glycolic acid peel good for skin?

Yes, it is effective if you are looking to smoothen your skin and make it look younger. The peel, as the term suggests, peels off the outer layers of your skin, making it look smooth and youthful.

2. Is glycolic acid good for acne scars?

Acne scars or any type of scars will never altogether leave your skin especially if they are old or deep. However, you could reduce the depth and make it shallow to reduce its visibility. Glycolic acid has this same effect on acne scars as it is known to increase the amount of collagen in your skin that stretches it out and reduces visible scars.

3. Is it fine to use glycolic acid every day?

It would depend on the kind of glycolic product you are using and your skin condition. Ideally, following the directions suggested by a dermatologist will ensure that there are no adverse reactions. 

Trying to fight acne or signs of ageing? Don’t self-medicate. Download the CureSkin App now by clicking here to get the best treatment. It’s easy, fast and affordable!



Picture of Dr Jisha Gomez

Dr Jisha Gomez

She is a highly skilled dermatology physician with strong expertise in improving skin & hair health through the development of corrective treatment combinations. She completed her Post-graduate Diploma in Dermatology from Cardiff, UK & Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine (FAM) from the Institute of Laser and Aesthetic Medicine, Delhi with over 5+ years experience treating skin patients. She has worked in Government hospitals in Trivandrum and Bangalore. She is actively involved in creating awareness for healthy skin, breaking the social stigma based on skin colour & stopping steroid abuse in our country.