Glycolic acid explained: whether you’re a pro or beginner!

28 April, 2023 / words by IALH Editorial Team

Written by Alicia Lartey

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Even the newest of skincare newbies has probably heard of glycolic acid, but you may not know what glycolic is, how to use it and if it is suitable for your skin type. By the end of this you will be glycolic acid savvy and kitted out with the creme de la creme of glycolic acid product recommendations. With any new skincare product it is always important to remind yourself that you may not need it and not to overdo any exfoliating products. A large part of skin health is skin barrier support via skin hydration and of course skin protection.

Is glycolic acid suitable for me?

If you start to notice that your skin feels particularly rough or lacks the glow you are used to then glycolic acid might be perfect for you. As an esthetician I tend to recommend glycolic acid to my clients that have oily, non-sensitive skin with a good skincare routine that already supports the skin barrier. If your skin is on the drier side you may want to explore using a glycolic acid wash off product as you do not have to keep this on for long, it would also be best to only use this product once or twice a week. If you are lucky enough to have oily or more resilient skin you can opt for a glycolic acid product that is left on such as the Naturium Glycolic Acid 10% Resurfacing Gel.

For any leave on glycolic acid based products, I would not recommend using the product daily as you run the risk of damaging your skin barrier by over exfoliating. For most people using glycolic acid up to a maximum of 4 times a week is more than enough. For the huns that are not new to this but true to this, the Sunday Riley Good Genes Serum offers a complex of glycolic acid, lactic acid and prickly pair to not only exfoliate the skin but also gently calm any irritation.

Glycolic acid is not reserved for just the face! It can also be used on the body to brighten hyperpigmentation and dark marks. You can do this by applying either the Naturium Glycolic Acid 10% Resurfacing Gel to target specific areas of concern or using a dedicated body product containing glycolic acid like the Naturium Glycolic Acid Body Wash which can be used everyday. A tip that I picked up along the way was to use The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toner in a continuous spray bottle (bought on amazon) a couple of times a week to help with body pigmentation.

Always remember that there is no point of trying to tackle any skin concerns without SPF!


Clarifying Cleanser

Shop the cleanser ↗

Great if you have dry skin – use only once or twice a week


Glycolic Acid Resurfacing Gel 10%

Shop the gel ↗

For those with more oily or resilient skin

Sunday Riley

Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment

Shop the acid treatment ↗

For the huns that aren’t new to a more complex skincare routine


The Smoother Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Body Wash

Shop the body wash ↗

Use on the body to combat hyperpigmentation and dark marks

The Ordinary

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Shop the toning solution ↗

Pro tip: decant into a spray bottle and use all over


IALH Editorial Team


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