Glycolic acid cream uses, side effects and How to Use Glycolic Acid for Skincare

Glycolic acid cream has gained significant popularity in the skincare world for its potential to rejuvenate the skin and address various skin concerns. From enhancing skin texture to managing certain skin conditions, this alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) has shown promise. However, like any skincare product, it comes with its own set of uses and side effects. In this article, we’ll delve into the diverse applications of glycolic acid cream, explore its potential side effects, and provide you with valuable insights for informed decision-making.

What is Glycolic Acid Cream?

Glycolic acid, derived from sugarcane, belongs to the alpha hydroxy acid family. Its small molecular size allows it to penetrate the skin effectively, making it a popular choice for skincare products. Glycolic acid cream is a topical formulation containing this acid as the key active ingredient.

The Science Behind Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid works as an exfoliant by loosening the bonds between dead skin cells, promoting their shedding and revealing fresh skin underneath. It also stimulates collagen production, which contributes to skin firmness and elasticity.

Comparing 12% and 6% Glycolic Acid Cream

12% Glycolic Acid Cream:

  • Higher concentration for intense effects
  • Provides deep exfoliation
  • Effective against stubborn skin issues like hyperpigmentation and wrinkles
  • Stimulates collagen production significantly
  • May cause initial skin irritation
  • Suitable for targeted treatments
  • Requires gradual introduction to avoid potential side effects

6% Glycolic Acid Cream:

  • Milder concentration for gentle results
  • Offers gentle exfoliation
  • Suitable for maintaining skin texture and addressing minor concerns
  • Moderately stimulates collagen production
  • Generally suitable for sensitive skin types
  • Can be used more frequently
  • A good option for individuals new to glycolic acid products

Glycolic Acid Cream: Uses

Skin Exfoliation: Glycolic acid cream is widely used for its exfoliating properties. It helps to remove dead skin cells from the surface, revealing smoother and brighter skin underneath.

2. Acne Treatment: Many individuals use glycolic acid cream to address acne and blemishes. It can help unclog pores, reduce inflammation, and prevent future breakouts.

3. Anti-Aging: Glycolic acid cream is known for its ability to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It promotes collagen production, which contributes to smoother and more youthful-looking skin.

4. Hyperpigmentation: Individuals dealing with dark spots, uneven skin tone, and hyperpigmentation often turn to glycolic acid cream. It can help fade these areas over time.

5. Texture Improvement: The exfoliating action of glycolic acid cream can lead to improved skin texture, making it smoother and more even.

6. Skin Brightening: Regular use of glycolic acid cream can contribute to a brighter complexion by removing dull and dead skin cells.

7. Keratosis Pilaris Treatment: Glycolic acid cream can be effective in managing keratosis pilaris, a common skin condition characterized by rough, bumpy skin on the arms and thighs.

8. Prepping for Other Treatments: Glycolic acid cream can be used to prepare the skin for other treatments, such as serums or moisturizers, by removing the outer layer of dead skin cells and allowing better product absorption.

9. Sun-Damaged Skin: It can assist in reducing the appearance of sun-damaged skin by promoting cell turnover and improving overall skin health.

10. General Skincare: Even for those without specific skin concerns, glycolic acid cream can be incorporated into a skincare routine to maintain skin health and radiance.

Glycolic Acid Cream: Side effects

Skin Irritation: One common side effect of using glycolic acid cream is skin irritation. Some individuals may experience redness, itching, or a burning sensation upon application.

2. Dryness and Peeling: Glycolic acid is known for its exfoliating properties, which can lead to dryness and peeling, especially when used in higher concentrations or without proper moisturization.

3. Increased Sensitivity to the Sun: Glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. This means that without proper sun protection, you’re at a higher risk of sunburn and sun damage.

4. Allergic Reactions: While rare, some people may experience allergic reactions to glycolic acid. This can manifest as redness, swelling, or hives on the skin.

5. Discoloration: In some cases, glycolic acid may cause temporary skin discoloration, especially in individuals with darker skin tones.

6. Tingling Sensation: Upon application, you might feel a tingling sensation on your skin. While this is generally normal, if it becomes uncomfortable or painful, it’s advisable to discontinue use.

7. Over-Exfoliation: Using glycolic acid cream too frequently or in combination with other exfoliating products can lead to over-exfoliation. This can result in irritated, sensitive, or even damaged skin.

8. Unpredictable Results: Individual responses to glycolic acid can vary. Some people may see quick improvements, while others might experience minimal or no changes.

9. Precautions for Sensitive Skin: Individuals with sensitive skin should be cautious when using glycolic acid cream, as they are more prone to experiencing the side effects mentioned above.

10. Interaction with Other Products: Glycolic acid may interact with other skincare products, particularly those containing retinoids or benzoyl peroxide. This can increase the likelihood of skin irritation.

How to Use Glycolic Acid for Skincare?

Patch Test First: Before applying glycolic acid to your face, perform a patch test on a small area of skin, like the inside of your wrist or behind your ear. This helps you gauge how your skin will react and if any irritation occurs.

2. Choose the Right Product: Select a glycolic acid product that suits your skin type and concerns. Products include cleansers, toners, serums, and creams. Start with a lower concentration, especially if you’re new to glycolic acid.

3. Evening Application: Glycolic acid can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Therefore, it’s generally recommended to use it in the evening as part of your nighttime skincare routine.

4. Cleansing: Start with a clean face. Use a gentle cleanser to remove dirt, makeup, and impurities from your skin.

5. Application: Apply a small amount of glycolic acid product to your face, focusing on areas of concern. Avoid the delicate eye area and mucous membranes.

6. Gradual Introduction: If you’re new to glycolic acid, begin by using it 2-3 times a week. As your skin adjusts, you can gradually increase the frequency.

7. Follow Instructions: Always follow the usage instructions provided by the product manufacturer. Some glycolic acid products might recommend leaving the product on for a specific duration before rinsing, while others are meant to be left on overnight.

8. Moisturize: After applying glycolic acid, follow up with a moisturizer to prevent dryness and maintain skin hydration.

9. Sunscreen: Using glycolic acid makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 during the day to protect your skin from UV damage.

10. Avoid Over-Exfoliation: Avoid using glycolic acid on the same day as other exfoliating products like physical scrubs or other chemical exfoliants. Over-exfoliation can lead to irritation and sensitivity.

11. Hydration: Keep your skin well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water and using a hydrating serum or moisturizer as needed.

12. Monitor Your Skin: Pay attention to how your skin responds. If you experience persistent redness, irritation, or excessive dryness, consider reducing the frequency of glycolic acid use.

13. Professional Guidance: If you’re unsure about incorporating glycolic acid into your routine or have specific skin concerns, consider consulting a dermatologist. They can provide personalized advice and recommendations.


Glycolic acid cream is a versatile skincare product with the potential to transform your skin’s texture and appearance. By understanding its uses and potential side effects, you can make an informed decision about whether it’s the right addition to your skincare routine.

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