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When to Use Glycolic Acid and How Often?

When to Use Glycolic Acid and How Often?

This fruit acid is used to care for the skin of the face and body, but also the scalp. But can you use glycolic acid every day? If so, when and how often to use it? Let's take a look at it.

General Information on Glycolic Acid.

Also known as hydroxyacetic acid, glycolic acid is the most popular form of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA). Other AHAs are lactic acid, citric acid, mandelic acid, malic acid and tartaric acid, which are a group of natural acids derived from certain fruits (orange, pear, grape, apple, etc…) or animals (milk). Although it can also be created synthetically, glycolic acid is generally of natural origin and is notably a constituent of sugar cane. It is also the smallest molecule of all the AHAs. Because of this property, it can penetrate the different layers of the epidermis more easily and deeply, depending on its concentration. Glycolic acid is an effective tool for treating a variety of skin problems ranging from acne to hyperpigmentation to aging. At low concentrations (<5%), it has moisturizing properties, while at high concentrations, as glycolic acid 20%, it is a powerful exfoliant.

Glycolic acid offers many advantages: it is mainly known for its remarkable keratolytic properties. This ingredient can help get rid of dead skin that has accumulated on the surface and to stimulate the regeneration of a new horny layer. As a result, this AHA dramatically improves skin texture by moisturizing the skin, fighting imperfections (enlarged pores, blackheads, pimples, excess oil) and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Glycolic acid is also effective against hyperpigmentation (dark spots, age spots, melasma) and acne scars, and adds radiance and vitality to the skin. In the field of cosmetology, it is available in many forms such as creams, serums, shower gels, cleansers, masks, shampoos, or lotions.

When to Use Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid can be used on almost all skin types, both on young and mature skin, including dry, normal, and combination to oily skin, without causing too much trouble. In fact, if you have a dull complexion or if the skin on your face is prone to hyperpigmentation, using a glycolic acid-based treatment can be beneficial. If you have oily skin, regulate hyperseborrhea by applying a hydroxyacetic acid solution. If you want to smooth out the first wrinkles that appear on your skin, don't hesitate to use this powerful ingredient.

It is good to know that the amount of glycolic acid varies according to the use of the treatment. For example, a treatment with a concentration of 4% or less of glycolic acid essentially provides a moisturizing effect. This percentage of active ingredient can be found in creams, but also in lotions or cleansers. On the other hand, to improve skin radiance, tighten pores, regulate sebum secretion or reduce the presence of blackheads, you can opt for a glycolic acid solution with a concentration of between 8 and 10%. For the treatment of concerns related to aging (wrinkles, loss of firmness, age spots), acne or sun spots, a product with glycolic acid 20% is recommended, but requires the intervention of a medical professional.

When to Apply a Glycolic Acid Treatment?

Even though this AHA is a much gentler alternative to grainy scrubs and most products available for home use that are safe and effective for most skin types, it is still an exfoliant. Therefore, some precautions and indications in terms of when to use glycolic acid are required. Thus, like any exfoliating product and to avoid it being counterproductive, it is preferable to use it during the daily evening beauty routine in order to limit any risk of photosensitization, especially since cell renewal is important during the night. Indeed, glycolic acid increases the skin's sensitivity to the sun and, in particular, the possibility of sunburn. We recommend that you systematically apply an SPF cream every morning and wear protective clothing (hat, etc.) to protect your skin from UV rays. Also limit or even avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, as long as you are using a treatment containing glycolic acid and up to one week after its last application. In the same vein, it is preferable to start applying glycolic acid-based products in the fall/winter rather than in the summer. Of course, it is possible to start or continue applying glycolic acid solutions during sunny periods (spring and summer), provided, of course, that you combine it with a minimum SPF30 sun protection and avoid the sun as much as possible.

How Often to Use Glycolic Acid?

Can you use glycolic acid every day? The frequency of use depends on the type of skin, the skin's tolerance level, but also on your needs and expectations. We advise you to start small and increase if your skin tolerates it well. It is normal to feel a slight sensation of heat, tingling or a slight dryness of the skin during the first days. You can for example start with an application one evening out of three and then gradually increase. If your skin is dry or if you are applying a glycolic acid treatment for the first time, start with a treatment with a low concentration of glycolic acid so that your skin gets used to it. It also depends on the concentration of active ingredients in the products. Our cosmetics, the exfoliating toner with 8% glycolic acid and the exfoliating face serum with 10% glycolic acid, can be used on a daily basis. On the other hand, stronger chemical peels (between 10 and 20%) should be applied once or twice a week and should not exceed the indicated application time. Before applying a product to your face, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.


  • KORNHAUSERA. & al. Topical glycolic acid enhances photodamage by ultraviolet light. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology and Photomedecine (2003).

  • HEARING V. J. & al. The effects of topically applied glycolic acid and salicylic acid on ultraviolet radiation-induced erythema, DNA damage and sunburn cell formation in human skin. Journal of Dermatological Science (2009).


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