Glycolic Acid a Miracle for Acne-prone Skin

Two days ago, I had a fairly common reaction I get when I go without using glycolic acid once a week: acne and red, splotchy skin. I was out of glycolic acid and had been for a couple of weeks before I ordered more, so it I went about three weeks without a peel, and here's how I looked:

Before Glycolic Acid Peel

I received my glycolic acid that evening and immediately applied it. The next day, it was much better, but the following day, it was as if I'd never been without it. See below for my AFTER picture.

Why Is Glycolic Acid Better than Other AHAs?
Glycolic acid has the smallest molecule in the AHA (alphahydroxy acid) family, so it is the most bio-available AHA, which means it is able to penetrate the pores easier than any of the others. I use this 40% gel; I've found lower percentage ineffective for me, but they work for others.

AHAs with greater bioavailability appear to have deeper dermal effects. Glycolic acid (GA) with topical application to photodamaged skin, has been shown to produce increased amounts of mucopolysaccharides and collagen, resulting in increased skin thickness without detectable inflammation, as monitored by skin biopsies.
<Ditre CM, Griffin TD, Murphy GF, Vasn Scott EJ: Improvement of photodamaged skin with alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA): A clinical, histological, and ultra-structural study. Dermatology 2000 Congress. Vienna, Austria. May 18–21, 1993:175.>

Once applied, glycolic acid reacts with the upper layer of the epidermis, weakening the binding properties of the lipids that hold the dead skin cells together. This allows the stratum corneum to be exfoliated, exposing live skin cells. 

Which One Should I Buy?

In addition to concentration, pH also plays an important role. Physician-strength peels can have a pH as low as 0.6 (strong enough to completely keratolyze the epidermis), while the acidity level for home peels can be as high as 2.5. My glycolic acid's pH is 1.5.

It really depends on skin type, sensitivity, and goals. The first time I used glycolic acid, I bought a 30% 1.5 pH product. Since my goals also include improving hyperpigmentation and fine wrinkles, I've moved up to 40%, although I've seen 70% on Amazon, but this is unbuffered and listed for body only; since I don't see a pH level listed, I'm not sure I'd use this on my face, but I think it would do miracles for my feet! 

I used this nightly glycolic acid cream before turning to weekly peels, and I loved it, but weekly was easier for me. I always read the reviews to make sure a product has made a similar difference for someone else.

What it Can Improve
Glycolic acid is used to improve the skin's appearance and texture. It may reduce wrinkles, acne scarring, hyperpigmentation and improve many other skin conditions, including actinic keratosis, hyperkeratosis, and seborrheic keratosis.

Although a single application of GA will produce beneficial results, multiple treatments every 2 to 4 weeks are required for optimal results.
<What Is Glycolic Acid All About? By Peter T. Pacik, M.D., F.A.C.S.>

My AFTER Photos:
Day 2 after Glycolic Acid

Day 2 after Glycolic Acid


  1. Hi,

    Very interesting post.

    For some reason, I am not good at doing things every two weeks (i.e. I do it a couple of times, then forget and never do it again). But I am very good at doing things everyday.

    Would you know of a good AHA cream I could use on a daily basis, at night? Or even better, a DIY alternative?


    1. Hi Newtonyc83, Yes! I absolutely love one specific glycolic acid cream; I haven't used it in about a year, but I loved it before going stronger. I used it almost nightly, and it worked miracles for me. Here's the one I used:
      I should add that link to the post because I'm sure others may not be quite ready for a peel or can't remember...

  2. Heey, i've used 60% glycolic acid and it burn my skin, like i can't stay for more than 2 minutes cause hurt my face... The 40% didn't itches tour face?