Do you find yourself standing in the skincare aisles for a while confused as to which acids are for what concerns?  There are so many potent ingredients out there, but when it comes to common ingredients such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid, you may wonder what is the function of each. Stay tuned and take some notes because I will help you understand the main differences between both acids in this article.

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA). Its natural source is willow bark, sweet birch and wintergreen. Salicylic acid works by loosening the bond between cells at the surface of the skin, or stratum corneum.

Salicylic acid is an exfoliant that penetrates deeper into the skin than alpha-hydroxy acid (or AHA). It helps unclog pores by loosening the “glue” that holds skin cells together. Salicylic acid may be used morning and night. SALICYLIC ACID: Salicylic acid can be purchased over the counter. It is a beta hydroxy acid and is most commonly used to treat whiteheads/blackheads. Some of the uses for Salicylic Acid are as follows:

  • Works as an exfoliant to unclog the pores.
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Helps build collagen.
  • Treats mild acne breakouts.
  • Suitable for oily, combination, and/or acne-prone skin.

what is salicylic acid

GLYCOLIC ACID Glycolic Acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid made from sugarcane. As a result, it makes an excellent acid for those looking to use acids for his/her first time. The molecules in this acid are very small which enables it to absorb better into the skin for better results. It also comes in various strengths, therefore, it is easy to build tolerance to it.  Higher grade strengths of glycolic acid are used in peels administered in dermatologist offices or medical spas. Some of the uses for Glycolic Acid are as follows:

  • Exfoliates the outermost layer of the skin.
  • Minimizes skin discolorations/acne scars.
  • Reduces fine lines/wrinkles.
  • Treats mild to moderate acne.
  • Suitable for all skin types, especially dry and combination skin.

what is Glycolic acid

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Without further ado, here are some awesome product recommendations for salicylic acid topical treatments:

Mario Badescu Anti-Acne Serum— Prevents acne eruptions before they start with this salicylic acid based gel.

The Ordinary Peeling Solution– This combined 32% AHA/BHA solution offers deeper exfoliation to help fight visible blemishes and for improved skin radiance.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Acne Face Wash— Medicated acne face wash formulated with salicylic acid Acne medication. Targets excess oil and helps clear acne breakouts.

The Ordinary 2% Salicylic Acid Serum-a clarifying, blemish-fighting solution that gently sheds dead cells from the skin’s surface and calm redness and inflammation for those with mild to moderate acne. Enriched with exfoliant Salicylic Acid which helps to unclog pores and control oil production.

Here are product recommendations for glycolic acid skincare treatments:

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution:This toner, formulated with 7% glycolic acid, offers gentle exfoliation for improved skin brightness.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum –I love me some Drunk Elephant skincare products. This popular glycolic night serum features a 12% alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy blend that works to improve the tone and texture of your skin as you sleep.

Mario Badescu: Glycolic Foaming Cleanser—  This classic glycolic cleanser from skincare giant Mario Badescu works to unclog congested pores, smooth the skin’s surface, and bring back that glow you love.

As with any acids, it is recommended to start with a lower concentration every other day for a week or two to see how your skin reacts. Use a good moisturizer after applying your salicylic acid treatment to minimize redness and dryness. It is also important to wear sunscreen daily while using any acid to reduce the risk of skin cancer and scarring.

As always, acids take time to build tolerance. I usually recommend giving the product 8-12 weeks to see a full result. Always do a test patch and wait 4-48 hours to test for allergic reactions. Consult with your dermatologist or an esthetician prior to starting any skincare acid and should you experience any side effects.

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