What is Glycolic acid?
Glycolic acid is the smallest type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and penetrates skin easily. It is a colourless, odourless, and moisture attracting salt that is highly soluble in water and has been used for centuries as a skin rejuvenation treatment.
Glycolic acid is a carbon based molecule that occurs naturally in sugarcane as well as other fruits and can be isolated from it, however much of the world’s supply of this AHA is synthetically produced to meet higher demand.
When used in skin care, glycolic acid is found in the form of facial peels, toners, cleansers and moisturizers. The pH of a non-buffered solution ranges from 0.08–2.75. When used on skin, buffered or partially neutralized glycolic acid is safer, hence it is available in various concentrations ranging from 20%–70%.
How does it work?
Glycolic acid creates mild exfoliation effects and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and keratolytic properties. It works by loosening up the stratum corneum (or horny layer) of the skin and exfoliating the superficial top layer which consists of corneocytes (dead cells) to reveal underlying skin. To do this glycolic acid targets the corneosome by enhancing breakdown and decreasing cohesiveness, causing desquamation.
Glycolic acid peels are neutralized with water or with basic solutions, such as ammonium salts, sodium bicarbonate, or sodium hydroxide to prevent acidification of the skin. The intensity of peel is determined by the concentration of the acid.
Due to its exfoliating nature, glycolic acid is used for anti-aging purposes to improve the appearance of age spots, wrinkles and fine lines as well as treat skin problems such as acne, acne scars, melasma (dark brown or grey spots on the skin), post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, photoaging, and seborrhea (oily skin).
When used in small doses, no common side effects have been reported with this product.
The minor side effects reported are: erythema (redness), stinging sensation, sensation of pulling or tightening of facial skin, mild burning, and transient post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Seek medical attention right away if severe side effects such as rash, hives, itching difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue occur while taking emollients topical (the active ingredient contained in Aqua Glycolic).
Interactions with other medicines:
There are no known drug interactions for Aqua Glycolic (emollients topical). However, this does not necessarily mean no interactions exist. Always consult with your doctor or pharmacist.
Other common names it goes by
Dicarbonous acid, Hydroxyacetic acid, 2-Hydroxyacetic acid, 2-Hydroxyethanoic acid, α-hydroxyacetic acid, alpha-Hydroxyacetic acid, Hydroxyethanoic acid.
Sharad, Jaishree. “Glycolic Acid Peel Therapy – a Current Review.” Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology 6 (2013): 281–288. PMC.
Kornhauser, Andrija, Sergio G Coelho, and Vincent J Hearing. “Applications of Hydroxy Acids: Classification, Mechanisms, and Photoactivity.” Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology: CCID 3 (2010): 135–142. PMC. Web. 6 Nov. 2016.
Duffy DM. Avoiding complications with chemical peels. In: Rubin MG, editor. Procedures in cosmetic dermatology series: Chemical peels. Amsterdam: Elsevier Inc; 2006. pp. 137–70.