What are Glycolic Treatments?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Glycolic treatments are skin treatments which utilize glycolic acid to firm, tone, and renew the skin. Products are sold for both home and professional use, although better results are usually achieved in a professional environment such as a skin care spa. Glycolic treatments include chemical peels, glycolic washes, and other skin treatments which an aesthetician or doctor can discuss with interested patients.

Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid, which means that it can penetrate the skin to deliver moisture and stimulate the production of new collagen. Alpha hydroxy acids can be found naturally in a variety of fruits or created synthetically in a laboratory. Many beauty products such as moisturizing creams include alpha hydroxy acids. Glycolic treatments use this effect to promote skin health.

Glycolic treatments are appropriate for a wide variety of skin conditions. Consult with spa staff to determine the treatment that is right for you, and if there is another technique such as microdermabrasion which might be more appropriate. Generally, glycolic treatments are used as part of an anti-wrinkle regimen, to reduce the effects of sun damage and scarring, and to refresh old or tired skin.


Glycolic treatments work by separating the skin cells, which allows dead cells to float to the surface along with trapped dirt and oils. A mild glycolic acid solution such as that available over the counter will act as an exfoliant, while stronger solutions used by professionals are utilized in chemical peels to remove layers of dead skin from the face. In both cases, glycolic treatments can cause skin damage and should be used carefully.

Professional glycolic treatments involve the application of glycolic acid to the face, sometimes in combination with other materials for healthy skin. The acid is left on for a set period of time. During this stage of the treatment, the client may experience some discomfort and burning, and it is important to communicate with spa staff if the sensation feels unbearable. The glycolic acid is neutralized with a gel and then the face is gently washed and moisturized. Most aestheticians recommend a series of treatments for maximum effect.

After professional glycolic treatments, the skin may be red and irritated. The tender skin should be protected with an oil free sunscreen, and oil free makeup can be worn as well. At the completion of a treatment series, the skin will be firmer, smaller pored, and more evenly colored. Periodic treatments should be undertaken to maintain skin health and appearance.


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