What Are the Different Types of Glycolic Acid Products?

Sarah R. LaVergne

Glycolic acid is a naturally occurring acid that is used in cosmetic and medical applications to improve skin quality. There are many different types of glycolic acid products available. Six of the most common products are cleansers, toners, shampoo and body wash, lotion, face creams and chemical peels. The type of skin conditions a potential user suffers from determines which products he or she should use.

Glycolic acid cream.
Glycolic acid cream.

Glycolic acid cleansers are used for their anti-aging benefits, and to manage clogged pores, acne and blackheads. These usually have a concentration of 4% to 10% glycolic acid. Glycolic acid cleansers are not generally recommended for the removal of makeup because they tend to be too thin. Lower concentrations of these products should be used when applying for the first time to avoid harsh reactions; dosage levels can be increased over time. Such cleansers should be applied to a dry face, allowed to soak in then rinsed away with water.

Glycolic acid body washes can be used to prevent ingrown hairs.
Glycolic acid body washes can be used to prevent ingrown hairs.

Toners are also common glycolic acid products. These typically contain 11% glycolic acid. Glycolic acid toners are used to restore skin pH to normal levels. Like other toners, glycolic acid toners are used by applying a small amount of toner to a cotton ball and smoothing it over the skin.

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Other glycolic acid products include shampoo and body wash combinations that generally have concentrations of roughly 14% glycolic acid. A shampoo and body wash combination can be used on the face, hair and body. For skin use, it is used to treat body acne and prevent ingrown hairs. Using the glycolic acid shampoo and body wash on the hair removes product build up and treats oily or itchy scalps.

Lotions also number among common glycolic acid products and usually have a concentration of 10%. Lotions are used for the exfoliation and moisture replacement on the skin of the body. Glycolic acid lotion is most often used on normal to oily skin or skin that is prone to acne, blackheads, whiteheads, blemishes and clogged pores. The lotions are not intended for sensitive skin due to the irritation they can cause.

Glycolic acid face creams are another commonly used product that treats dry skin. The concentration of glycolic acid in face cream is often also around 10%. Not only is the cream used on the face but it can be used on other dry areas such as the elbows, feet and knees. When applied to the neck and chest, glycolic acid face cream has been shown to reverse signs of aging. This face cream is not recommended for acne-prone skin.

Chemical peels are a widely used glycolic acid product which can make skin look younger, smoother and more toned. The process works by removing old layers of skin and revealing new skin. A glycolic acid chemical peel is used on skin that is blemished, sun damaged, wrinkled or scarred. Chemical peels also help dry skin absorb moisture and can remove precancerous skin lesions.

Depending on the concentration of glycolic acid in a peel, more or less skin will be exfoliated. When a lower concentration is used, fewer layers of skin are removed. If the concentration is high, deeper skin removal will occur and the recovery time can take longer.

Using a glycolic acid shampoo removes product build up and treats itchy scalps.
Using a glycolic acid shampoo removes product build up and treats itchy scalps.

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