What is Glycolic Lotion?

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  • Written By: Laura A.
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2019
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Glycolic lotion is a cosmetic lotion that contains glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is an exfoliant that slowly removes the top layer of skin to reveal newer skin underneath. This lotion can make skin look fresher and clearer with repeated use, and it can minimize the appearance of imperfections. People who have sensitive skin should use glycolic lotion cautiously because it can be irritating.

The main ingredient in glycolic lotion is glycolic acid, which is a type of alpha hydroxy acid that is derived from sugar cane. When applied to the skin, it sinks down below the top layer of skin and loosens the “glue” that keeps that layer intact. This causes the top layer of dead skin to shed and has the effect of clearing clogged pores and promoting the growth of new skin cells. This process results in clearer, more luminous skin with a smoother appearance.

Glycolic lotion can improve the appearance of any type of skin and has an effect similar to that of a mild chemical peel. It also can reduce the appearance of fine lines, age spots and acne scars by spurring new skin cell growth. Those with acne-prone skin find its drying and pore-clearing properties useful for keeping breakouts under control. Good glycolic lotions will have a concentration of about 10 percent of glycolic acid. Higher concentrations can be dangerously strong, and lower doses might not be enough to have any effect.


As part of a skincare routine, glycolic lotion should be applied last. These lotions normally contain a moisturizer to help counteract the drying effects of the acid. It should only be used once per day to avoid skin irritation and redness. Daily use is ideal, but in the beginning, it is a good idea for it to be used every other day as the skin adjusts to the ingredients. Glycolic acid is an exfoliator, so exfoliating scrubs should not be used at the same time.

Side effects of glycolic acid can include irritation, redness, burning and peeling skin. Glycolic lotion at concentrations of 10 percent or lower is considered safe for general use. People who have sensitive skin should use glycolic lotion in lower concentrations until their skin builds up a tolerance to the ingredients. The alpha hydroxy acid found in this lotion has been shown to make the skin temporarily more sensitive to ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen should always be used before sun exposure during the course of glycolic lotion treatment.


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Post 3

@burcidi-- There is no rule that everything is going to work for everyone. I do think that you would have gotten results with a more moisturizing glycolic lotion. It could also be that your skin just doesn't agree with glycolic acid. You could try other AHA acids and see how those work.

I do use a glycolic lotion regularly, but not for my face, for my body. I have something called keratosis pilaris. My skin can't exfoliate itself because it produces too much keratin. So I get these little bumps on my arms and legs.

My dermatologist recommended that I use a lotion with an exfoliant in it and mentioned glycolic acid. I've been using glycolic body lotion

since then and I can say that it has basically treated my keratosis pilaris.

Of course, if I stop using the lotion for a week, the bumps return. But since I use body lotion regularly it's no problem. I'm really happy with this product.

Post 2

I was hoping to add a lotion with glycolic acid to my skin care routine permanently, but I couldn't. I have dry skin and it dried out my skin even further. I was recommended this product to fight against aging. The girl who sold it to me spoke very highly of it and claimed she had customers who were really satisfied with it.

It may be so, but it just didn't work for me. I needed something that would exfoliate my skin as well as moisturize it. With this lotion, I felt like it only exfoliated.

Come to think of it, I have no idea what the percentage of glycolic acid was in that lotion. I didn't even

know at the time that it comes in percentages. Perhaps it was a higher percentage than my skin could tolerate.

I might give glycolic lotion a try again in the future. But I want to let my skin return to its balanced, supple self first.

Post 1

I've been using 15% glycolic face lotion for a month and have seen a huge improvement. Before I started using this, I had a few blemishes from hormonal breakouts I get during the time of the month as well as a few fine lines and wrinkles.

Since I've started using glycolic lotion, I haven't had any breakouts, my blemishes are gone and the lines are less visible. I don't know if everyone sees such great improvements with this lotion, but I'm really impressed with it.

I am using a very high percentage of glycolic acid though. 15% glycolic acid lotion would be too much for people with thin, sensitive skin. I have thick skin and almost no product can irritate my skin so it has worked for me. I did use it every other day for the first week to let my skin adapt. Now I use it every day.

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