All about glycolic acid

There’s lots of beauty buzz about glycolic acid and how it works to exfoliate your skin. Small and mighty is how I like to think  of it.

What is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is derived from the sugar cane plant but it can also be man-made. It is colourless, fragrance-free and highly soluble in water. It is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA).  Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of natural and synthetic ingredients which work to exfoliate skin chemically rather than mechanically. This results in fresher, more refined skin which is smoother and younger-looking.

Glycolic acid is a particularly effective AHA because it’s the one with the smallest molecules. This means it’s more effective at penetrating the skin’s surface, dissolving dead skin, and revealing the fresher skin which lies beneath. It also has proven results in tackling signs of sun damage like hyper-pigmentation. It can brighten skin, and give glow.

How does it work?

It works to dissolve the agents which bind dead skin cells to the surface of the skin. It works in the opposite way to a mechanical exfoliator which removes dead skin by physical abrasion and can sometimes inflame or irritate skin. Glycolic acid’s impact means that cellular turnover is increased and skin looks fresher and more glowing. Fine lines are minimised and uneven texture is balanced out.

Glycolic acid works with the skin as part of its natural exfoliation process. The uppermost layers of the skin are shed between every four to six weeks depending on our age. It gets slower and more sluggish as we get older. A build-up of dead skin cells means skin looks duller, rougher and more unevenly toned. Glycolic acid helps to dissolve it all away, for exfoliation which is effective and which doesn’t tear or damage the skin’s surface like mechanical exfoliation can. By removing dead skin cells, other skincare ingredients can penetrate more effectively. There is glycolic acid in Votary’s Brightening Hyaluronic Serum. The action of the glycolic acid means that the neroli flower water in the formula can refresh and hydrate more deeply.

Are there varying strengths of glycolic acid?

Yes. It’s important to get the right concentration for your skin type and for what you want it to do.  The strength of glycolic acid is shown by its free acid value. This has to be balanced by the overall ph of the formula to allow it to work effectively.  The clever part is getting the balance right so that it works to deliver results and still stays stable. There are basically three strength levels.

1/ 20% glycolic acid is used in acid peel masks by trained therapists. At this level, it requires pre and post care during use and is designed for occasional use.

2/ 4% – 5% glycolic acid. At this concentration, it’s designed for use once or twice weekly. However, for people with sensitive skin this may be too strong and can cause redness, soreness and irritation.

3/ 1% – 2%  glycolic acid – which is the gentle level in Votary’s Brightening Hyaluronic Serum. At this strength it can be used daily on all skin types – even sensitive skin. It achieves all of the benefits but gradually and daily without compromising skin comfort. Used as part of a 3 step skin care routine,  it prevents your skin from looking dull or congested. Instead, it looks fresh and healthy.

If you are using glycolic acid in your skincare, I also recommend using an SPF daily.  It’s crucial whatever skincare ingredients you use, but it’s particularly important if you are using any kind of exfoliating formulas. Fresh, new skin needs to be protected from potential UVA and UVB damage.

Glycolic acid is a brilliant ingredient to include in your daily skincare. Our gentle version in the Brightening Hyaluronic Serum gives you all of the benefits whatever your skin type.

Love, Arabella

Read more about glycolic acid here and here.
Read more about chemical vs mechanical exfoliation here.
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