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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a triple-board-certified dermatologist with over 100 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.


Glycolic Acid Cream: The Ultimate Guide & Expert Tips from a Dermatologist

Updated: Jun 5

As a dermatologist, I have encountered numerous skincare products in my career, but today we will dive into one of the most potent ingredients (and my favorite) in skincare – Glycolic Acid!

After reading this article, you'll learn the concentration of glycolic acid cream you should use, the process of using it, and some things you might want to be careful about before using it.

We end the article with some of my personal glycolic acid cream recommendations.


Table of contents


What is Glycolic Acid Cream?

Glycolic Acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane. It has been used in skincare for many years and is known for its exfoliating properties. In fact, glycolic acid is often used in professional chemical peels. However, depending on the chemical peel, you may initially encounter redness, irritation, scarring, and discoloration.

These initial side effects will be almost inexistent with a glycolic acid cream. Plus, you can do it on your own at home.

Glycolic Acid Cream Uses and Benefits

The following are the uses of using glycolic acid cream:

  1. Exfoliate the Skin and Reveal Brighter, Smoother Skin: Glycolic acid cream is used as an exfoliant to slough off the outermost layer of dead skin cells gently. This process promotes cell turnover, revealing fresher, more radiant skin underneath. By removing these dead cells, the cream helps to improve overall skin texture and tone, giving a smoother and more youthful appearance.

  2. Improve Dyspigmentation and Skin Texture: Glycolic acid is effective in addressing various forms of dyspigmentation, such as age spots, sun spots, and melasma. Regularly using glycolic acid cream can help fade these dark patches and create a more even skin tone. Additionally, its exfoliating properties can contribute to refining the skin's texture, making it feel smoother and more uniform.

  3. Reduce the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles: Glycolic acid cream's exfoliating action goes beyond improving texture and tone. By removing the outer layer of dead skin cells, it can help stimulate collagen production in the deeper layers of the skin. Increased collagen production can lead to improved skin elasticity, reduced fine lines, and softened wrinkles, contributing to a more youthful complexion.

  4. Even Out Skin Tone: Uneven skin tone, often caused by sun exposure, hormonal changes, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, can be targeted with glycolic acid cream. By shedding damaged skin cells and promoting new cell growth, glycolic acid helps to fade areas of uneven pigmentation, resulting in a more balanced and uniform complexion.

  5. Unclog Pores and Reduce Acne Breakouts: Glycolic acid's exfoliating properties extend to the pores. It effectively removes excess oil, dirt, and debris that can accumulate within pores and contribute to acne breakouts. By keeping pores clear and minimizing their appearance, glycolic acid cream can help reduce the occurrence of blemishes and improve overall skin clarity.

  6. Remove Dark Spots: Dark spots, often caused by hyperpigmentation from sun exposure, can be lightened with the regular use of glycolic acid cream. The exfoliating action helps break down hyperpigmented keratinocytes that contribute to these spots, gradually fading them and leading to a more even skin tone.

So, if you are looking for "Glycolic Acid Cream 12 benefits" or "Glycolic Acid Cream 6 benefits" or "Cutiyt cream benefits" or "Glyco 6 cream benefits", note that they will more or less be the same as the points mentioned above.

The numbers 6 and 12 in the names refer to the %w/w (weight for weight concentration) of glycolic acid. The higher the concentration, the higher the peeling effect and the more careful you'll need to be.

Therefore, depending on your skin tolerance and requirement (also discussed in the next section), you may use the corresponding concentration.

How to Use Glycolic Acid Cream?

Glycolic acid cream can give you the smoothest, most radiant skin of your life, but you must use it right!

Steps for using glycolic acid cream for your face:

  1. Thoroughly cleanse your face.

  2. Start with a pea-sized amount (this should be enough for your entire face) of a low-concentration Glycolic acid cream like CutiYt G2 Cream or Glycolic Acid 6 cream. Don't pair it with any other reactive serum like retinol. Remember only to apply it at night. It's best to leave it overnight while you go to sleep.

  3. Before covering your entire face with it, I'd advise you to start with a patch test. Then, we slowly build your skin's tolerance with the following steps: - In the first week, apply it only once. - In the next week, apply it twice; you can take a gap of 3 days between the applications. - Apply it thrice each week over the next 3-6 weeks. - After six weeks, you can increase the stakes using a higher concentration glycolic acid cream like Glycolic Acid 12 cream. However, again, start with a patch test.

You should give your skin a rest for at least a day in between applications of glycolic acid cream. So, don't apply it daily.

If, during the increase in the concentration, you experience any irritation, then switch back to a lower concentration.

Note: If you have sensitive skin, then stick to a lower concentration, like CutiYt G2 Cream. or a milder AHA, like lactic acid or mandelic acid. You can even try azelaic acid.

As mentioned in the next section, you must use sunscreen during the daytime!

For the rest of the body:

Glycolic acid cream can help brighten your underarms, dark elbows, and neck. You can directly start with Glycolic Acid 6 cream or Glycolic Acid 12 cream. You can start with the same tolerance-building steps as mentioned above. Start with once a week for the first week, then twice the next week, and so on and so forth.

What Should I Be Careful About Before and After Using Glycolic Acid Cream?

Before using glycolic acid cream, do a patch test; Always test it on a small area of the skin to ensure you are not allergic to it. And always remember that sunscreen is a must if you use glycolic acid cream, as it can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun. Opt for a physical or chemical sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher.

Glycolic Acid Side Effects

In terms of side effects, some people may experience redness, peeling, or irritation, but these symptoms usually subside after a few days of use. Some people may even observe dry skin around the nose. If you experience severe reactions, discontinue use and consult a dermatologist.

Glycolic Acid for Hyperpigmentation

Glycolic acid is a popular choice for treating hyperpigmentation. It works by exfoliating the top layer of the skin, helping to fade dark spots and uneven skin tone caused by hyperpigmentation. It effectively penetrates the skin and encourages cell turnover, revealing fresher, brighter skin underneath.

What are the Ingredients of Glycolic Acid Cream?

The primary ingredient in glycolic acid cream is obviously glycolic acid. Still, there are usually other ingredients added to the formula to enhance its effectiveness, including moisturizing agents like hyaluronic acid or natural oils, soothing agents like aloe vera, and antioxidants like Vitamin C.

To enhance potency and reduce skin irritation, some glycolic acid creams also contain other gentler AHAs like lactic acid and mandelic acid.

Dermatologist Recommended Glycolic Acid Cream Products

Sesderma Glycolic Acid Cream

However, this cream has a slightly higher concentration of glycolic acid (~10%). So, you shouldn't directly start with this. First, follow the 4-6 week routine of using lower concentration products like CutiYt G2 Cream (2%) or Glycolic Acid 6 cream (6%). Once your skin is ready to go to the next level, you can purchase this.

So, there you have it, gorgeous/handsome! Follow these tips, and you, too, will develop an alabaster skin!

I hope you found this informative and entertaining. Stay tuned for more skincare tips and tricks from your friendly neighborhood dermatologist!


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