The Right Way to Add Glycolic Acid To Your Skin Care Routine

Time to turn the volume way up

Glycolic Acid In Skincare

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The absolute easiest route to glowing, radiant, and youthful-looking skin? Simple: Incorporate a chemical exfoliant into your regular routine. Glycolic acid is by far one of the most popular choices—and we tapped Joshua Zeichner, M.D., Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, for the full scoop.

Why glycolic acid, you ask?

Glycolic acid is made up of the smallest molecules in the alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) category, making it one of the most impactful when it comes to skin care because it can more easily penetrate the skin. It’s also surprisingly natural. “Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane,” says Dr. Zeichner.

It’s recognized and beloved by dermatologists for its resurfacing and smoothing properties. “It has skin exfoliating benefits to help shed dead cells that accumulate on the surface of the skin,” says Dr. Zeichner. “It helps brighten a dull complexion, enhance radiance, and improve skin tone. Glycolic acid also helps improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”

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Which one should you use?

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift DermIntensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum is the go-to recommendation by top-tier derms. With proven results and a sleek glass dropper bottle (don’t pretend it doesn’t matter), this one should be in your regular product rotation. It’s an anti-aging serum with a hit of soothing aloe, moisturizing hyaluronic acid, and water-attracting glycerin. This unique formula contains 10 percent glycolic acid (the highest amount available over-the-counter), and promises to reduce dark spots in as little as two weeks.

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When should you use it?

Use it at night because it can make your skin sensitive to the sun—and make sure that you use SPF in the morning.

“I typically recommend applying it in the evening along with your moisturizer,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Skin cell turnover is at its greatest at night, so applying glycolic acid before bed enhances a process that happens naturally at that time. Make sure to apply sunscreen in the morning, because glycolic acid can increase your risk of sunburn.”

Test a patch behind your ear or on your inner arm first to see how your skin will react.

What are the results?

An independent study found that the product makes skin feel smoother and more refined. In just one week, skin looks more youthful, and in two weeks, dark spots are visibly reduced. In four weeks, wrinkles and fine lines are minimized.

This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.

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