A lot of ingredients go into a skincare product to make it effective enough to fight skin concerns. Some of these ingredients are common like aloe vera, tea tree, rose water, green tea, honey etc. However, there are also a set of acids that are added to your daily skincare products to make them potent enough to give quicker, better results. All our over-the-counter skin care products like cleansers, toners, moisturizers and serums will have some or the other form of acid. The two most popular of the lot are glycolic acid and salicylic acid. Both these acids are mild exfoliants and help fight acne.
There are a lot of other skincare acids such as ascorbic acid, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, ferulic acid and many more. Each acid targets one or more skin concerns and helps you achieve healthy and clear skin. But in this article we are going to talk about glycolic acid and salicylic acid - what they are, how they work and which skin type or concern is each one better suited for. In fact, to understand the difference between glycolic acid and salicylic acid, we decided to consult celebrity dermatologist Dr. Chytra V. Anand. Scroll down to read what our expert has to say about these two skincare acids.
- What is Glycolic Acid?
- Benefits of Glycolic Acid
- Fights Acne
- Corrects Skin Tone
- Treats Mild Hyperpigmentation
- Brightens Complexion
- Reduces Fine Lines and Appearance of Pores
- What is Salicylic Acid?
- Benefits of Salicylic Acid
- Reduces Blackheads and Whiteheads
- Controls Excess Oil
- Prevents Acne, Pimples and Breakouts
- Glycolic Acid vs Salicylic Acid: Which is Better for Acne?
- Glycolic Acid vs Salicylic Acid: Which is Better for a Chemical Peel?
What is Glycolic Acid?
All skincare acids are divided into two groups, alpha hydroxy acid (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). AHAs are gentle in nature and have skin soothing and calming properties, whereas BHAs penetrate deep into the skin to prevent inflammation and heal skin. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that is derived from sugar cane. It is a naturally derived skin exfoliant that is gentle, therefore suitable for all skin types. It is commonly known as a fruit acid. Glycolic acid is a tiny molecule, this means it can easily penetrate through the barrier of the skin and gently exfoliate the top layer.
Benefits of Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid works through the process of exfoliation. When applied to the skin, it breaks the bond on the outer layer of the skin cells, which is the dead skin cells layer. By doing so, it triggers the cell renewal process.
Those with acne-prone skin can benefit from glycolic acid. This skincare acid is a popular choice for sloughing off dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. Since acne occurs when a pore gets clogged with dirt, oil, bacteria and other impurities, the exfoliating property of glycolic acid can be useful. With regular use, you will experience less acne over time.
Corrects Skin Tone
One of the leading causes of uneven skin tone is UV rays. Not wearing enough sunscreen and poor skincare habits are also to be blamed for this. Glycolic acid and salicylic acid both can help correct uneven skin tone in different ways. Apart from sloughing away the layer of dead skin cells, glycolic acid also increases the resilience of the skin against external aggressors. This makes skin evenly toned and brighter.
Treats Mild Hyperpigmentation
These days hyperpigmentation is a common concern among all age groups. Although harmless, the patches of dark skin in some areas of the face makes it an annoying skin problem. It is a result of excess melanin production in the skin. Using glycolic acid can help address a mild case of hyperpigmentation as it exfoliates the top damaged layer of the skin. It can reduce the marks left behind by sun damage and ageing too.
Apart from being a mild exfoliator, glycolic acid also plumps the skin by boosting hydration levels in the skin. Since it has the ability to retain moisture in the skin, using glycolic acid can brighten the complexion and make it look healthy.
Reduces Fine Lines and Appearance of Pores
Glycolic acid and salicylic acid both can help diminish the signs of ageing in their own different ways. Those dealing with premature ageing and looking for ways to reduce fine lines and wrinkles can also benefit from using glycolic acid. It helps boost collagen levels in the skin which is essential in keeping skin supple and healthy.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid is an exfoliating agent which belongs to the beta hydroxy acid family. It is a naturally derived exfoliant from Wintergreen trees. Salicylic acid is lipophilic in nature and therefore ideal for oily, combination and acne-prone skin. The molecule size of salicylic acid is slightly larger than glycolic acid hence it is less irritating to Indian skin.
Benefits of Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid works on the surface of the skin, but it also goes deep into the pores of the skin to remove excess dirt and sebum. Therefore, when it comes to a comparison between glycolic acid and salicylic acid and which one is better for acne, the latter wins. Here are a few other benefits of using this skincare acid.
Reduces Blackheads and Whiteheads
Unlike glycolic acid, salicylic acid goes beneath the surface of the skin to remove debris from the pores of the skin. Pores get clogged when excess sebum, dirt and hair follicles mix together. This leads to whiteheads and blackheads which harm the glow and texture of your skin. Salicylic acid clears pores at the deepest level to give you clean and healthy skin.
Controls Excess Oil
A powerful BHA, salicylic acid regulates the production of sebum and prevents excessively oily skin. Adding this skincare acid into your routine will balance oil without making skin too dry. It works best for those with combination, oily and acne prone skin.
Prevents Acne, Pimples and Breakouts
Since salicylic acid works on the deeper layers of the skin by clearing pores, it means you will experience less breakouts and acne. Red, acne bumps are not only painful, but also make your face look dull. The soothing properties of salicylic acid will heal redness and pain associated with pimples.
Glycolic Acid vs Salicylic Acid: Which is Better for Acne?
While both glycolic acid and salicylic acid have some effect on acne, the latter is considered to be a better choice. Glycolic acid only works on the surface of the skin whereas salicylic acid goes deeper and reduces excess sebum production which is the leading cause of breakouts and acne. So, whether you are looking for products for oily skin or considering a chemical peel at the dermat’s clinic, salicylic acid is better for oily and acne prone skin.
Glycolic Acid vs Salicylic Acid: Which is Better for a Chemical Peel?
Both salicylic acid and glycolic acid are excellent for chemical peels. For regular use, skin maintenance, healthy complexion and even skin tone, glycolic acid is the preferred acid. Whereas for oily-combination skin types, acne-prone congested skin, salicylic acid is the preferred chemical peel. However, you should know that all chemical peels are not equal. The efficacy and results depend on the stability of the chemical peel solution and its pH value. Home chemical peel packs usually have a pH range of 3.2 - 3.8 and in-clinic chemical peels have a pH range of 2 - 2.5.
Pro tip: Dr. Chytra Anand says:
Remember, a chemical peel should always be neutralised with an alkaline solution. The amount of time the chemical peels are left on the skin must be controlled based on the skin type, skin thickness and sensitivity. After a chemical peel, one must always use sun protection otherwise, there is an increased risk of sun damage.