Glycolic Acid or Salicylic Acid — Which is better?
Find out which chemical exfoliator is best for your skin type
Glycolic acid and salicylic acid are chemical exfoliators that can make your skin look smoother, brighter and ultimately, younger.
What exactly is the difference between the two and which one is better for your skin’s needs?
Let’s learn more about each of these wonderful ingredients and find out which one is right for you!
What is Glycolic Acid?
Glycolic acid is an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid). Although the word “acid” makes it sound a little scary, glycolic acid actually occurs naturally in beets, sugarcane and pineapples. Alpha Hydroxy Acids like glycolic acid are water-soluble and help exfoliate the topmost layers of the skin.
Glycolic Acid Benefits
Out of all other AHAs, glycolic acid has the smallest molecules. These molecules penetrate your skin at a much deeper level. This makes glycolic acid a really good skin exfoliator compared to other AHAs.
This powerful exfoliation process promotes skin cell turnover which results in an overall better skin texture. Fine lines, wrinkles, scars and hyperpigmentation will fade and become less noticeable by the constant production of new skin cells.
Glycolic Acid Use
Skincare products use different concentrations of glycolic acid. The range is 5 to 30% and the higher the concentration, the more potent the product. Each product is unique so be sure to follow your product’s instructions on how often you should use it in your routine.
You should also note that all AHAs increase our skin’s photosensitivity! This means that when you use glycolic acid or any other AHA, your skin will be extremely sensitive to the UV rays of the sun.
Stack up the Sunscreen
To prevent skin damage when using an AHA, don’t forget to wear sunscreen. This sensitivity will remain for up to 7 days after using an AHA, so do your skin a favor and always, always wear sunscreen! If you don’t, you may end up severely damaging your skin.
What is Salicylic Acid?
Salicylic acid is a BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid). Just like glycolic acid, it is also a naturally derived compound that comes from the bark of the willow tree.
However, unlike AHAs which are water-soluble, BHAs like salicylic acid are oil-soluble. This gives them the ability to penetrate deeper into the skin’s surface, lightly exfoliating the topmost layer of the skin while making their way deeper into the pores where they help melt away excess oil and dead skin cells.
Salicylic Acid Benefits
The light surface exfoliation improves overall skin texture, while the deeper penetrating action effectively treats acne problems such as whiteheads, blackheads and deeper cystic acne.
In addition, this powerful compound has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that help maintain and keep your skin acne-free even in the future.
Salicylic Acid Use
Skincare products contain varying concentrations of salicylic acid. They go from 1 to 20% and it is up to you to choose which concentration best fits your skin’s needs.
Just remember that how often you can use salicylic acid depends on the strength of the product that you’re using. In general, products with less than 6% salicylic acid concentration can be used daily. On the other hand, products with higher concentration like YEOUTH Salicylic Acid 20% Gel Peel should only be used once a week or monthly.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, please consult your doctor before use. It is not advised to use salicylic acid, or any BHA for that matter, if you’re pregnant. This is because certain studies show that oral use of this acid can lead to certain birth defects. It is best to shelf away topical BHA products for your child’s safety.
Read More: How to Use a Salicylic Acid Face Peel
Glycolic Acid or Salicylic Acid? Which Should I Use?
Glycolic and salicylic acid are both trusted chemical exfoliators that work wonders for the different needs of our skin. This is why it is important to know your skin type and address what your skin’s current concerns are.
Glycolic acid is good for dry, sun-damaged or aging skin. Using it in your routine can help hydrate skin as well as support the production of new skin cells to give way to younger, glowing skin.
Salicylic acid is best for oily and acne-prone skin. It deeply penetrates into the pores to help eliminate excess oils and dirt that manual exfoliation cannot reach so that you can have clearer, blemish-free skin.
Can I use Both Glycolic and Salicylic Acid?
Yes, you can certainly use both but not at the same time! Both ingredients are very potent and using them consecutively will over exfoliate your skin which can lead to further skin damage.
Using them in combination will help treat a wider range of skin issues since they penetrate and effect different levels of the skin.
If you want to add both in your skincare routine, it is best to use one for two months and then alternate to the second acid for the next two months. This way you can observe how your skin reacts and identify which seems to resolve your skin concerns best.
Know Your Skin
Address your skin issues and select the right acid depending on how your skin is feeling that particular day or week. If your skin could use light exfoliation and hydration, use a glycolic acid. If you see a pimple forming on your cheek, spot treat it with a dab of salicylic acid.
Don’t Over Exfoliate!
Make sure that you don’t over exfoliate! Read your product’s application instructions and pay extra attention to your skin once you alternate between the two acids.
Aside from the usual peeling, stinging or redness, a sure sign of too much exfoliation is a tight feeling no matter how much moisturizer you put on. If you experience this, stop exfoliating and focus on repairing your skin by moisturizing it and giving it time to rest and heal.
Chemical exfoliation with AHAs and BHAs are good for the skin but too much use can have the opposite effect, so always use these products in moderation!
What is Best for My Skin Problems?
Still not sure which one you should use for your skin concerns? Let’s take a look at some of the most common skin issues and learn more about which acid will best treat these pesky skin problems.
Pimples, Milia, Whiteheads or Blackheads
Salicylic acid, but you can also use glycolic acid for a more thorough treatment. Just remember not to use them both simultaneously!
Using salicylic acid is recommended for pimples, blackheads and whiteheads since it penetrates deep down into the pores, targeting acne at the root. Although glycolic acid doesn’t do as much for the deeper layers, it is a very potent exfoliator which will help transform the appearance and texture of the acne-ridden topmost layers of the skin.
Read More: The Top 5 Acne Culprits
Wrinkles, Crow’s Feet or Fine Lines
For skin-aging problems, glycolic acid is the best answer.
Using chemical peels with glycolic acid will minimize many signs of skin-aging such as fine lines and wrinkles. This is because glycolic acid encourages collagen synthesis in the skin as it exfoliates the dead cells on the skin’s upper layers.
As we age, collagen production decreases and this is why the skin loses its firmness, giving way to unwanted wrinkles and fine lines that will form permanently. Increasing collagen production via use of our YEOUTH Glycolic Acid Peel will result in younger, smoother skin.
Melasma, Dark Spots, or Acne Scars
Glycolic acid is best for hyperpigmentation problems.
Using glycolic acid for hyperpigmentation due to sun damage or acne will give you a glowing and even skin tone as it effectively exfoliates the upper layers of the skin where this unwanted melanin sits. A study shows that patients with melasma who were treated with glycolic acid peels showed earlier and more drastic improvements compared to those who were not treated.
Read More: Hyperpigmentation: Causes and Treatments
Glycolic and salicylic acid can address different skin issues and concerns. Using both at the same time may result in over exfoliation so it is best to consider your specific skin problems to best select which chemical exfoliator fits your needs.
For dry, sun-damaged or aging skin, we recommend the use of glycolic acid. It helps speed up skin cell turnover resulting in less noticeable dark spots, scarring and surface wrinkles.
For oily and acne-prone skin, use salicylic acid. It helps to deeply exfoliate the pores to eliminate oils and dirt for clearer, healthier skin.
Know your skin, use the right skincare, and you will be well on your way to achieving that YEOUTHful glow!