Why Chemical Exfoliants—Especially Glycolic Acid—Are the Key to Glowing Skin

Here’s why (and how) glycolic acid should be one of your skincare staples.

The term “game changer” gets tossed around far too often in the beauty world, but glycolic acid truly deserves the title. Why is it worth the hype? Simple: It does the most! Not only is it a powerhouse ingredient that protects against breakouts (it weakens the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together) but it also minimizes the appearance of pores and keeps the complexion looking clear, radiant and smooth. In other words, it’s a master exfoliator.

Glycolic acid is not a new ingredient, but it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. Discover why this phenomenal skincare ingredient is truly an all-in-one solution. Here’s everything you need to know about glycolic acid products, why it’s the perfect exfoliator and how to use it.

What’s the difference between chemical and physical exfoliation?

The word exfoliation—the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of your skin—usually brings to mind scrubs, but there are actually two different categories you can choose from: physical and chemical.

Physical scrubs rely on ingredients like grains, shells, microbeads and natural sugars. They usually have a gritty texture that mechanically scrubs the surface of the skin.

Chemical exfoliants are the other option, which can also be broken down into two categories: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Let’s unpack that because each has a different property. AHAs, such as glycolic acid, are water-soluble and generally the most popular exfoliant for removing dead skin and debris from the surface of the skin. BHAs, such a salicylic acid, are oil-soluble and a little more aggressive, which means they can penetrate the pore a little deeper.

What is glycolic acid?

We know that glycolic acid is an AHA, but what else? At its base level, it’s an organic carbon molecule that is clear and odourless. It’s found in nature, abundant in foods such as apples and citrus. However, in the skincare world, synthetic versions are used because it’s more stable, ensuring better delivery to the skin.

Glycolic acid is the gold standard for chemical exfoliation because research shows it delivers the best results on all skin types, tones and ages. Another reason it’s touted as the best: The glycolic acid molecules are the smallest and lightest of all AHAs, which means they’re able to penetrate the skin more easily. This means that you don’t need a high percentage of the acid in a formula—even 5% can yield results. However, if you bump up that percentage to 10% in a moisturizer or serum, like in L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power LZR 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum, you’ll see impressive results fast! This serum not only works to exfoliate skin but also visibly evens out skin tone and reduces the look of wrinkles.

How does glycolic acid work?

Sure, glycolic acid is a multi-tasker, but in the most simplified terms, glycolic acid acts as a chemical exfoliant. When it comes in contact with skin, it works to dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells, which allows them to be wiped away easily, revealing the smooth skin underneath. The reason it’s credited with evening out skin tone and reducing wrinkles is that it’s essentially helping to speed up cell turnover and bringing plumper, fresher and younger cells to the skin’s surface.

Which glycolic acid formulation is right for you?

We know that the easiest way to achieve glowing, radiant and youthful-looking skin is with glycolic acid, but what’s the best delivery method? The formulation is key when it comes to choosing the right glycolic acid product. The AHA can be found in all sorts of products, from cleansers to toners to medical-grade chemical peels, but one of the most tolerable (and effective) ways to reap its benefits is with a serum packed with a high concentration of glycolic acid. Enter L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power LZR 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum. It was formulated with the highest concentration of glycolic acid allowed over the counter while still being gentle enough for sensitive skin thanks to its supporting cast of soothing ingredients such as aloe vera, hyaluronic acid and glycerine. In other words, it soothes and exfoliates. Plus, it reduces dark spots in as little as two weeks.

Glycolic acid can increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. To be extra safe, apply your glycolic product in the evening. That said, you can still use L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Triple Power LZR 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum in your morning routine—just be sure that you’re diligent and generous about applying SPF.