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When to Apply Glycolic Acid

Have you heard about the wonders of glycolic acid? This skincare ingredient is well-known for its sensational exfoliating and skin-renewing properties. However, knowing when to use glycolic acid can be the key to unlocking its full potential without irritating your skin. Keep reading to learn how to use glycolic acid correctly to control blemishes and maintain a more youthful and radiant complexion.

What Is Glycolic Acid?

So, what is glycolic acid, and what can it do for you? Glycolic acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane. This is the same family that contains lactic acid, the sour ingredient in yogurt, and citric acid, responsible for the tanginess of many fruits. 

All AHAs benefit your skin, but they work in slightly different ways. Glycolic acid is one of the strongest ones. Its benefits include:

  • Exfoliation: Glycolic acid helps dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells, revealing the brighter skin underneath more easily through exfoliation.
  • Collagen Promotion: Regular use can boost collagen production, helping reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Skin Tone Brightening and Evening: By promoting cell turnover, glycolic acid helps even out your skin tone and reduces hyperpigmentation, giving you a brighter, smoother complexion.

Morning or Evening: When to Use Glycolic Acid

The question of when to use glycolic acid—in the morning or evening—is common. While you can use the ingredient at either time, many dermatologists recommend applying it during your evening skincare routine. Here’s why:

  • Sun Sensitivity: AHAs, including glycolic acid, can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Using it in the evening reduces the immediate risk of sun exposure.
  • Skin Repair: Your skin undergoes repair and regeneration while you sleep, making the evening an optimal time to use products that promote cell turnover.

Frequency Matters: Should You Use Glycolic Acid Every Day?

Deciding how often you plan to use glycolic acid is just as important as knowing when to apply it. So, should you use glycolic acid every day? The answer largely depends on your skin type and how it responds to the acid. Here are some guidelines to help you decide:

  • Start Slowly: If you’re new to glycolic acid, start with a lower concentration and use it 2–3 times a week to see how your skin reacts.
  • Monitor Your Skin’s Response: Pay attention to how your skin responds. If you notice irritation, reduce the frequency of use until your skin adjusts.
  • Consult a Dermatologist: If in doubt, consult a dermatologist to get personalized advice based on your skin type and concerns.

Ultimately, everyone has different skin. Some people can use AHAs such as glycolic acid daily and even combine them with other potent skincare ingredients such as retinol or niacinamide. However, your skin may be too sensitive for this.

Crafting Your Routine: Tips for Safe Application

Knowing when to apply glycolic acid is a start, but crafting a routine that incorporates it safely is equally important. Here are some tips to help you do just that:

  • Pair with Sunscreen: If you use it in the morning, follow up with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin. However, it’s always a good idea to use sunscreen, even if you only use glycolic acid at night, because your skin can still be sensitive the next day, and UV radiation from the sun causes premature aging.
  • Hydrate: Follow up with a hydrating moisturizer to nourish your skin and prevent dryness. Because one of the major sources of irritation from glycolic acid is the dry skin it can cause, mitigating this can often prevent peeling and other problems, keeping your skin comfortable.
  • Avoid Mixing with Other Strong Acids: To prevent irritation, avoid using glycolic acid with other strong acids, such as salicylic acid, especially when you’re just starting out.

Tailoring Glycolic Acid to Your Needs

Understanding when to apply glycolic acid is your first step towards reaping its benefits without compromising your skin’s health. Remember, it’s not just about the right time of day but also about the frequency of use and the products you pair it with. Tailor your glycolic acid usage to your skin’s needs, and you’re on your way to a better complexion.

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