GLYCOLIC ACID. Friend or foe?

It’s the go-to ‘anti-ageing’ ingredient to reveal smoother, younger, brighter skin cells. BUT did you know that Glycolic is also used as an industrial-strength chemical cleaner? Did you know that Glycolic Acid produced on mass-scale is synthesised from formaldehyde?! Is it possible that we’ve now overdosed on this active, and in the process caused irreparable damage to the health of the skin? Have we become addicted to Glycolic? (In a word, YES!!!)

We are addicted to that silky, baby smooth feeling that AHAs, like Glycolic Acid, leave behind. ‘Instant Gratification’ is now entrenched in our culture, and let’s face it, Glycolic Acid is a quick fix!

It’s found in everything from professional peeling solutions to serums, from cleansers to toners, from masks to moisturisers – name a skincare brand, and chances are it uses Glycolic Acid!


Before we get to the punch line, let’s look at why Glycolic Acid has been ‘heroed’ for the past 3 decades…..

  • Brilliant exfoliant
  • Brightening action
  • Softens lines and wrinkles
  • Decrease scar tissue, melasma

(Sounds pretty good hey!) But before we go reaching for a Glycolic Serum, let’s first look at the side effects….

  • Temporary or long lasting redness
  • Stinging/burning
  • Peeling, flaking
  • Dryness
  • Pigmentation
  • Impaired barrier function…. hmmmmm, not so great

The reality is, that there are no long-term benefits to using Glycolic Acid.

In fact, these side effects can lead to an acceleration of the ageing process through impaired barrier function and inflammation, not to mention increased sensitivity to the environment.

So….. Is there a better way you ask – ABSOLUTELY!


Given the advancement in professional strength skin care ingredients, there are far superior raw materials out there that can have the perfect anti-ageing effect, without the side effects that Glycolic Acid has.

Here’s the deal:

  • Use GA only as prescribed by a specialist professional
  • Use GA only in synergy with other acids which can buffer eachother
  • Use sparingly, with caution, and at low concentrations
  • Rather incorporate fruit enzymes for a non-irritating, yet very effective exfoliation (Skinfaktor’s Enzyme Exfoliant is a MUST HAVE)
  • DON’T BUY GLYCOLIC PEELS ONLINE & DIY- it’s low quality, often unbuffered and extremely irritating on the skin
  • IF YOU FEEL DRY, DON’T — USE GLYCOLIC ACID – it will only dry out your skin more

And remember the golden rule when it comes to AHAs – KNOW YOUR pH. Be sure to ask what the pH of your AHA product is, to determine the TRUE STRENGTH 🙂

Mind your A.

Firstly, let’s start by saying that this article may challenge popular belief. Vitamin A, Retinyl Palmitate, Retinol, Retinoic Acid – these are ingredients that have been hailed as the anti-ageing miracle workers in skin care. Known, and published, for their ability to encourage healthy cell renewal, collagen production, reduce wrinkles, it’s no wonder that many product companies have formulated with these little heroes to claim skin transformation benefit.

Now we all know that not all A’s are created equally – some are more stable/less volatile/less active than others, but the long and the short of it is, that we are seeing a wave of increased sensitivity, resultant from the level of actives our customers are using on their skin.

In January 2018, Professional Beauty Magazine published an article where Dr. Ronald Moy states “There is little scientific evidence that topically applied vitamin A actually improves skin health very much. Big pharma is largely behind the popular belief, although most of the original evidence was based on a study of just 17 people over 12 weeks, which showed that the patients got small benefits (and irritated skin).”

Too much (and too often) Vitamin A, just like we’ve seen in earlier years with glycolic acid, causes a dangerously thin epidermis, reduced ability to heal, reduced capacity to house moisture (cue a dramatic increase in dehydration) and redness – sensitisation, prolonged erythema, irritation – all factors that lead inevitably to premature ageing, hyper pigmentation and sometimes, rosacea.

So, in our quest for the eternal fountain of youth, are we in fact catalysing skin ageing
with certain actives?

Ingredients have come a long way. Each year, hundreds of new complexes and molecules become available, after years and years of research and case studies. Vitamin A therefore, whilst not strictly ‘enemy of the skin’, has in fact been pushed off its pedestal to make way for hero peptides and skin nutrients that focus firstly on skin strength, hydration and cellular communication to ensure a healthy breeding ground for collagen regeneration, cell birth and skin maintenance.

It needs to be mentioned here that the FDA in the USA has been trying to ban topical application of Vitamin A over the counter for its documented increased risk of skin cancer when used on a lesion or wound. This follows several therapeutic studies cited by the FDA in their lobbying of Congress. The big tip here is never use Vitamin A in conjunction with needling.

Just as the body requires a delicate balance of nutrients to perform at peak, so too does our major organ of protection. Any over powering ingredient therefore can disturb the unique equilibrium of the skin, resulting in cell weakness and malfunction, impaired barrier and undesired skin conditions.

At SKINFAKTOR, it has always been our number one priority to consider the effects (good and bad) of the collective ingredient diet you feed the skin – daily, weekly, monthly.

In successful skin and age management planning, the ideal is to build balanced skin care products that not only stimulate skin processes but restore balance, ensuring optimal functioning of this protective organ. And this right here, is what we at SKINFAKTOR are all about!