Don’t fear the word acid
While the word acid can sound scary, the reality is that many acids are beneficial for skincare, and, when used correctly, can boost the overall appearance and skin health. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), a water-soluble component that works to dissolve dead skin and oils from the surface of the face. Meanwhile, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that is oil-soluble and can deeply penetrate pores to remove dead skin cells and sebum.
Where glycolic acid shines
For individuals seeking a smoother, softer face, glycolic acid is a smart item to include in a regular skincare routine. Because this AHA works to gently remove dead skin cells from the surface, the results are nearly instant. Along with clearing away dead skin, AHAs can help to boost cellular turnover and even reduce the appearance of mild hyperpigmentation, fine lines, surface wrinkles, uneven skin tone, and even pores.
Where salicylic acid shines
Because salicylic acid is a BHA that can offer a deeper clean, the ingredient is usually recommended for individuals fighting acne or even sun damage. BHAs are incredibly effective at removing excess oil and unclogging pores. As a result, salicylic acid is usually recommended for people with combination or oily skin.
While both AHAs and BHAs like glycolic acid and salicylic acid can be beneficial, moderation is important. Both acids can be harmful to the skin and the natural moisture barrier if used too frequently or in high concentrations. Most experts agree that slowly integrating hydroxy acids into a routine is the best way to determine the skin’s tolerance. With AHAs, experts recommend not exceeding a 10-15% concentration of glycolic acid. Meanwhile, because BHAs work under the skin’s surface, stick to a 0.5-5% concentration of salicylic acid.
A word of caution on combining AHAs and BHAs
Although both AHAs and BHAs can work to improve the look of skin, some people may find that attempting to layer both glycolic and salicylic acid together during a single skincare session can be too intense. Consider using one form in the morning and another at night or alternating days.
Here’s to better skin
Creating an effective skincare routine that yields optimal results can take some time to fine-tune. While glycolic and salicylic acid are powerhouse active ingredients, both should be used with care and in moderation to avoid unwanted side effects. Just remember that glycolic acid only focuses on surface removal of dead skin cells while salicylic acid is ideal for deep cleaning the pores.