glycolic acid for skin

It’s no secret that we love acids. One of the most tried-and-true acids to date, glycolic, is a serious AHA that not only exfoliates, but also helps smooth the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s an effective solution for many skin concerns and is heavily researched. Read on to learn all about glycolic acid for skin and what sets our range of glycolic products apart from the rest.


Glycolic acid can be isolated from high sugar plants and fruits such as sugarcane, sugar beets, and pineapple. It is the smallest of the alpha hydroxy acids, often referred to as fruit acids, weighing in around 76 Daltons. It is a keratolytic agent and at concentrations as low as 2-5% weakens the corneodesmosomes, connections between the skin cells in the stratum corneum, to increase desquamation.1 A study using 4% glycolic acid revealed that the breakdown of the “glue” between skin cells only occurred at the uppermost layers of the stratum corneum, leaving the lower layers intact and not disrupting the skin’s barrier. This means that, although the upper dead layers of skin are sloughed off, glycolic acid does not increase transepidermal water loss or negatively impact the skin’s natural barrier function, when used at low or moderate levels. This smart acid helps rid the skin of dead skin cells and uneven layers to create a more compact, even textured, and even toned complexion without drying out the skin. This keratolytic property is pH dependent. Glycolic acid has a pKa of 3.83 so below a pH of 3.83 more than 50% of the glycolic acid species is in its biologically active form while the remainder is its ionized form that does not penetrate the skin due to its charge. The lower the pH, the more unionized glycolic acid species and the greater the penetration. However, too low a pH results in skin irritation, erythema, and increased photosensitivity. Irritation and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation from glycolic acid depends on the concentration, pH, and formula as a whole.

Due to its small molecular weight, glycolic acid works not only on the stratum corneum but also penetrates the epidermal and dermal layers, thus providing a biological effect. It is well known for its skin rejuvenation benefits, especially for photodamaged skin. It helps remodel the skin, increasing production of collagen and hyaluronic acid in the epidermis and dermis while increasing epidermal thickness.2 Skin is more firm and elastic as the skin plumps from within. Glycolic acid also targets hyperpigmentation, melasma, and skin discolorations twofold. First, its pH dependently increases desquamation to even pigment distribution. Secondly, it acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor reducing melanin production independent of the final formula pH.3 Glycolic acid is good for treating and preventing skin congestion. It exhibits antibacterial properties when formulated below pH 4.0 disrupting C. acnes cell membranes.4 Its antibacterial properties coupled with its keratolytic benefits make glycolic acid a favorable treatment in mild skin congestion and breakouts. Using an acid such as glycolic acid also helps maintain the skin's natural acid mantle and optimize enzymatic processes that keep your skin healthy, vibrant, and luminous. In summary, glycolic acid helps restore skin elasticity and vitality, fades spots and imperfections, evens skin texture and tone, enhances skin radiance, and improves fine lines and wrinkles.

The Naturium Difference

Our Glycolic Acid Resurfacing Gel 10% features a highly purified glycolic acid free of formaldehyde. Typical glycolic acid production leaves residual amounts of formaldehyde in the glycolic acid raw material; however, our glycolic acid is produced through a proprietary process and purification step that offers glycolic acid free of formaldehyde. Our glycolic acid product caters to both oily and dry skin targeting skin congestion, fine lines, loss of elasticity, and skin dullness.

Glycolic Acid Resurfacing Gel 10%: Our potent 10% dose is paired with skin softening and radiance enhancing fruit acids naturally rich in AHAs and phytonutrients. This bioactive fruit acid blend gently exfoliates to tone and nourish complexion while rating higher on the therapeutic index than glycolic and lactic acid. Due to its great skin penetration apply once or twice a week and slowly build up tolerance to more frequent use. Always wear sunscreen.

So, whether you hope to treat photodamage, minimize breakouts, or even out your skin tone, don’t hesitate to try glycolic acid. There is a reason it’s the most popular AHA after all.


Lab Journals are intended to help educate on specific ingredients and skin care topics. Our articles are written to be informative and informational.
Please note any Naturium products with referenced ingredients are formulated for Cosmetic Use Only and NOT intended as replacements for physician pharmaceutical product recommendations.


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Glycolic Acid Resurfacing Gel 10%


3.0 FL OZ / 88.7 MLOur AHA exfoliating gel is formulated with 10% high-purity glycolic and natural fruit acids that resurface skin to improve the l...

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