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Glycolic Acid For Acne Scars - Does It Work?

February 05, 2021

banish pumpkin enzyme masque with glycolic acid

What makes  glycolic acid a well-known skincare ingredient? How does it work for our acne scars ? Is it good for everyone to try?  We have so many questions popping into our mind when we hear the word "glycolic acid" and its benefits on our skin.  

Did you know that glycolic acid has plenty of skin renewing benefits and can work in conjuction with your other skin care products? 

We'll explain the benefits of glycolic acid in skincare, and why it's a great ingredient for reducing acne scars

How Does Glycolic Acid Work?

Glycolic acid is a well-known acne fighting ingredient for its ability to combat active acne breakouts and reducing acne scarring - mainly when it is in the form of hyperpigmentation or discoloration.  Professional treatments with Glycolic acid may reduce atrophic acne scars too ( which are the indented acne scars )  if applied in by a progressional with a medical strength peel at high concentration.

It is known for its exfoliating ability to loosen the glue that holds the skin’s cells together so it allows for the uppermost layer of skin to shed faster, leading to a brighter, more even toned skin underneath.

According to Loretta Ciraldo, a board certified dermatologist,  glycolic acid has been known to be the most popular and widely studied type of alpha hydroxy acid. It is derived from sugar cane and belongs to the alpha hydroxy acid family, along with lactic and malic acids. This type of acid can easily penetrate into the skin and is a very small sized molecule. 

Because glycolic acid molecules are so small, it makes it an ideal ingredient to get inside the pores of skin to break down sebum.

Benefits Of Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid works by exfoliating skin to reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation, and fine lines. Using glycolic acid regularly can be very effective in reducing acne scarring especially if one has hyperpigmentation.  

Glycolic acid is known as a chemical exfoliator in the alpha hydroxy acid category.  Glycolic acid also has anti inflammatory properties due to it's ability to inhibit p. acnes bacteria on the skin.  

Glycolic acid can usually be found in products formulated for weekly use, but more gentle daily use concentrations can be found too. 

High strength glycolic acid peels can also reduce atrphopic acne scarring. 

How To Use Glycolic Acid

If you’re clueless on how to use glycolic acid for acne scars, don’t fret. Here’s how you can use this type of alpha hydroxy acid:

  1. Start small with skincare formulated with glycolic acid–  Using skincare products that include glycolic acid are a great way to exfoliate skin. You'll get the benefits of reducing hyperpigmentation and opening up clogged pores.   We recommend the Pumpkin Enzyme Masque - made with glycolic acid, and pumpkin fruit has natural enzymes which act as an AHA.
  2. Don’t try to do high strength chemical peels yourself– Never ever use medical strength glycolic acid on your skin. Since higher concentrations can quickly go through several layers of skin and leave a chemical burn. It’s a wise choice to consult with your dermatologist first for recommendation and right dosage to avoid the side effects of the glycolic acid from taking its toll on your skin.
  3. Be patient– You know what they say, patience is a virtue – and it applies too when it comes to waiting for results to show. Use a product with glycolic acid regularly for at least a month to give yourself enough time to see results.
  4. Don’t forget your sunscreen– Glycolic acid removes the uppermost layer of skin, so this makes our skin susceptible to UV sun damage. Don’t forget to put on sunscreen everyday, when if it is cloudy or overcast and you may want to wear sunscreen indoors too. UVA and UVB rays can also affect the skin when it hits our skin through windows.

Side Effects From Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid can be used as long as the skin can tolerate it, and most people are able to tolerate glycolic acid, but be careful of these side effects and limitation.

The higher the concentration of glycolic acid, the more irritation it can potentially cause. 

A highly concentrated glycolic acid at 20% or higher can possibly irritate sensitive skin and can trigger inflammation.  Those with pigmented skin could have a reaction where there is an increase in hyperpigmentation when using high strength peels, so it's best to consult with the dermatologist first.

Those with very sensitive skin or with rosacea may find glycolic acid to be too irritating, however they may tolerate a low concentration of it. 

Glycolic acid may be an effective treatment foracne scars, but self-medicating your acne scars with this type of acid is never a wise choice. 



1. Sources Chemical Peels for Acne and Acne Scars In Asians: Evidence Based Review:

2. International Journal Of Dermatology: Biweekly serial glycolic acid peels vs. long-term daily use of topical low-strength glycolic acid in the treatment of atrophic acne scars

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