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Find out what Glycolic Acid is & its benefits for the skin

Discover all you need to know about Glycolic Acid and its benefits for the skin. Read on to find out how to best incorporate Glycolic Acid into your skincare routine.


Glycolic Acid is an Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (or AHA) which is water-soluble and is derived from plants and other natural resources such as fruit, sugarcane and milk. AHA’s are used in all types of beauty products such as cleansers, toners or exfoliators. One of the Glycolic Acid benefits is that it has the smallest molecule size out of all other AHA’s meaning it is easy for the skin to absorb. In its pure form, Glycolic Acid is odourless and colourless.


Glycolic Acid can help with many skin concerns and is very effective due to its small molecule size. It is the most powerful of all AHA’s, therefore must be used with care as it can irritate the skin if used incorrectly.
What does Glycolic Acid do?

What is Glycolic Acid used for in skincare?

Glycolic Acid is most commonly used as an exfoliant in skincare. It helps clear the dead skin cells to uplift the brighter skin layers underneath. Unlike other exfoliants such as face scrubs, Glycolic Acid does not require harsh scrubbing due to its ability to penetrate the skin.

It is also a humectant meaning that it attracts and binds water to skin cells; this can help anti-ageing and wrinkles as it plumps your skin. Glycolic Acid also can boost Collagen production as well as Hyaluronic Acid within the skin. 

What does Glycolic Acid do?

Is Glycolic acid suitable for all skin types?

Glycolic acid is most effective when used on normal, combination and oily skin, however, if your skin is considered more sensitive or dry it is recommended to be more cautious when using this product. 

It is also important to note that due to Glycolic acid effectively peeling away the top layers of old skin, it is important to note that this leaves your skin more vulnerable to external forces such as the weather. If there are strong UV rays it is important to be careful with the youthful layers of skin in the sun, similar to any harsh weather conditions. 

What does Glycolic Acid do?

Glycolic Acid Benefits

Due to the properties previously mentioned there are many Glycolic Acid benefits for the skin if used effectively:

1. Acne

Due to the exfoliating effect of Glycolic Acid, it can help reduce acne breakouts. The peeling of the skin leads to less gunk build-up as it clears the pores through the peeling process leading to fewer breakouts. Glycolic Acid can also help acne-prone skin by creating a skin barrier that locks moisture in rather than drying out the skin which is very common for anti-acne products. 

2. Hyperpigmentation & Sun damage

Glycolic acid is an effective solution for hyperpigmentation, sunburn and melasma, all of which are caused by harmful exposure to UV rays. Glycolic Acid is high in antioxidants which aid in the healing of UV damage & lighten dark spots. This is due to it’s exfoliating properties in which it unsticks the old damaged skin cells to reveal the youthful skin beneath. 

3. Reduce Wrinkles

These impressive exfoliating properties help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, it is important to note that this does not get rid of wrinkles. Glycolic Acid also boosts collagen production which helps with reducing the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles. 

4. Ingrown Hairs

As ingrown hairs form through the hair not being able to penetrate the surface of the skin, exfoliating the skin helps let the hairs come to the surface as it removes that surface layer of dead skin. This can be further assisted by flushing the skin of gunk & oil.


As both Glycolic Acid and Retinol are considered to be two of the most important ingredients when it comes to slowing down the signs of ageing, it is, therefore it is commonly asked if you can use Glycolic Acid with Retinol to gain all the benefits.


In short, yes you can, however not simultaneously, this is a rather extreme skincare solution that can lead to irritated skin. You should start by using Glycolic Acid once a week.

As NIVEA care for your skin it is important to note again that Glycolic acid for skin should not be used simultaneously with other solutions such as Retinol or Vitamin A. If you plan on using both, do so alternately, also consult your dermatologist before doing so. 

Woman checking her skin


You should start with a Glycolic Acid product with a 10% or less concentration. Anything over can cause severe irritation for your skin; anything over 20% is not advised to be used at home. 
How to use Glycolic Acid & add it to your skincare routine

How to use Glycolic Acid

Before you apply Glycolic Acid you need to ensure your skin is free of any open cuts or sores. Start by washing your face with a mild cleanser or toner to remove any grease or oils and apply the Glycolic Acid solution to a cotton pad. Apply the solution gently to your face, and avoid sensitive areas such as eyes, nostrils or lips. If you find that Glycolic Acid reacts badly with your skin or spills into one of the sensitive areas mentioned, you should apply the affected area with a regular saline solution. The reaction expected is that after 3-5 minutes the applied area will start to turn red. You should rinse the treated area with water or a neutralising solution on a cloth.

How to use glycolic Acid & add it to your skincare routine

When to use Glycolic acid

Apply Glycolic Acid before you go to bed if possible as Glycolic Acid increases the skin's sensitivity to sunlight. Night-time application will give you time for your skin to heal overnight. If this is not possible, you should take precautions with an SPF moisturiser if you are going to be outside, regardless of the weather.

How to use glycolic Acid & add it to your skincare routine

How often to use Glycolic acid

NIVEA offers a range of products that utilise the benefits of Glycolic Acid, including the NIVEA Derma Skin Clear Chemical Exfoliator, which offers all of the benefits of Glycolic acid, Salicylic Acid & Niacinamide.

As NIVEA care for your skin it is important to note again that Glycolic acid for skin should not be used simultaneously with other solutions such as Retinol or Vitamin A. If you plan on using both, do so alternately, also consult your dermatologist before doing so.