Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Keep Pores Clear and Skin Smooth with Glycolic Acid

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DeVita High Performance Glycolic Acid Blend - my favorite AHA serum

If I could choose one ingredient that has made the most noticeable difference in my skin, I’d say it was glycolic acid. Prior to using glycolic acid, I always had a rough skin texture with tiny bumps under the skin surface. I also had much larger and darker pores. Regular use of glycolic gave my skin a smooth texture, reduced the number of blocked pores, and made my pores look smaller.

Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that works by loosening the top layer of dead skin cells, which allows the new skin cells underneath to reach the surface. Here are a few of the benefits of glycolic acid:

  • Fades acne scars
  • Fades sun damage/hyperpigmentation spots
  • Keeps flaky dry skin patches away
  • Keeps debris (oil, dead skin cells) from building up in pores, thus reducing the number of blocked pores and the perceived pore size
  • Stimulates collagen and elastin production (what keeps skin smooth and wrinkle-free!)
  • Helps other skin care ingredients penetrate the skin more effectively
  • Helps diminish wrinkles in mature skin by increasing cell turnover
  • Gives skin a soft, smooth texture

While there are other alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) – citric acid, malic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and tartaric acid - I have always had the best results with glycolic acid. Its smaller molecular structure allows it to penetrate the skin more effectively.

When choosing a glycolic acid product, opt for a serum or toner rather than a cleanser. Glycolic acid must stay on the skin and have a certain pH (around 3 is best) in order to work. By mixing a cleanser with water, you raise the pH, rendering the acid useless. A cleanser is also rinsed off too quickly to have much effect. I’ve tried dozens of glycolic products, and here are two I recommend:

DeVita High Performance Glycolic Acid Blend – I’ve been using this product for the last six months, and it has kept my skin very soft and smooth. It has a blend of glycolic and lactic acids. This serum has never irritated me or dried me out (though like all glycolic products, it stings/tingles a little at first). The aloe vera gel base makes the serum soothing, and it is packed with beneficial ingredients such as green tea, allantoin, and panthenol. (Product is pictured above).

MyChelle Fruit Fiesta Peel is a mask that combines glycolic acid with mandelic, malic and tartaric acid. It definitely imparts a smoother, glowy look to skin, and I found it very similar to the raved-about Renee Rouleau Triple Berry Peel, which is over three times the price. 

MyChelle Fruit Fiesta Peel

It is important to use alpha hydroxy acids properly – using a chemical exfoliant every day can actually damage skin in the long run. I recommend using it for 3 or 4 consecutive nights, then break from using it the next 4 days. When you first start using it, you may want to start by using it once a week, then work your way up to using it more often.

It is also VERY important to wear sunscreen if you are exfoliating with AHAs – recently exfoliated skin is more sensitive to UV rays and prone to sun damage. Make sure you are wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 daily.

If you are not used to AHAs, your skin may purge for a few days (meaning, a few break outs), so I would not recommend using AHAs for the very first time right before a big event – give your skin a few weeks to adjust. I have never had any breakouts using AHAs, so purging does not happen to everyone.

I'd love to hear what glycolic products are your favorite!

I have no affiliation with DeVita or MyChelle and purchased the reviewed products myself.



  1. This was an amazing post, I loved all the information you included and agree wholeheartedly! For me personally, salicylic acid tends to work a bit better than glycolic, but I haven't tried one that I was 100% in love with.

    1. I keep trying salicylic b/c it is supposed to exfoliate inside the pore better, since it is oil soluble. But I cannot use it :-( - I think I am allergic. Even using a very low concentration, my face always ends up red, rough, burning, and super oily (from irritation I guess). I think I will do a post on the benefits of salicylic acid also one day, since it does work for others. What is your fave salicylic product?

  2. Hi Ashley, do you know glycolic acid products are safe for breastfeeding women? I know retinoids are not. Let me know if you have any information on this. Thanks!

  3. The two ingredients I know that pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should avoid is salicylic acid and retinol - I just looked it up, and apparently there's a debate on whether glycolic acid is fine or not. It's made of sugar cane, so some doctors say it is fine, other say avoid it just to be extra cautious. I would NOT recommend using a strong glycolic peel (like the ones that are 20% and above) for sure. If you do want to use something, use a product with a very low concentration - Silk Naturals has a lactic acid toner that is only 8% and pretty gentle. The MyChelle mask mentioned above is 7%. And of course, ask your doctor first!! Here's the link to the Silk Naturals toner: http://host.silknaturals.com/creb/8-aha-toner-p-821.html

    The DeVita serum mentioned above is a bit stronger, 10%, so I'd look at the other products first.

  4. Thank you so much for the feedback Ashley! It's really hard to find good products to use while bf.

  5. Hey Ash!
    I think this is an awesome post with so much detail! I think it's great you found a product that works so well for you, though I have never really understood what the difference is between AHA and BHA products. If BHA gets into the pores AND has an anti-inflammatory, then what does the AHA do? For me, I use a 2% BHA (paula's choice) a few times a week on my nose, and then, twice a week I exfoliate with Murad's AHA/BHA cleanser. I love that! Once a week I use Paula's Choice 10% AHA, and I DO feel that while it doesn't really do anything for my pores, it makes my skin feel sooo soft the next day...
    Keep these skin reviews coming, I love them! :)

    1. Yes, BHA is supposed to exfoliate within the pore, but I think I am allergic to it (or just very sensitive), so I can't use it. I did try that Paula's Choice BHA toner, but it also caused a reaction. Glad it works for you! AHAs I think are better for giving skin a soft texture, clarity, and glow, while BHA is supposed to keep acne at bay. AHAs do keep my pores clear, just because it keeps my skin free from any dead skin cell buildup I suppose. Thanks Nadia - I am going to keep posting reviews :)


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