What Is Glycolic Acid and Why Do I Need It?

You’ve heard of it, you may even be scared to introduce it into your skincare regimen. The word acid automatically makes you nervous, but the truth is almost anyone can use glycolic acid. So, what is it?

Originally, glycolic acid was a totally natural ingredient derived from sugar cane. Today, however, manufacturers often make it synthetically. Regardless of the manufacturing method, glycolic acid falls into the category of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). These acids come in five different types:

  1. Glycolic acid, from sugar cane

  2. Lactic acid, from milk

  3. Citric acid, from oranges and lemons

  4. Malic acid, from apples and pears

  5. Tartaric acids, from grapes

While all of the above acids are effective at exfoliating the skin’s cells, glycolic acid contains the smallest molecules of all the AHAs. What separates it from the other alpha hydroxy acids is its small molecular size that allows it to penetrate deeper into the skin to target your complexion concerns — whether it’s congested pores, blemishes, fine lines, uneven tone, or rough texture — and deliver more noticeable results.

Since glycolic acid sloughs off the top layer of the skin by actually destroying the bonds between old skin cells, it can help fade and even pigmentation, brown spots, and melasma. Additionally, it stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, the keys to firm, youthful skin.

Using an at-home wash like Mario Badescu glycolic foaming wash will help with gentle exfoliation. If you want to see even more drastic results, a glycolic acid peel, like Cane and Austin Peel Pads will improve tone, renew skin, and fight fine lines on a daily basis. Because the product is so effective at sloughing off the top layer of skin cells, this can cause increased photosensitivity, so it’s important to wear sunscreen every day. Whatever you decide, make sure to introduce glycolic acid at a low concentration and work your way up to higher concentrations for even greater results.


  • The latest from Angela
I have been a beauty junkie for what seems like forever, but before I did anything about it, I went to law school. (Yes, my life is a little like the reverse of Legally Blonde.) Then, I worked as a prosecutor in Sonoma County after which I moved to the DC area with my husband in ’97. I served as Majority Counsel to the Senate Banking Committee followed by a year-long stint at a lobbying firm. You get the picture. It was then that I decided to act on my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Finding my favorite beauty products proved to be impossible without stepping foot in a mall–the horror. So, I decided to bring my favorites to Alexandria. A few trips to New York and a flight to France and Bellacara was born in March 2000.

Located in historic Old Town Alexandria, for more than 17 years Bellacara has been Northern Virginia's preeminent boutique for high end cosmetic, skincare and haircare products. At Bellacara you will find premiere beauty products that have been carefully edited by the store’s owner, Angela Sitilides, who personally tests all the products sold in store. The boutique carries only the best product lines – Kiehl’s, Jouer, Dr. Dennis Gross, Christophe Robin, Moroccan Oil, Bumble & Bumble, Fresh, Molton Brown, Skinceuticals, Smashbox, Stila, Mario Badescu, Clarins, Dermalogica, Kevyn Aucoin, Kai, Child, St. Tropez, Smith and Cult, and many more.


1000 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314


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