When you’re in the market for an exfoliator, you may have trouble choosing between salicylic acid and glycolic acid. Both of these components are found in many skin care products, particularly skin tones, facial cleansers, and serums.
What does glycolic and salicylic acid do? They are skin exfoliators that help prevent acne and diminish the presence of acne on your skin once it’s there.
However, they are different from one another in some keyways, and we are going to talk about what they do and what sets them apart from one another.
There are certain advantages and disadvantages to using each one, and we will cover those for you so that you can make a more informed decision.
What Is the Difference between Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid?
Let’s look briefly at what glycolic acid and salicylic acid do, sharing their differences and similarities.
Glycolic acid comes from sugar cane naturally, but it can be man-made as well. Because the glycolic acid molecule is so tiny, it permeates the skin easily, being absorbed by your skin quickly. This acid molecule helps your skin to keep moisture in and then exfoliates by pushing off the dead skin cells that may be hanging around on your epidermis. This makes it easy for new skin cells to grow and flourish.
One of the benefits of this skincare component is that it helps keep out UV radiation. It can protect your skin from some of the harmful rays of the sun. It’s also really good for bringing inflammation down and treating acne breakouts by fighting against acne caused by bacteria.
As a de-ager and skin toner, it can help reduce the appearance of skin spots and hyperpigmentation. It could also brighten your skin, lightning it by evening out the skin tone. It helps to cover up the appearance of pores and make your skin firmer as well. You can have some idea then how nicely it works to de-age your skin.
There are some potentially negative side effects with using glycolic acid. If a product has high glycolic acid concentrations of above 10%, it may cause skin irritation. Even in small amounts, glycolic acid can increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and sun damage.
Salicylic acid comes from wintergreen leaves and willow bark, but like glycolic acid, it can be manufactured artificially.
It’s a good exfoliator as well, and it helps to open up and cleanse your pores by reducing the production of sebum in the body and cutting down on excess sebum oil production. On top of that, salicylic acid fights microbes and inflammation. Like glycolic acid, salicylic acid is really good at treating acne and preventing it from forming.
There is potential for salicylic acid to cause an allergic reaction, but this is very rare.
When to Use Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid Together
There are times when you might want to use both of them together and experience their dual benefits. You can layer cleansing acids on your skin for a more powerful exfoliation treatment. They both work well for acne, so you can use products that contain these ingredients as part of your acne treatment routine.
You may want to use multiple products for more comprehensive treatment to both prevent the growth of new acne and reduce the appearance of existing acne.
How to use salicylic acid and glycolic acid together? You may want to use salicylic acid cleanser and then a toner with glycolic acid to treat skin that is shiny and oily.
You should only use them in tandem when it makes sense, and because they offer a lot of the same benefits, there may not always be much sense in combining products that contain these two components.
What Is the Difference between Glycolic and Salicylic Acid?
We’ve looked at some of the details of each of these two acids. However, you should understand when to use one or the other for their particular benefits.
In general, salicylic acid is best for skin that is oily or that is suffering from acne or spots. It’s really good at treating blackheads and dealing with hyperpigmentation. clear skin that suffers from these kinds of conditions is better treated with salicylic acid than glycolic acid. On the other hand, glycolic acid is a better choice for dry skin that may be dehydrated or in need of nourishment. It’s also better for combination skin.
This is really the key difference between these two acids. They both offer many of the same benefits, but they don’t work equally as well on the same kind of skin and the same skin problems.
How to Use Glycolic and Salicylic Acid in a Chemical Peel
You can use a chemical peel to get rid of the dead skin cells that are hanging out on your skin. You might not even realize they’re there because they could comprise most of your epidermal or outer layer of skin.
However, dead skin cells can make your skin look dry, dull, and lifeless. Once that outer layer of dead skin cells is peeled away using a chemical peel, your skin can appear brighter, shinier, and full of life.
If you use a chemical peel properly, you can give your skin a more even, natural tone and get rid of dead skin cells that keep new skin cells from growing like they should.
How to use glycolic acid and salicylic acid together in a chemical peel? You may want to use them separately for this process. Glycolic acid gets into your skin really fast, helping with exfoliation and ensuring that your skin stays really moist. Remember the glycolic acid molecules are super small, so they penetrate the skin fast and easy.
If you’re using a chemical peel treatment with salicylic acid, your skin can dry out. In other words, you may not want to use it if you already have dry skin. It can have the same effect or a similar effect on combination skin as well. The problem with using salicylic acid in a chemical peel is that it can get rid of too much of the sebum in your skin, which is actually used to make your skin shiny and naturally oily.
So, if you have a chemical peel with salicylic acid, it’s best to save that oily skin treatment. Those with dry or combination skin should stick with a chemical peel that contains glycolyl acid.
Treating Acne with Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid
There are benefits to using products with either one of these acids in them for treating acne. However, there is a clear winner here when it comes to choosing one acid over another for treating acne.
Salicylic acid fights acne by reducing the amount of sebum oil the skin produces. That’s really important in the fight against acne, as it not only reduces the presence of acne on the skin, making it less visible and severe, but it also prevents acne from even forming. That gives you a lot less work to do in handling acne outbreaks.
The sebum oil can block up your pores, making it easy for dirt and oil to get stuck there and then acne pustules to form. If you have too much sebum being produced by your skin, then you will likely suffer from bacterial growth that leads to acne outbreaks.
Remember that salicylic acid is used in exfoliators and skin cleansers, and these products can really help to treat acne and improve the health of your skin so that acne is less likely to flourish. These products can remove dead skin cells that block pores and reduce inflammation in the skin. They can also kill microbes through their antimicrobial properties.
Glycolic acid-based acne treatments can work as well, but someone who has acne will likely have oily skin, and like we said, glycolic acid is better saved for people who have combination or dry skin. Oily, acne prone skin can be treated best with a salicylic-based product to stop a lot of the acne issues at their source.
Keep in mind that bad acne is the result of underlying skin issues, and you will need treat them at the root to keep acne from forming and from spreading as easily. With the right product, you can get it under control, but using the wrong kind of acne treatment for your skin type can be unwise.
It’s important to understand how different skin treatments will affect you. Whenever you are using a skincare product, be sure to follow the directions and recommendations listed on the packaging. Those can save you a lot of problems later on, advising you how to use the product and when it would be best to use something else.
Also make sure that you are using products that are ideal for your skin type. As you can see, these two acids have their pros and cons, and they also work with specific skin types.
I’m Jennifer a beauty and wellness expert. I believe in promoting a sustainable and healthy lifestyle from within. Helping people feel good is my passion; whether it’s teaching yoga or offering skincare advice.