What Does Glycolic Acid Do for Skin?

Article Read Duration 7 min read

The range of beneficial skincare ingredients is ever-expanding, but there are a few hero ingredients that should hold a permanent place in your routine. Glycolic acid is one of those – it has uniquely restorative and rejuvenating abilities which are great for a range of skin types.


Whether you’re seeking to eliminate acne-prone skin or hoping to restore hydration back to dry skin, glycolic acid can make a big difference. Its wide-ranging ability is due to its compound structure and compatibility with other skincare products.


To find out what glycolic acid is good for, where it fits in your skincare routine and which ingredients it can be used with, read on.

What is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is a form of AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids). Compared to their oil-soluble BHA (beta-hydroxy acids) counterparts, AHA’s are extracted from plant sources such as sugar canes. Their structure contains smaller molecules which help them to penetrate the deep layers of our skin. This is especially true for glycolic acid – it has the lowest molecular weight out of all AHA’s and is super effective at targeting the layers of skin under the epidermis (our skin’s barrier)


What does glycolic acid do for skin?

Glycolic acid benefits a range of skin types thanks to its ability to permeate the layers of skin. At its core, glycolic acid is an exfoliant. It loosens and breaks apart the bonds of skin cells, which encourages softer textured skin and an increase in skin renewal cycles. This also stimulates our natural production of collagen, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and encouraging firmness in skin


Why use glycolic acid for acne-prone skin?

Because glycolic acid targets a range of skin layers, the acid can also unclog and refine pores, helping to reduce breakouts for those with acne-prone skin. Additionally, glycolic acid contains antibacterial and antioxidant properties, further assisting those with oily and acne-prone skin.


Glycolic acid for blackheads 

Blackheads occur when the pores in our skin become clogged with dead skin cells, oil, dirt and bacteria. When these factors oxidise they turn black, leading to the appearance of small black spots on our face and body. Fortunately, blackheads can be treated with purifying products – including glycolic acid. Glycolic acid breaks apart and dissolves the factors that cause clogging to clear out pores.


Glycolic acid for acne scars

For those who suffer from the lasting effects of breakouts, glycolic acid diminishes acne scars at an impressive rate. Our outer layer of skin holds the glue that keeps acne scars combined, and glycolic acid dissolves this, allowing new cells to emerge in its place. The exfoliative nature of glycolic acid also reduces the raised appearance of scarring, lessening the visibility of scars over time. 


What ingredients work well with glycolic acid?

A good skincare routine includes potent ingredients that work in tandem with each other. Knowing which ingredients layer together well is important in making sure that each of your skincare products are as effective as they can be. Glycolic acid works in unison with a range of beneficial ingredients. By using the following combination of glycolic acid and other ingredients, your skin will look radiant and feel firm and healthy.


Salicylic acid 

Both salicylic and glycolic are acids – but salicylic acid belongs to the BHA family. This means that it is oil-soluble and works to target the surface layer of skin. By using a serum that combines both acids like our Effaclar Salicylic Acid Serum, any imperfections and impurities across both your top and deeper layers of skin will be removed.



All skin types require ingredients that soothe. Niacinamide – a form of Vitamin B3 – reduces inflammation for a clearer complexion. Pairing an exfoliant like glycolic acid with a nourishing ingredient like niacinamide helps to instantly hydrate and replenish new skin. You can find this potent combination in our Effaclar Salicylic Acid Serum, used after cleansing in your morning and evening routine.


Hyaluronic acid

The reason for hyaluronic acid’s popularity is its deeply hydrating ability. Hyaluronic acid holds up to 1000x its own weight in water, helping it to lock moisture into skin. After purifying and exfoliating with glycolic acid, apply hyaluronic acid to enrich skin and keep your fresh face hydrated. The Effaclar Salicylic Acid Serum and Hyalu B5 Serum, which are part of our Effaclar range can be combined to achieve this.



Retinol is one of the most powerful antiaging ingredients in skincare. It has high efficacy in targeting fine lines and wrinkles, as well as motivating an even skin tone. When combined with the collagen boosting effects of glycolic acid, dark spots are reduced and skin is protected against future signs of ageing. Use the Efficlar Salicylic Acid Serum alongside our Retinol B3 Serum in your morning and evening routine.


Other Glycolic Acid Benefits

Alongside its exfoliative ability, glycolic acid has additional benefits that will appear over time with regular use. Glycolic acid can fade hyperpigmentation in skin, and further benefits those with oily and acne-prone skin by reducing pores when used daily. To achieve a natural glow, make sure to add skin renewing ingredients like glycolic acid to your morning and evening regime.


Now you know how beneficial glycolic acid is, read our serums 101 guide.