Everything you need to know about glycolic acid toners: What it is, its benefits, functions, and more

Everything you need to know about glycolic acid toners: What it is, its benefits, functions, and more

Pat it in

Text: Jeway Tan

Editor: Emily Heng

Image: Instagram | @saturdayskin

Whether you're a beauty novice or a skincare savant, we trust you've heard these words uttered on numerous occasions: glycolic acid. This potent skincare ingredient has been garnering a fair bit of attention as of late; a favourite among dermatologists and experts thanks to its vast list of benefits. The most popular variant remains to be toner, a mainstay in TikTok videos and YouTube mentions. And while that might be well and good, one can't help but wonder: does it really benefit my skin in any way? Is it suitable for my complexion? How frequent should I be dousing my mien in it? Lucky for you, we've done the legwork and answered all your burning questions, below. Get those notepads out — skin school is in session.

So, what is glycolic acid, and how does it work?

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (or AHA as you may have known it by). It is an organic, carbon-containing molecule that's derived from sugar cane and fruits. Out of all the AHAs, glycolic is the smallest and has the lowest molecule weight. It also has the simplest structure out of all the AHAs. The low molecule weight allows more effective penetration into the skin. Because of that low weight, the acid can also go deeper into your skin to deliver the most benefits.

Glycolic acids work by separating the connection between your outer skin and dead skin cells, aka  keratinocytes. Its primary function is to gently promote the exfoliation of your skin without using the rough techniques of physical exfoliation.

What are the benefits of glycolic acid?

Some of the benefits of using glycolic acids are: calming inflamed skin, banishing acne, minimising the appearance of extended pores, as well as providing gentle exfoliation. Phew. Not forgetting, of course, that it helps stimulate the production of collagen. This, thus, reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines in the long-run.

Who can use it?

As with anything, glycolic acid is not suitable for everyone. For people with dry and highly sensitive skin, this is not the skincare ingredient you're looking. Using glycolic acid may most likely cause irritation to your skin no matter what form of product it is in. Glycolic acid is ideal for people with normal, combination or oily skin. It is even safe for use when pregnant or breastfeeding, unlike BHAs and retinol. If you have broken or peeling skin, though, it is recommend you hold off until your skin recovers.

Are there any troubling side effects?

Nothing serious, but there have been instances of the ingredient being utilised wrongly, which led to burns and scarring. A slight tingling sensation is normal, but should the sensation worsen, it is recommended you wash your face immediately and cease usage of the product. It is also known to increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, so it is essential to apply sunscreen to prevent sunburn once you've added this baby to your regime.

What is the best way to use a glycolic acid toner?

If you plan to give this ingredient a try, make sure you check the percentage the product's concentration. After cleansing your skin, use either your fingers or a cotton pad to apply it all over your face and neck. Don't rinse it off — simply proceed with your regular skincare routine. Remember to avoid the eye area and lips as they are more sensitive and prone to irritation. In the likelihood that you do, rinse it immediately. If irritation happens or continues, consult your doctor immediately. Do not use any other AHAs or BHAs product on the same day you have used your glycolic product. If you feel the need to use a combination, alternate the treatment days.

Here are some of the top-rated and well-loved products we have collated for you to make your search for your toner a breeze.


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