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What is Glycolic Acid & What Does it Do?

Learn all about this incredible ingredient for radiant skin.

If you’re missing that “glycolic acid glow” from a professional facial, but not ready to return to the spa, you’re probably wanting to take exfoliation into your own hands. But, before you try glycolic acid at home, it’s critical to know what you’re putting on your skin. What is glycolic acid? What is it good for? And what are the best glycolic acid treatments out there?


To get our questions answered, we went to a expert and pioneer in the use of glycolic acid: dermatologist and pharmacist Dr. Murad. Skincare fact: he was one of the first in the 1980s to use glycolic acid in his Beverly Hills-based dermatology practice for significant and measurable results on the skin without surgery. Read on for everything you need to know about this incredible skin-renewing ingredient, as well as tips on how to make it work for your skin.


What is glycolic acid and what does it do?
“Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that exfoliates by loosening the glue that binds dulling dead cells to skin’s surface. Once loosened, dead skin cells are easily lifted away so newer, fresher cells can rise to the surface,” says Dr. Murad. Glycolic acid also delivers uniform exfoliation on skin’s outermost layers without compromising the skin's barrier.


What are the benefits of glycolic acid?
“The main benefit of AHAs is their ability to exfoliate dry, ageing, and sun damaged skin,” says Dr. Murad. Through the exfoliation process, glycolic acid lifts away rough, dull skin and surface dark spots to reveal brighter skin with more even tone.


Is more exfoliation better?
Not necessarily. “Exfoliation helps our skin renew at a faster rate, like it does when we’re younger. But, aggressive exfoliation isn’t healthy, and our skin tells us so by turning red, dry and overly sensitive.” It’s best to mimic the natural cell renewal process of younger skin to achieve youthful smoothness and vibrancy.


How can I use glycolic acid at home?
The best way to use glycolic acid at home is slowly and gently. When it comes to your skin, aggressive isn’t always better; rather, a controlled and consistent approach to exfoliation can yield better results without compromising your skin’s health.


If you’re new to glycolic acid, our best-selling AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser combines glycolic acid with lactic and salicylic acids (plus biodegradable exfoliating jojoba beads) to boost cell turnover for smoother, youthful-looking skin. And, it comes in the convenience of a cleanser so you can exfoliate and cleanse in one step. It’s designed to be used 2-3 times a week so you can still use your favourite cleanser as you wish.


If your skin is familiar with glycolic acid, you’ll love Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel. This daily bi-phase peel with glycolic acid accelerates cell renewal by 33% in 7 days while nourishing skin to prevent dryness and reduce irritation. Simply shake, dispense on a cotton pad, and sweep over skin – don't rinse!


Glycolic acid isn’t limited to exfoliation products. A daily use glycolic acid serum can also be incredibly effective at neutralising frustrating dark spots and uneven tone—especially when combined with a super potent vitamin C. Murad’s Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum is powered by glycolic acid to simultaneously resurface and remove dead, dulling surface cells to reveal more radiant skin and help our unique, gold-stabilised vitamin C penetrate skin more effectively.


The Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum claims prove it: 83% of users of Murad’s Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum saw brighter, more radiant skin after just 4 weeks.


If you’re still curious about how to answer the question, “What is glycolic acid?” or have questions about how to use glycolic acid at home, it’s time to speak to an expert. Book your free, virtual skincare consultation with a Murad skincare expert today! They’re ready to talk to you about your skincare needs, and expertly trained to prescribe a glycolic acid product that’s right for your skin.

Complete Your Regimen

  • AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
    AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

    The benefits of exfoliation in the convenience of a cleanser! Creamy exfoliating cleanser helps reveal smoother skin.

    $72.00 | 200ML
  • Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel
    Replenishing Multi-Acid Peel

    Daily bi-phase peel accelerates cell renewal by 33% in 7 days while nourishing skin to prevent dryness and reduce irritation.

    $120.00 | 100ML
  • Vita-C Glycolic Serum
    Vita-C Glycolic Serum

    Gold-Class vitamin C and glycolic acid serum for dramatically brighter, healthier-looking skin

    $140.00 | 30ML