Skin Care Advice

Exfoliating Peeling Skin: Glycolic Acid Peels or Facial Scrubs?

Exfoliation is an extremely important part of any skin care routine. Dead skin cells on the surface of the skin tend to accumulate around fine lines and wrinkles, causing them to appear deeper. Dead skin also worsens the effects of hyperpigmentation. Exfoliation removes the buildup of these dead skin cells, making it an essential step in maintaining healthy-looking skin.

But what’s the best way to exfoliate? Those sugar scrubs and face scrubs with microbeads are very popular, but are they the best options for your skin? Are chemical peels as dangerous and scary as they sound? Let’s investigate a few factors.

What Exactly Is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid, or AHA (not to be confused with 80’s one-hit wonder A-ha.)  AHAs are also known as fruit acids, and glycolic is the most popular and well known of the group.

Glycolic acid comes from sugar cane and is a naturally occurring compound.

Glycolic acid is milder than many other chemical peel ingredients, while still having the strength to yield significant results.

How Does it Exfoliate?
Ok, this is going to get a bit scientific, but bear with me. Glycolic acid penetrates the upper layer of skin (the dead stuff) and weakens the bonds of the lipids that bind the dead skin cells together. This loosens the dead skin cells, so that they may be gently sloughed off, revealing the healthy living skin underneath — with no scrubbing or abrasion required. In this sense, peeling skin is a bit of a misnomer, as you will not actually be peeling sheets of dead skin from your face.
What Are the Risks?
Glycolic acid is strong in its concentrated form and can be an irritant to skin if left on for too long or if too strong a concentration is used. However, because it is available in several strengths and concentrations, this risk can be reduced by starting with weaker concentrations and leaving it on the skin for shorter durations, then working your way up gradually. Most glycolic acid peels you can buy have clear instructions telling you where to start, but the general recommendation is starting at 30% for 5 minutes before washing off gently with soap.
It is also important to note that due to new skin being exposed, your skin may be more sensitive to the sun after using glycolic acid, so be sure to use sunscreen.

What Are Facial Scrubs?

This may seem like a silly question to answer, as most of you are probably already very familiar with facial scrubs. They’re extremely common to find at stores and are typically composed of an abrasive material (plastic microbeads, sea salt, sugar, etc.) suspended in a lotion, oil, or face wash.

How Do They Exfoliate?
Scrubs exfoliate by being rubbed gently against the face, removing the dead skin cells through physical abrasion — quite literally scrubbing them off.
What Are the Risks?
Whenever you use something that removes skin through scraping or abrasive means, you can run the risk of damaging the live skin cells underneath and causing visible damage and irritation to your face. This risk is lower when you use these products gently but is still always a risk. The effectiveness of the exfoliation you are performing will also vary based on how hard you are scrubbing. In fact, it’s best to rub the product on your skin gently, allowing it to scrub for you, to minimize damage to the skin.

The Verdict:

Facial scrubs are popular and widely available, and are considered safe to use, although your exfoliation results and potential for skin irritation can vary greatly depending on how you scrub. Glycolic acid, on the other hand, is a lot easier to control as far as exfoliation results and irritation go. By being able to directly control the strength of glycolic acid you’re using and how long you leave it on, you will see greater control and consistency in your results. Additionally, you will not be running the risk of scratching the surface of your live skin cells and damaging them.

The glycolic acid available in our store comes from Advanced Skin Care, and is available in 30%, 50%, and 70% concentrations, with no other additives. 







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