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10 Other Surprising Ways to Use Glycolic Acid

28 . 08 . 2020

Glycolic acid was actually the very first acid that I introduced to my skincare routine. I still remember my skepticism from yesteryear when I saw glycolic acid retailing on Sephora for only $8.70, plus it came in a whopping 8oz bottle! I have never bought a toner so cheap yet effective, it’s safe to say that I’ve never looked back since. For those who have tried glycolic acid in your skincare routine to no avail, I have good news for you. You can leave the acidic goodness to soak elsewhere on your body without wasting your product. Excited? But first, let’s talk about science.

So… what exactly is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane, apples, sugar beets, etc. Since AHAs are water soluble, they’re known to work best on the epidermis layer of your skin to dissolve surface-level dead skin cells to stimulate the cell renewal process. This means new skin will resurface at a higher frequency, keeping your skin glowy all the time! Furthermore, glycolic acid happens to exist in a smaller molecular structure, allowing them to sink deeper into the epidermis layer of your skin where it does some serious spring cleaning. It is also commonly used to stimulate collagen production, which helps your skin feel firmer and younger by minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. As a result, your skin will look more even-toned, radiant, and nourished.

Without further ado, let’s dive into 10 OTHER surprising ways to use glycolic acid (besides your face) to get the most bang for your buck!

1. Face

The application is super easy. Since glycolic acid typically has a pH level of 3.5, it is vital for you to let it sit after applying it as a toner. This “idle” time allows the acidity to work its magic on your skin before neutralizing it with a facial moisturizer. To start, always perform a patch test on the inside of your arms to see if any redness, itchiness or tightness occur. It is also important to build a tolerance with acids especially if you’re just starting out! A good practice is to check your favorite skincare store or brands to see if they carry a lower concentration of the acid you are looking to try. For example, I started out by using the 7% Glycolic Acid from The Ordinary on alternate days. Once I have built tolerance, I allowed myself to use it more often if necessary, especially if my skin was breaking out in a certain area. Now, I’m using the 10% Glycolic Acid from The Inkey List, working my tolerance up on alternate days as well. Also, keep in mind that it is typically recommended to NOT leave your glycolic acid on for more than 2.5 minutes to avoid penetration too deep that will cause your skin to burn.

Save this:

  1. Start with products with smaller concentration first
  2. Perform a patch test on your inner arm
  3. Let it sit for a maximum of 2.5 minutes before applying the next product
  4. Layer products from the lower pH to higher (eg: acidic toner → serum → moisturizer)

How: Pour some glycolic acid solution on a reusable cotton pad and swipe it all over your face. If using it as a spot treatment, soak a small piece of cotton pad and let sit on your acne bump until your cotton pad dries, about 2-3 minutes. Follow up with your next product.

Safe Frequency: Apply on alternate days or spot treatments only, as needed. Safer to use at night.

2. Strawberry legs

Also known as Keratosis Pilaris, some of us experience ingrown hair and red bumps post-shave that never seem to stop coming. This exfoliating treatment, paired with religious moisturizing, will help shrink the look of your pores and give you smooth, glowing skin!

How: Pour some glycolic acid solution on a reusable cotton pad and gently swipe it all over your shaved legs. Using it on shaving day will sting a little, which I don’t mind. However, if your skin is more on the sensitive side, make sure to only apply on the day after you shave. Follow up with coconut oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil to nourish your skin as well. If you’re feeling crafty, here’s a DIY body oil recipe you can make easily at home!

Safe Frequency: Alternate days, preferably after shower.

3. Underarms

Are you looking for an alternative to a deodorant? The truth is, I haven’t used one in the past 5-8 years! However, I definitely do get moments of self-consciousness if I were to not apply anything underneath thick clothes, after a workout or during summer months. Applying glycolic acid in your underarm doesn’t naturally make your underarm smell pleasant, but it does help remove the bacteria that interacts with your sweat to produce smell. If you have particularly sensitive skin, make sure to only apply on the day after you shave, otherwise it might sting.

How: Pour some glycolic acid solution on a reusable cotton pad and gently swipe it all over your underarm. You could also pour some into a spray bottle for convenience. However, I prefer applying mine with a reusable cotton pad for that extra exfoliation, leaving my skin soft, nourished, and zero stains on my white tees.

Safe Frequency: Everyday, preferably after shower.

4. Bikini Area

If you’re prone to bikini razor bumps, this is for you. Many skin care addicts I know used to use Tend Skin solution to miraculously remove their razor bumps, myself included! However, I’m not a fan of the sharp alcohol scent and the price tag that came with it, and decided to experiment with glycolic acid. Boy does it work well to to reduce redness and increase smoothness of your skin! It also helped get rid of my ingrown hairs that have formed bumps that I thought was going to stay with me forever. Definitely a holy grail for me!

How: Pour some glycolic acid solution on a reusable cotton pad and gently swipe it all over your bikini area. Similar to using it on your legs, apply only on the next day if you have sensitive skin. Follow up with a moisturizing body oil or moisturizer.

Safe Frequency: Alternate days, preferably after shower.

4. Back/Bacne

Some of us are guilty of not changing into a fresh set of clothing after a workout or wearing the same outfit repeatedly leading up to laundry day. Fret not! If you feel some congestion or bumps on your back, applying glycolic acid helps remove the debris and kills bacteria on your skin, leaving it squeaky clean and breathable.

How: Soak reusable cotton and apply it on the areas you sweat most on your back. If you’re having trouble applying on your back, you could also pour some into a spray bottle and spray it upside down for hard-to-reach areas.

Safe Frequency: Everyday, preferably after shower. You can discontinue after your bacne subsides.

5. Elbow

If you have rough elbows, glycolic acid can help soften your skin and allow for a better penetration of your moisturizers. Since the skin here are generally thicker and bumpier, it helps to use glycolic acid with higher concentration here to see better results. For example, if you’re using 7% glycolic acid on your face, consider using a 10% concentration on your elbows.

How: Pour some glycolic acid solution on a reusable cotton pad and swipe it all over your elbows. Follow up with some body oil to keep it baby smooth all day!

Safe Frequency: Once to twice a week, preferably after shower.

6. Knee Cap

Similar to your elbows, our knee caps are prone to scars from our clumsiness as well. Using a higher concentration of glycolic acid here will ensure that you see results quickly and effectively.

How: Pour some glycolic acid solution on a reusable cotton pad and swipe it all over your knee caps. Follow up with some body oil to keep your skin healthy and glowing.

Safe Frequency: Once to twice a week, preferably after shower.

7. Thighs

You know that little uncomfortable rub you get when you move your thighs around? Friction like these cause discoloration on your inner thighs. Since glycolic acid is great at sloughing dead skin cells away, it’ll help lighten and brighten the area a little.

How: Pour some glycolic acid solution on a reusable cotton pad and swipe it all over the higher points of your inner thigh. Follow up with some body oil to reduce friction even more.

Safe Frequency: Once to twice a week, preferably after shower.

8. Self-tanning

I heard streaky tanning application is a thing! One of the main advice that I hear a lot from beauty experts is to exfoliate, exfoliate, and exfoliate. To make sure that your fake tan doesn’t collect on certain areas, give special attention to the rougher areas on your body, such as your knee, elbow, and ankles to ensure an even coating.

How: Pour some glycolic acid solution on a reusable cotton pad and swipe it all over the rougher areas on your body. Follow up with oil-free moisturizer.

Safe Frequency: Since this is a chemical exfoliant, it may be safer to apply it the day before your tanning session.

9. Dandruff

To ladies and gentleman with dry, flaky scalp, this treatment will blow any dandruff shampoo out of the water! It’s a great way to decongest your scalp and makes it feel brand new and fresh—keeping the flakiness at bay. Similar to using it on your face, I wouldn’t overdo this and will only use it if my scalp feels extra itchy or if I have used an insane amount of hair products that week.

How: Split your hair into 4 sections, however you like. Pour glycolic acid slowly on your scalp with a small nozzle or apply it with a spray bottle. Make sure your scalp is slightly wet, then massage it in and let sit for 10-30 minutes. Follow up with shampoo and conditioner.

Safe Frequency: Once to twice per week, or as needed.

10. Butt Cheeks

We spend so much time and money on our face, hair, and body—our butt cheeks should be, at the very least, enjoy some of the amazing benefits of glycolic acid too! If you do get little bumps around your butt cheeks or the occassional butt acne (possibly from all that time sitting while scrolling on your toilet), this could be the perfect solution to the pain in your butt.

How: Pour some glycolic acid solution on a reusable cotton pad and swipe it all over your butt cheeks (or the crack, if you need to. No judgment here). Follow up with a light pat of body lotion or body oil.

Safe Frequency: Once to twice per week, or as needed.

List of products I mentioned in this post:

  1. The Ordinary 7% Glycolic Acid
  2. The Inkey List 10% Glycolic Acid
  3. Tend Skin Solution
  4. Reusable cotton pad
  5. Coconut oil
  6. Almond oil
  7. Grapeseed oil
  8. Spray bottle

All in all, glycolic acid is a wonderful product to be used anywhere on your skin that feels rough, which most commonly exists on the back of your arm or thighs. On that note, shower in glycolic acid all you want and reap the benefits—just make sure to protect your skin from increased sensitivity to the sun by applying sunscreen liberally to your face and the treated areas!

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