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Skincare 101

What You Should Know About Glycolic Acid Peels

Whether you’re just starting your skincare journey or looking for an alternative to basic toners to improve your skin, you should know about glycolic acid. Yes, it’s more than a buzzword. 

Glycolic acid is an exfoliator. It removes dead skin cells and helps your skin regenerate for a fresh glow and toned appearance. More importantly, glycolic acid is an excellent treatment for acne, scarring, hyperpigmentation, sun damage, and clogged pores. Read on to discover why glycolic acid or acid peels might be your next favorite skincare ingredient. 

What is glycolic acid?

Before experimenting with glycolic peel cleansing pads or other glycolic acid solutions, understand some basics:

  • Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA, which you may have heard of. As an AHA, glycolic acid is water-soluble. It’s also a plant-sourced acid (from sugarcane) that consists of tiny molecules that your skin can absorb. 
  • Glycolic acid has been in use for more than two decades by skin care professionals and beauty aficionados alike.
  • Glycolic acid works as a chemical exfoliant, which means it removes dead skin cells to improve skin luster and keep pores clean.

What is a Glycolic Acid Peel?

A glycolic acid peel is a chemical exfoliation treatment that removes dead skin cells and improves the skin’s overall tone, texture, and health. Generally, the acid is diluted with other ingredients to prevent skin damage. 

There are different types of glycolic acid treatments. For example, you can schedule appointments with dermatologists for intense chemical peels. These exfoliation treatments usually use 30-40 percent glycolic acid treatments for 3-4 minutes.

However, the best at-home glycolic acid peels are typically lower in concentration to prevent chemical burns. You can use these types of medical-grade cosmetic products daily or several times a week. They're generally left on overnight.

Glycolic acid peels often come in the form of a single-use pad that can be applied before bed. These formulas are crucial to any skincare routine because they exfoliate the skin and help to remove dead skin cells that contribute to duller-looking skin and acne or blemish formation. 

How to Use Glycolic Acid Pads

Glycolic acid peel pads are excellent for your nighttime skincare routine or just before bed. 

  • After cleansing your skin, remove the pad from the case and apply it evenly on the face, neck, chest, or area of choice. It could be an area with acne, scarring, or sun damage. 
  • Do not rinse the solution from your skin, depending on your product. Instead, let the product sit on your skin. You may experience slight tingling after a few minutes. You can rinse your face at this point if you want to. Always follow instructions from the manufacturer.
  • Let your face and skin rest overnight after this kind of treatment. 
  • The following day, rinse your face in the morning and continue with your skincare routine as you like. As a rule of thumb, its a good idea to apply sunscreen when using glycolic acid or an exfoliating toner. 

Skincare Lesson

Most people check the percentage listed on liquid toner labels. For example, you might assume that 20% is stronger than 10%. However, it’s crucial to pay attention to the pH level of glycolic acid products too. The lower the pH of a glycolic acid peel, the higher the strength and effect on your skin. As such, it’s best not to apply aesthetician-grade chemical peels on your own skin without some guidance. 

Only use what’s recommended for DIY or at-home exfoliation. 

What Are Glycolic Acid Peel Benefits?

Glycolic acid peels are recommended for: 

  • Reducing hyperpigmentation 
  • Treating acne scarring 
  • Controlling acne breakouts 
  • Smoothing out wrinkles 
  • Improving the skin’s glow

What’s The Best Time to Use Glycolic Acid Peels or Pads?

Glycolic peel pads are one of the best ways to enjoy the benefits of glycolic acid without carrying a bottle around. Instead, you can carry them in a purse or bag and whip them out immediately as needed. 

Everyone’s skin is unique, which means adding glycolic peel cleansing pads to your morning or evening routine may or may not work for you. You should always use pads according to your skin’s tolerance. 

Tip: Always test skincare products on tender patches such as the inside part of your elbow and stop using if you notice irritation. If you notice any burning or pain, wash off the product with water, or reduce the frequency of use. 

If you have dry and sensitive skin, experiment with glycolic acid peels using a soaked cotton pad once or twice a week. The application process simply involves soaking cotton or a cotton pad with the toning solution and applying it on your skin. Then let the product sit for 3 minutes before rinsing off with cool water. 

For normal and combination skin, try using glycolic acid twice or thrice a week to identify how your skin reacts. However, if you have oily skin with acne breakouts, try thrice a week or once per day. 

Since glycolic acid pads generally strip the outer and most protective layer of your skin, glycolic acid can increase sensitivity to the sun. As such, it’s a good idea to use glycolic acid peel pads at night and let moisturizing products then work as you sleep. However, if you use a glycolic acid peel in the morning, be sure to follow up with plenty of SPF to protect your skin. 

You can also use a glycolic acid peel after a workout. Sweat can often cause breakouts, and cleansing your skin with a glycolic acid pad is a great way to maintain smooth skin. Fortunately, glycolic acid peel pads are easy to carry and use during workouts. What’s more, you can refresh your skin without taking a shower at a gym. 

Can I Leave Glycolic Acid On My Skin Overnight? Do I Have to Wash my Face After Using Glycolic Acid Peel Pads?

Yes, you can usually leave these products on overnight. Glycolic acid peel pads are formulated to leave on. After running the pad on your skin, the glycolic acid enters your pores to remove dirt and oils. Even if you wash your face, your skin still has some glycolic acid doing it’s thing. 

However, if you notice excessive tingling or redness in the application area, use cold water, a wet cloth, or a gentle moisturizing lotion to calm the skin. Remember, slight tingling is normal. 

Pro-tip: Always moisturize the morning after exfoliation to prevent glycolic acid sensitivity. 

You should also avoid using multiple exfoliating products together to avoid stripping your skin’s protective barrier and causing more extensive acne breakouts. Check if your products contain AHA or BHA acids or any exfoliating acids. 

How Can I Prevent Glycolic Acid Peel Pads From Drying Up? 

Dryness is a typical problem with glycolic acid pads if not stored properly. First, ensure you store your pads in an airtight container. Also, avoid storing the pads in direct sunlight. Next, as a good rule of thumb, buy cleansing pads with individual sachets to prevent drying and improve portability. 

I Experience Tingling in the Skin When I Use Glycolic Acid Peel Pads. Is This Normal? 

Tingling in the skin after using glycolic acid is a common reaction. Small amounts of neutralized glycolic acid will not damage your skin. Glycolic acid is safe for most skin as long as you use it in reasonable quantities and at the right frequency. 

Even though the tingling sensation may feel uncomfortable or surprising your first time around, it means that the product is working to unclog your pores and sweep away dead cells and detritus.

While glycolic acid pads are safe for use on all skin types, remember to check if you have other exfoliating products in your beauty regimen. In addition, track your skincare ingredients to avoid over-exfoliating your protective skin layer and causing a glycolic acid peel burn. 

For example, you can use multiple glycolic acid products safely depending on your skin type. If you have naturally oily skin, your natural barrier is generally more resilient against the effects of glycolic acid, and you can likely use strong products without irritation. 

However, if you have dry and sensitive skin, using too many AHA-containing products may cause redness or irritation. 

Best Glycolic Acid Peels On the Market

Glycolic peel pads are easy to use in the gym, at work, on the move, or at home if you want a mild exfoliator. Here are some glycolic acid peel pads worth trying. 

1. GOOPGLOW 15% Glycolic Acid Overnight Glow Peel

GOOPGLOW pads are overnight pre-soaked towelettes that work to refine, retexturize and redeem your glow as you sleep. Each pad has 15% glycolic acid to unclog pores and treat acne and hyperpigmentation. The pads also have hyaluronic acid and fruit extracts to hydrate your skin and give you a moisturized glow. 

These are also dual-textured glycolic acid peel pads. You can use the smooth side on your face, then use the textured side on your neck, chest, and arms. One pad per night is sufficient, and you can reduce the frequency of use if your skin is sensitive. 


2. L’OREAL Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Peel Pads

These revitalizing pads enriched with 10% glycolic acid are a great way to unclog pores and clean your skin after a long day. The pads are also packed with glycerin to hydrate your skin overnight. 

3. FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance Pads 

Are you tired of carrying liquid toners with you? These facial radiance pads have the right balance of glycolic acid and lactic acid to cleanse your skin and give you healthy, glowing skin. Incorporate these pads into your evening skincare routine to tone and smoothen your skin over time.


Want professional help? 

At Nava MD, we hep men and women get personalized custom prescription skincare formulations for a variety of conditions, including acne, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and more. 

Our formulations are blended with FDA-approved ingredients like tretinoin, niacinamide, azelaic acid, and more, all selected to smooth wrinkles and fade blemishes and sensitivities of all kinds. 

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency