It should be fine to use a glycolic acid lotion at the end of your regular skin care routine, even if the lotion isn't used daily. However, because of the acid's ability to remove dead skin cells, you probably shouldn't use a scrub or other exfoliating product along with the glycolic acid lotion. Also, if you are taking any topical medications, be sure to talk with your doctor before using any AHA product since it can increase your skin's sensitivity.
If you're using an over-the-counter product with glycolic acid, it probably has a concentration of somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. Even low concentrations can irritate the skin, especially skin that tends to be dry or sensitive [source: WebMD]. You can use these formulas on a daily basis, but might be best to start with application every other day and work up to daily use so you can gauge your skin's reaction. You might also opt for a lower concentration and work up to a higher one. Some of these lotions might have moisturizers already in them to counteract the acid's drying tendency, but if not, you can apply some of your own to keep your skin smooth and supple.
If you're using glycolic acid or any other AHA, it's vital that you also use sunscreen. Studies have shown that AHAs increase sensitivity to ultraviolet rays. The extra sun sensitivity is temporary and will disappear quickly if you stop using products that contain AHAs [source: FDA] Still, doctors advise applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing while using an AHA and for up to a week after stopping treatment.
So if you're looking to hide signs of aging, acne discoloration or other unsightly spots, then glycolic acid lotions and creams might be worth a look. For more information on glycolic acid and other products that use it, visit the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Chemical Peeling: What to Expect Before, During, and After." 2008. (Accessed Sept. 13, 2009)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/chemical_peeling_expect.html
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- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Alpha Hydroxy Acids in Cosmetics." July 10, 2009. (Accessed Sept. 14, 2009)http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/ucm107940.htm
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- Valeo, Tom. "Acne Treatments for Men." WebMD. Jan. 6, 2008. (Accessed Sept. 13, 2009)http://men.webmd.com/guide/acne-treatments-men?page=3
- WebMD. "Choosing Skin Care Products: Know Your Ingredients." Feb. 17, 2009. (Accessed Sept. 13, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/cosmetic-procedures-products-2