Does Glycolic Acid Burn or Sting?

Glycolic acid is superior in the Alpha Hydroxyl Acid (AHA) family. Its results are by far the most noticeable compared to other products such as lactic and malic acid. However, there is a possibility that glycolic acid can leave your skin with a burning or stinging sensation. To help you keep your skin feeling healthy, we researched this topic to give you an informed answer to why this product could potentially irritate the skin. 

Glycolic acid may burn or sting the skin for those with sensitive skin or from incorrect usage of the product. Ensuring you are utilizing the correct strength concentration for your skin-type and using it for the proper amount of time is critical to avoid stinging or burning skin. 

Do you want to know the correct way to use glycolic acid to achieve the best results? We will cover everything you need to know about this product in this guide. Just keep reading! 

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Why Glycolic Acid May Burn Or Sting

Like any other substance, one has to use the product correctly to avoid getting hurt or irritated. For dry and sensitive skin, you must remain cautious. Glycolic acid can sting or burn the skin when the concentration is higher than 30%. Following the directions on the product and considering your skin-type is vital for having positive results. 

Burning from glycolic acid most commonly occurs when the product is on the skin for too long. It doesn't take long for these products to work, and some users become too impatient to see results. Burning the skin can also happen when a user decides to apply a homemade glycolic acid recipe with a higher concentration than what is recommended.

In other cases, glycolic acid can cause skin problems when the user encounters direct sunlight for long durations of time. Glycolic acid will increase your skin's sensitivity to the skin. The use of sunscreen is advised to avoid this side effect. Research points out that individuals of darker skin tones have a greater chance of experiencing burning and irritation. It's best for individuals at risk of scarring to stick to a lower concentration level.

What Does Glycolic Toner Do?

Glycolic acid is a naturally occurring substance derived from sugar. It's highly soluble, meaning it penetrates deep into the skin. As such, a glycolic toner has immense benefits to the user. One significant boost that glycolic toners have is its ability to exfoliate the skin.

When layers of dead skin accumulate on our bodies, we can develop dark spots and acne. Therefore, a glycolic acid toner's role is to remove the dead skin cells, making the skin smoother and brighter. It's also known to balance the skin's PH levels after cleansing. Balanced PH levels are essential in reducing breakouts. 

Additionally, it provides hydrating properties, leaving the skin feeling, and looking moisturized. Apart from improving the skin's overall look, it also offers anti-aging benefits. With consistent use, glycolic acid provides you with youthful skin and reduced fine lines and wrinkles, making you look younger, healthier, and more vibrant.

Read more: Do You Use Moisturizer Or Toner First?

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What Does A Glycolic Peel Do?

Chemical peels work by entering the skin and increasing the acidity levels to separate dead cells from the healthy ones. When this happens, exfoliation takes place, promoting the emergence of a softer, healthier skin layer. Glycolic acid peels work similarly to these powerful chemical peels. 

It's highly sought-after because of the long-lasting benefits it has on the skin. These powerful skincare peels use a high concentration of glycolic acid to penetrate deep into the skin and remove the dead layers of skin. Anyone can use these peels, but it's vital to use them properly because of their concentration.

An exciting fact is that this product is safe to use during pregnancy. Many women suffer from acne and discoloration while pregnant, and the peel helps to combat acne by protecting the pores from dead cells. Since it's suitable for all skin types, anyone can use it to keep their skin unblemished and refined.

Everyone wants glowing skin, making it one of the reasons to use a glycolic peel. Since it stimulates collagen production, it removes wrinkles and aging lines. Interestingly enough, one can use it to deal with ingrown facial hair. It's useful in reducing the appearance or extent of ingrown hair. 

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What Are The Side Effects Of Glycolic Acid?

In general, glycolic acid is deemed as safe for all skin types. However, some side effects can show in different scenarios. If the acid is not pure or is mixed with other chemicals, a reaction can occur, especially with sensitive skin. When dealing with a concentration of more than 30%, and you aren't familiar with these products, irritation will most likely be the result. If you experience extreme irritation, stop using the product immediately and consult a medical professional. 

When you begin using glycolic acid, it's essential to let your skin adjust to a lower concentration before moving up to the higher levels. While it's tempting to overdo on acid peels, it's essential to take caution. Such a move can cause dryness, leading to severe skin irritation and cracked skin. 

In some instances, scabbing and flaking occur after application. It's essential to use sunscreen at all times when regularly using glycolic acid. When the glycolic acid peel is used frequently, collagen is at risk of damage. A product of a lower concentration level is suggested to keep some adverse effects at bay.

How Long Do You Leave Glycolic Acid On The Skin?

It depends on the amount and strength of the glycolic acid. Dermatologists recommend 30-40% glycolic acid to stay on the skin for a maximum of 3 minutes. For concentrations of over 70%, the acid needs to be rinsed off after 30 seconds. As a first-time user, you should wait 30 seconds or more to rinse if you don't get a tingly feeling. 

What Happens If You Leave Glycolic Acid On Too Long?

Leaving glycolic on for too long is never a good idea. When glycolic acid is on your skin for too long, it has the potential to cause severe skin burning or stinging.

Here are the red flags that tell you that the acid has been on the skin for far too long:

  • Extreme skin dryness: some products of a higher strength may cause dryness after application. It's essential to consult a dermatologist to get the right prescription for your skin. 
  • Stinging: this may occur a few minutes after the first incidence of use. You are advised to rinse it off immediately to avoid irritation. 
  • Acne breakouts: breakouts are a sure sign the skin is reacting negatively to glycolic acid. When this happens, it's best to halt the immediate use of any glycolic acid or related products. 
  • Redness and itching: over-exfoliating may cause this kind of reaction. Follow user guidelines and directions from your dermatologist for the best results. 
  • Wrinkled skin around the eyes: while this may be temporary aftermath, it indicates that the skin is abnormally tight and isn't reacting well to glycolic acid. 

Do You Wash Off Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid has many advantages, and as indicated earlier, it also comes in many different forms. Depending on the product and its concentration levels, glycolic acid can be left on the skin or rinsed off after application. 

For those with sensitive skin, glycolic acid is applied in the form of a moisturizer. With such, the concentration percentage is lower, which makes it safe for daily use.

In other products, glycolic acid is formulated for cleansing purposes. A low concentration of less than 10% is likely harmless to the user's skin. You can apply it at night before bed for the best results. For more nighttime tips, check out our article discussing What To Apply On Your Face Before Sleeping.

Furthermore, a glycolic acid toner is used as the next step after cleansing. Once your skin is clean, apply the toner to get rid of bacteria. Usually found in smaller concentrations, the glycolic toner is effective for daily usage. 

Finally, a glycolic acid peel formulated at 30% or higher is beneficial for weekly or monthly use. Since the concentration is more significant, peels must be used very cautiously. Let the glycolic acid peel stay on the skin for 2-3 minutes, then rinse it off immediately. Afterward, always use a moisturizer with SPF to protect your skin from its increased sun sensitivity. 

In Closing

Glycolic acid, when used correctly, has immense benefits to the skin. However, this product may not be for everyone, as different ages, skin tones, and skin textures react differently to skincare products. If you realize your skin is reacting negatively after the first application, stop using it immediately, and seek medical attention.

It's always recommended you speak with a dermatologist for choosing the correct concentration. Try different formulations to get that glowing skin you're working hard for–but always do so with caution. 

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