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Glycolic Acid vs Salicylic Acid : Decoded

glycolic acid vs salicylic acid

Acids have always been used as a very intimidating term with regards to skincare. It is actually not that difficult to understand or explain. Make sure you go through the cheat sheet at the end every time you feel confused.

As a general rule, all acids fall into two groups: alpha hydroxy acid (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). While BHAs are praised for their anti-inflammatory properties (making them a great choice for acne-prone skin), AHAs are known to be more gentle and skin-soothing, making them a great entry-level point if you’ve never used acid before. Okay let’s get into details now.

What is Glycolic Acid?


derived from citrus fruits

Glycolic acid is an AHA or alpha hydroxy acid, is water soluble, and naturally occurs in sugar cane, sugar beets, and pineapples. Alpha hydroxy acids loosen the glue that holds together skin cells and facilitate the exfoliation of your topmost layers of dead skin. Because it helps encourage cell renewal, it can be used regularly to treat and reduce scars, hyperpigmentation, and wrinkles.

What is Salycilic Acid?


derived from willow tree bark

Salicylic acid is a BHA or beta hydroxy acid which is either naturally derived or biosynthesized from bark of the willow tree. Beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble, which means they are able to penetrate deeper than your skin surface and deep into your pores. BHAs lightly exfoliate your skin’s top layers on their way deeper into your skin where they exfoliate excess oil and dead skin in your pores.

Which skincare concerns do they address?

Glycolic Acid Salicylic Acid

For Exfoliating: Glycolic acid is the universal choice for sloughing off dead skin cells at the surface of your skin. We like to think of it as the holy grail of exfoliators. It’s also more gentle, making it an ideal exfoliant for all skin types.

For Acne: Salicylic acid is the best line of defense against acne and breakouts, as it allows you to gently exfoliate and unclog pores without irritating acne flare-ups. It also contains anti-inflammatory and anesthetic properties, which can help reduce the size of the pimple.
For Hyperpigmentation: If you want to reduce marks left from sun damage and aging, glycolic acid is your best bet. Just be sure to follow it up with sunscreen before you head outdoors.

For Oily Skin: This powerful BHA decreases sebum production, making it the best acid for rebalancing oily skin.

For Fine Lines & Wrinkles: Glycolic acid improves your skin’s texture, tone, and appearance and is more used for anti-aging, as mature skin tends to be more easily dried out. For Blackheads: Salicylic acid goes beneath the surface of your skin it can clear out pore-clogging debris responsible for blackheads.

Save this cheat sheet so you can refer to it while shopping skincare:

glycolic acid vs salicylic acid