Anytime people start discussing the best ways to exfoliate their skin I almost cringe because as a Licensed Esthetician I have my own views on the “right” way to do things is. It’s not that you or anyone is doing anything in particular wrong, it’s just I have this knowledge that I always want to share but don’t want to be that girl that’s like, “well, I’m an esthetician and I do it this way,” kind of attitude.
Catch my drift?
A lot of you guys and I mean a LOT are always emailing me about your personal skincare questions and I love hearing your concerns and what you are looking to achieve so keep them coming. A lot of the time the same questions come up one being what the difference is between glycolic acid (an alphahydroxy acid) and salicylic acid (a betahydroxy acid). Most of you know that they are supposed to do something good to your skin and exfoliate which is what we always are told we want.
Well, that is true to a certain extent…
Both ingredients yes, work as chemical exfoliators that loosen up the “glue-like” substance that holds your skin cells together. It allows the dead skin cells to slough off more easily which is end goal always. So why do I prefer using an AHA or BHA over a typical face scrub with those little beads in it? Because, like I said — dead skin is like GLUE. If you use a soap with beads in it it’s not really doing anything to that glue. In essence all you’re doing is irritating your skin by scrubbing hard on it and making your problems worse which is why I always steer clear of products with those big beads and/or any kinds of brushes that are too rough on the skin. I prefer using an AHA like glycolic acid because what it does it actually EATS away at the dead skin and successfully removes it. Think about it — glue is not easy to break apart, you need something to tear it down in reality.
My personal pick to use? Glycolic Acid hands down.
We do these treatments ALL the time at our skin care salon here in San Diego whether it be for acne, wrinkles, fine lines, or just to get that glow back. It’s an amazing exfoliator and what I love about it in comparison to salicylic acid is that it actually improves the moisture content of your skin and does NOT dry you out. Because glyoclic acid is an AHA with the smallest molecules, it’s able to penetrate the skin much easier, in turn being so much more effective for exfoliating, wrinkles and stimulating collagen & elastin (what helps you stay young looking forever, obvi).
For people like me who tend to be on the more dry side, always and I mean always stick to glycolic acid. To be honest, even if I were super oily I would still use glycolic because I swear by it that much BUT if you must choose salicylic its way better for those of you with oily, acne-prone skin. For example, have you ever gone to the store in search of some acne wash or pimple cream and the first incredient right on the bottle is “salicylic acid”?! It’s often advertised as the main ingredient needed in “acne” products because it gets through oil that clogs pores HOWEVER you have to be very careful that your skin can really tolerate it. Salicylic acid is great if you’re looking to dry up a pimple quick or something of the sort, but in my opinion, to put it all over your face every day is WAY too much. Like I said, salicylic acid will dry you out, meaning it will dry that pimple out but in turn it will also dry the rest of your face out.
Why is this a problem?
Because, at any time when you don’t balance out your skin properly it is going to naturally try to compensate by producing more of what it is missing. So if you end up drying your skin out with salicylic acid, it’s lacking that moisture and going to go to work to try to create more oil as fast as it can. In turn, it creates extra sebum which creates MORE pimples. The same for dry skin. If you are not moisturizing your skin at night because you are thinking, “I don’t want to put anything on my face because I’m going to break out,” well, in theory your skin is saying, “Hey, I really need some moisture so I’m going to make some,” and produces extra oil, causing MORE breakouts.
Does this make sense?
The reason I explain this is because it gives a better understanding as to why I prefer using an AHA such as glycolic acid over salicylic acid because it does not dry you out. Like I said, if you are extremely oily and acne prone, you can probably handle salicylic acid but be very careful and use everything in moderation. I personally cannot use any products with salicylic acid in them because my skin is too dry. When I use them it makes me so uncomfortable, makes my skin flake and I end up breaking out more. I absolutely swear by glycolic and that’s always what we recommend to clients.
I also have gotten questions about if you can use the two together and I would not use them together. If you are using an AHA or BHA stick to one and that’s it. If you decide you want to try the other one, wait about 10 days between treatments and/or products before trying another.
For those of you wondering how you can get a treatment with these ingredients I would recommend doing your research and looking for a qualified Esthetician who can do a facial with glycolic or salicylic peel (depending on the one you choose). You can also try to find products with these ingredients inside such as cleansers and/or moisturizers as well which I’ve talked a lot about in the past. Always make sure to steer clear of your eye area when using products that contain either one of these ingredients. The eye area is just extra sensitive so you want to be very careful with stronger ingredients.
If you guys are looking for some glycolic products these are some of my favorites that we sell at our salon.
Again, all of this comes from my own professional standpoint and what I’ve seen work as an Esthetician on my clients and myself. This is by no means what I think you HAVE to do or what may or may not work for you but as you guys know I like to share my honest opinions and if I have even a slight upper hand when it comes to my knowledge in the field then even better for me to share with all of you.
Please let me know if you guys have ANY other questions on the topic, have any suggestions for other posts on skin care or anything in general you’d like me to cover in the future!