Glycolic Acid vs. Salicylic Acid – Which Works Better as an Acne Treatment?

Tiffany Holley
A chemical skin peel is an effective method used to rejuvenate the skin, treat acne, and improve the skin’s overall appearance. While glycolic facial peels and salicylic acid peels were at one time solely performed by dermatologists, physicians, or skin care professionals, there are now at home peels which are just as effective and yet much less expensive. When it comes to acne, these two common face peels both have their advantages. Glycolic Acid Peels The alpha-hydroxy acid, Glycolic acid, which is derived from sugar cane, is the smallest AHA molecule. Glycolic acid penetrates the skin quickly and easily to break up the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin. Newer skin cells are uncovered and with continued use, glycolic facial peels will increase skin cell turnover and boost collagen production. This same shedding of surface skin also clears the pores of blackheads and debris which results in an improvement of acne. Glycolic acid is one of the most effective acne treatments available and overall is considered to be relatively mild so as not to irritate the skin too badly. chemical home skin peels at home Glycolic peels provide gradual improvement with continued used over a period of weeks. Glycolic facial peels are safe for nearly all skin types and come in varied strengths starting at 10%. This allows those who want to use at home peels to find the right glycolic acid peel best suited for their own skin. Salicylic Acid Peels Whereas glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) which is derived from hearts of sweet bark & willow tree bark. In the skin care industry, salicylic acid products are used as a topical acne treatment and a chemical peel. Salicylic acid has been proven effective as an anti-inflammatory agent that also has the ability to dissolve and clear out sebum found in the pores. It is a bit stronger and involves a less gradual process than glycolic acid but for those with sensitive skin it can be used in lower strength concentrations in cases where glycolic acid peels are not well tolerated. As an added benefit when used regularly, salicylic acid products help protect skin from sun damage as it has the ability to absorb ultraviolet rays. Salicylic acid peels should not be used as often as the glycolic acid peels, as the peeling effects last a bit longer. When using salicylic acid peel products, it is recommended that you take a break in treatment after a period of use for best results. As the Saint Louis University School of Medicine published in a study where glycolic acid and salicylic acid were compared in effectiveness at treating acne stated, “both types of treatments were similarly effective” for improving facial acne. If you have more sensitive skin, you can try a course of glycolic peels first and if you find you are not tolerating it well or are not happy with the results, move on to salicylic acid peels instead.

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