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How to Treat Blackheads with Glycolic Acid?

If you are looking to clear up blackheads, then you must have heard about glycolic acid and its supposed effectiveness in smoothing out complexions. And indeed, the relationship between glycolic acid and blackheads goes back to when the alpha hydroxy acid was first extracted from sugarcane. If anything, this ingredient is considered one of the legendary best-of-all-time acne fighters by dermatologists around the globe. As such, using glycolic acid for blackheads is not anything new or unusual especially for those who desire to take their skincare game to the next level. But how exactly do you go about deploying this aha for blackheads? Let's find out.

How to Apply Glycolic Acid?

Even before getting into the nitty-gritty details of how to apply glycolic acid to improve your complexion, it is crucial to first point out how blackheads form in the first place. Here's the thing; they usually begin first as clogged pores when sebum combines with dead cells to form a sticky conglomerate within and around the pores. Now this collection darkens when exposed to air ultimately becoming the annoying blackhead that we all love to hate.

The effectiveness of glycolic acid against clogged pores originates from its uniquely small molecular size that allows it to easily get past through the exterior-most layers of the skin, dissolve dead skin cells, quash sebum and, ultimately, melt blackheads. In other words, this alpha hydroxy acid exfoliates the top-most layer of your skin to free the unwanted material that is typically trapped within the pores.

The AHA is available in different forms, and this includes both prescription and OTC (over the counter) treatment options, and this includes;

  • Lotions
  • Peels
  • Face washes and cleansers
  • Skin care pads
  • Serums

The most common glycolic acne treatment strategies revolve around cleansers, serums and chemical peels for blackheads.  Each of these avenues contains varying and distinct percentages of glycolic acid, starting from professionally-formulated peels with concentrations of 30% glycolic acid to regular cleansers with as low as 1% of this alpha hydroxy acid. That being said, using chemical peel for large pores and blackheads takes the highest precedence hence a major part of our focus will revolve around it.

Using Glycolic Acid Peels to Clear Blackheads

In a clinical or  professional setting, using glycolic facial peels for blackheads ranks as one of one most popular types of AHAs to deploy against zits. A professional-grade or clinically-recommended glycolic acid peel can contain as high as 30% glycolic acid content in its formulation. Such a concentration is easy to tolerate (without the risk of irritations and burns) while still remaining potent enough to give you remarkable results within a very short timeframe. A good and recommended example of this is My Bloommy's Glycolic Acid Peels that can also double up as an at-home face mask or exfoliating peel.

Having said that, following instructions to the tee is key to averting avoidable mishaps that are usually caused by the wrong use of chemical peels.

Using Facial Serums that Contain Glycolic Acid

Facial serums that contain glycolic acid are also an effective yet practical way of clearing blackheads while simultaneously reducing the consciousness of wrinkles and fine lines. And this further cements the inextricable relationship between glycolic acid and pores, especially if you want your pores clear and unclogged.

Using a facial serum that contains glycolic acid is just as easy and straightforward as utilizing a glycolic acid peel on black skin heads. All you have to do is apply a thin but even layer on to the problem area while simulatenesouly massaging the serum into the skin for a maximum effect. Glycolic acid serums, unlike professional-grade peels, will range in alpha hydroxy acid concentration between 10 and 30% depending on the brand that you go with.

Thus, it is important to start slowly (ideally once a week) and work your skin towards an ideal tolerance level if you have sensitive skin that is prone to irritations. What's more, this allows your skin to progressively get used to the serum especially if you are not in any way accustomed to this ingredient. Remember that you can always bump up the frequency of use to four or five times a week as soon as your complexion gets used to it.

Using Glycolic Acid Cleansers to Tackle Blackheads

Another way to melt blackheads using this superstar skincare ingredient is by replacing your regular cleanser with one that contains glycolic acid. Typical cleansers will often contain a concentration of between 1 to 8% depending on the manufacturer. And as much as the amount of this ingredient absorbed from a simple cleansing formula won't be anywhere near what can be extracted from a mask or peel, cleansing at least 3 times a week with a cleanser that contains this special AHA can go a long way in preventing future breakouts.

Managing Blackheads after Chemical Peel Sessions

The best approach of clearing blackheads as far as glycolic acid goes is using a combination strategy that utilizes each of the above described avenues. While it is easy to simply prefer or lean on just the strongest products (such as professional-grade chemical peels) it is critical to bear in mind that prevention is half of the equation.

That aside, glycolic acid peels are very effective aha blackheads neutralizers. However, due to their potency, they can hardly be used as frequently. In other words, you have to devise a way of managing blackheads after chemical peel sessions and beyond. The stronger the facial peel, the more downtime (and longer the break) between treatments you will have to put up with. If anything, even a mild exfoliating peel should ideally not be used more than once a week.

Fortunately, glycolic acid serum, toners and washes exist to fill this gap. Unlike chemical peels, they can be utilized daily or multiple times a week as part of your usual skincare regimen without risking irritating or burning your skin. And while toners and washes won't have the same instant skin-clearing effect as a typical peel, they are quite effective preventative measures that are poised to eliminate blackheads and keep their re-emergence to a minimum.

What Type of Skin is Glycolic Acid Best Suited for?

Glycolic acid, unlike salicylic acid, is a member of the highly popular AHA family of organic acid and, luckily, can be used on virtually any skin type. Nonetheless, thanks to AHA's superior hydrating and moisturizing properties, it is best preferred for those with dry skin. AHA's sister family of organic acids, BHA (beta hydroxy acids) are on other hand, best tailored for users with oily skin. Unlike alpha hydroxy acids, BHAs like salicylic acid tend to be oil soluble; they can penetrate the clogged skin pores where debris and oil has accumulated to form the blackheads that we are looking to get rid of.

The Takeaway

Apart from reducing the conspicuousness or occurence of blackheads, BHAs and AHAs like glycolic acid and salicylic acid still remain excellent choices for improving your skin's texture, evening out wrinkles and, overall, their superior anti-aging effects that target fine lines or sunspots.

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