One of the most widely used superficial peels available to an aesthetician is the glycolic acid peel. Glycolic acid is a 2-hydroxyethanoic acid derived from sugar cane. This acid is the smallest alpha hydroxy acid and is predominately water-soluble. Percentage and pH determine strength and depth of the peel. Once erythema has been achieved, glycolic acid should be neutralized with a 10% sodium bicarbonate or a damp cloth of saline solution. The neutralization prevents overpenetration that can lead to skin injury. Glycolic acid peels belong to the alpha hydroxy acid family and have been widely used to treat conditions, such as hyperpigmentation, age spots, melasma, so forth. Thus, glycolic acid can minimize pores and increases cellular turnover to reveal a brighter complexion.
The strength of glycolic acid is dependent on the percentage and the pH. Overall, the total concentration determines the depth of the peel and the collagen stimulation. Typically, the therapeutic benefits are achieved within a six-week period. However, results can occur sooner depending on frequency of application and the client’s skin reaction. In general, a lower percentage of non-neutralized glycolic acid can be used daily or weekly to treat freckles, fine lines, and wrinkles. Glycolic acid remains a constant with clients because of its benefits and with proper usage, its lasting results.