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Just what is Glycolic Acid?

The Rx Systems PF line is a true system of skincare products built around the benefits of Glycolic Acid.  So just what is Glycolic Acid and what can it do for you skin?

What is Glycolic Acid?

Definition: An alpha hydroxy acid derived from sugar cane.  Alpha hydroxy acids occur naturally in certain fruits and foods. For example:

  • Glycolic acid from sugar cane
  • Citric acid from citrus fruit
  • Malic acid from apples
  • Tartaric acid from grapes
  • Lactic acid from sour milk

Of all the alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid is the most promising for skin rejuvenation because it has the smallest molecular size. This small molecular size allows it to penetrate the outer layer of the skin to a greater extent than the other alpha hydroxy acids. 

How does it work?

Glycolic Acid penetrates the layers of the skin and works in two ways.

First: Glycolic acid loosens and dissolves the glue-like substance that holds the outer layer of cells to each other and to the underlying epidermis.These thick, piled up, clinging cells are responsible for appearance of dry, rough, scaly skin and brown age or sun damage spots.

When the glue is loosened, the thick strateum corneum is sloughed away and the skin has a much more smooth, moist, refined, vibrant appearance. Glycolic acid also loosens the corneocytes (dead cells), which block the follicles and cause acne. Once the follicle clears, the glycolic acid continues to work to prevent acne from reoccurring.

Second:Glycolic acid affects deeper layers of the skin by regenerating collagen and elastin. Clinical studies show marked disappearance of fine lines and reduction of coarser, deeper wrinkles.

What are the benefits of glycolic acid?

With regular use of glycolic acid products skin will have:

  • Healthier appearance
  • Increased elasticity and firmness
  • Diminished fine lines / reduced coarser, deeper wrinkles
  • Diminished / reduced comedones (acne lesions)
  • Improved texture, color, tone, and moisture content

What makes some glycolic acid products better than others?

Some glycolic acid products better than other glycolic acid products. There are three important features, which affect the benefit of glycolic acid products:

  1. Free Acid Concentration of the product
  2. pH of the product
  3. Base of Vehicle which carries the glycolic acid

The free acid concentration is the most important factor regarding the benefits of glycolic acid. Most clinical studies have been performed with free acid concentrations of 5% or greater. The higher the free acid concentration the more significant the improvement in skin texture, color, tone and fine wrinkles. Many companies buffer or neutralize the glycolic acid, which reduces the pH and free acid concentration. Even buffered and neutralized products are effective if the pH range is 2.5 to 3.5 and the free acid concentration is 5% or greater. Obviously, appropriate labeling and product information is essential for clients to obtain maximum results. Skin can develop tolerance to the improvement produced by a level of free glycolic acid. Step-up programs have been designed which allow clients to increase the strength of home maintenance programs. Maximum improvement will occur at free acid concentrations of 15 to 20 percent. Higher levels are irritating to the skin if used on a daily basis, but can be used as maintenance chemical peels performed by trained personnel.

The pH is also an important factor regarding the benefits of glycolic acid. The normal skin pH is about 4.8, which means the skin is “acid balanced.” Glycolic acid products work because they are acidic. Acidic products with a pH of 2.5 to 3.5 cause a natural exfoliation in the outer layer of skin. The lower the pH and the higher the free acid concentration the greater the exfoliation. The pH of the glycolic acid peel is less than 2. This is the reason that the free glycolic acid peels produce a more profound effect. Buffered and neutralized products with pH levels near 4 and low free acid concentrations will produce a decreased benefit for clients.

The base or vehicle of the free glycolic acid can increase or decrease its penetration into the outer layer of the skin. Alcohol-based products increase skin penetration but need to be monitored due to irritation of thick skin (such as, around the eyes), and in clients with dry or sensitive skin. Oil-free, protein base products allow excellent penetration in areas of thick or sensitive skin. This is in large part due to the small molecular size of the base, which allows the chemical to penetrate the outer layer of the skin. Cream bases, which do not contain mineral oil, are excellent bases for the delivery of glycolic acid in normal skin areas. The larger molecular size of the cream base will not allow adequate penetration in areas of think skin (such as, the eyelids), but it will moisturize areas of thin skin. Because it does not contain mineral oil, it will not clog pores. Client’s skin types and skin areas have different characteristics, which necessitates the versatility of the products base.

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Treating Hardened Skin with the Best Anti-Aging Products and Moisturizers May Not Be Quite Enough

While the temperatures linger in the 20s to 50s, and we’re snug in our sweaters, woolly socks, and gloves, worries over hardened skin are put on ice, so to speak.  However, when spring begins poking her head out with more frequency, you may start to agonize over what to do with that “alligator skin” you’ve developed on your elbows, the soles of your feet, or other parts of your body that haven’t seen the light of day since November.  This dilemma takes anti-aging skin treatments that you do at home to a whole new level that you may not normally think about.

The cause of this problem stems from dehydrated skin… and I mean many layers of it.  Unfortunately, increasing your intake of water daily is not going to help. The solution is going to entail maximizing the moisture that you apply to this area of hardened, extremely dry skin.  Obviously, your goal is to soften these patches and, in doing so, improve the look of this skin…so you’re not self-conscious about wearing those sleeveless tops and sandals in a month or two.

To increase the moisture content that you’re able to deliver to this dry skin, it helps to add a little moisture BEFORE you actually apply your regular moisturizing agent.  In order to accomplish this, use your shower time to your skin’s benefit.  A couple minutes after you are done is a perfect time to smooth your moisturizing cream into those rough spots prior to drying off.

If you’re intent on getting the most out of a moisturizer for this purpose, you need to keep in mind that lotions are not nearly as good as a moisturizing cream; and products, such as Vasoline, are even better for making that rough skin disappear.  The drawback to that, of course, is the messiness.  It goes without saying that being diligent about your moisturizing routine is key; and the messier it is, the less likely you are to do it.

Don’t worry if you’re not showering every day when you are moisturizing.  You can always simply dampen the specific spot that is problematic.

Although it may sound like much more trouble than it’s worth, if you don’t mind going to great lengths to rid yourself of the alligator look, you can go follow the moisten/apply moisturizer steps; and then wrap the spot with Saran Wrap overnight.  Multiple applications (twice a day) can also speed up the process.

Though I regularly post articles about anti-aging regimens for you skin, including glycolic peels, hardened dry skin is a condition that is going to require special attention.  If you have any questions about this issue or any other skin-related problems, I’d be happy to respond to your comment.