Differences between Salicylic and Glycolic Acids

Salicylic and Glycolic acids are two of the most widely used products for acne treatment and general skin care. Many years ago they were only prescribed by doctors and dermatologists, but today there are so many variations in the market, it can sometimes be confusing to pick the right one.

Where is Salicylic derived from?

Salicylic acid is derived from willow bark and sweet bark trees and is a beta hydroxy acid. This compound is used both for topical acne treatments and for making skin peeling agents. It works by removing the sebum from the pores and by conferring anti-inflammatory properties. Continued use gives sun protection because its ability to absorb ultraviolet rays.

Where is Glycolic derived from?

Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane and is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). The tiny molecules penetrate the skin and dissolves the bonds that attach dead cells the skin’s surface. Additionally, it has exfoliating abilities because it stimulates the growth of new skin cells and the formation of collagen.  The new layer of skin is softer, smoother and healthier-looking. The regenerated collagen reduces the appearance of fine lines. Consequently, glycolic peels are also recommended for skin that is showing signs of aging such as solar spots, fine wrinkles and dark marks. It also works well to restore the skin on the hands.

Comparing the two acids

A point by point comparison of these two chemical peels reveals further differences in their action on the skin.  Salicylic peels tend to diffuse deeper into the skin glands than do glycolic peels because of its fat-soluble characteristic. Salicylic acid also causes less inflammation and irritation.  Some dermatologists prefer to prescribe salicylic peel for treating acne and glycolic peel for lightening the skin.

How to apply a skin peel

Skin peels should only be applied for a few minutes, as advised on the package instructions; otherwise they can cause skin damage. For beginners, it’s best to start with a low concentration and graduate slowly to a stronger one. Since facial peels uncover new skin that’s very sensitive, ensure that you apply sunscreen of at least SPF 15 when you expect to be outdoors. Avoiding cigarettes is also recommended for the same reasons.

Expected results of a chemical peel

Within two weeks you should start seeing visible benefits to your skin if using chemical peels. It’s important that you stay with the program and not get impatient for quick-fix results. Also, the skin treatment instructions before and after are very important. For instance, the skin must be thoroughly cleaned before and after treatment. A moisturizing lotion or serum is advisable after a chemical peel.

Skin types

Neither glycolic nor salicylic peels are suitable on very dry, damaged or highly sensitive skin as they can irritate the condition further. Consult a dermatologist in such cases.  Studies also show that both facial peels work best when combined with another acne treatment such a prescription ointments or antibiotics in very severe cases.

To enjoy the full benefits of chemical peels, carefully follow the instructions on the package and use common sense so as to ensure minimal side effects. When you do this, glycolic and salicylic acid peels will give you younger-looking skin, fewer scars, less oiliness and reduced acne.

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