Renowned for its ability to exfoliate, plump and brighten the skin almost instantly, glycolic acid has been the toast of the skincare world for quite some time. Part of the family of AHAs, or alpha hydroxy acids, the wonder ingredient works by dissolving the bonds between oil and dead cells on the skin’s surface and triggering the skin to speed up cell renewal at a deeper level. This makes AHAs such as glycolic acid a go-to treatment for the likes of fine lines, acne and acne scars, dark spots and pigmentation – the latter a particular concern if your skin has a high melanin content.
As glycolic acid has the smallest molecular weight of all the AHAs, it’s fast acting, hence its popularity among dermatologists and skincare obsessives. But its potency can sometimes prove problematic, especially on darker skin tones, something Nicolas Travis, founder of Allies of Skin, recently flagged.
So should those with darker skin tones try to minimise the use of glycolic acid – and perhaps AHAs altogether? Dija Ayodele, facial aesthetician and founder of the Black Skin Directory doesn’t think so, but advises proceeding with caution. “
Glycolic acid is suitable for dark skin, but the problem lies in overuse. People are buying professional grade treatments online, with a low pH and high acid content, but don’t know how to use them correctly.”
This, she explains, can exacerbate the problem they’re trying to deal with in the first place.
“If you’re looking to clear up discolouration in darker skin tones, overuse of AHAs can cause the skin to react, leading to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – so you end up going around in circles.”
Instead of glycolic acid, both Ayodele and Travis recommended gentler AHAs, such as mandelic acid.
“Mandelic acid has the largest molecular structure, so it is the most gentle AHA,”
“Because of this, it works better on darker skin tones as it gives all the great benefits of AHAs without any irritation and with less chance of causing any post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.”
Image copyright: Natalia Mantini
Written by: Viola Levy
First published: https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/acids-hyperpigmentation-dark-skin