Home Skincare How Long After Glycolic Acid Can I Moisturize?

How Long After Glycolic Acid Can I Moisturize?

by Gabbi

Creating your own personal skincare routine is a process that is unique to your skin type and its specific needs. Finding the magic blend of ingredients, order of application, and special treatments is a fun and complex process.

Especially when you are looking to add ingredients to your routine that are considered chemical exfoliants, knowing when and how to use them is important.

One popular chemical exfoliant that is saturating the skincare market is glycolic acid, thanks to its ability to slough off dead skin cells to reveal smooth and even skin layers underneath.

Particularly for oily skin, glycolic acid is available in many forms to brighten the skin tone, even out discoloration, and to reduce acne breakouts.

As it is available in many different products, knowing when to apply the product in relation to the rest of your skincare routine, especially your moisturizer, is key to unlocking the full benefits of the ingredient.

How long should you wait to moisturize your skin after applying glycolic acid? It is best to wait until the glycolic acid has fully absorbed into your skin, so it is able to reap the full benefits of the product, before finishing your routine with your moisturizer.

Glycolic acid is a superhero ingredient that can target many concerns and is available in many types of products.

Below, we are going to discuss what glycolic acid is, what are the benefits of adding it to your routine, and when is the best time to use it!

What Is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is a popular skincare ingredient that is part of the Alpha Hydroxy Acid family. As an AHA, it is used as a chemical exfoliant that helps enhance the skin’s appearance in a variety of ways, not just for your face but also your body (we love it for strawberry legs).

Most commonly, it works to rid the skin of dead skin cells and excess oil to help provide a clear and even complexion.

It is naturally derived from sugar cane, unlike other AHAs such as citric acid or lactic acid that are derived from citrus or milk respectively. Compared to the other AHA molecules, glycolic acid is the smallest molecule form making it able to penetrate deeper layers of the skin, to begin clarifying the skin from the inside out.

Glycolic Acid Benefits

There are a wide range of benefits for your skin that can be gained by adding glycolic acid into your routine. One of the main benefits of this AHA ingredient is its ability to improve the tone and texture of the skin overall.

Glycolic acid works to break apart the dead skin cells that can cling to the surface layer of the skin, and gently slough them off to reveal the new layers of brightened and smoothed skin underneath.

Through breaking down the dead skin cells, as well as the excess oil that can clog pores, glycolic acid also works to help reduce any acne breakouts. It can also help prevent new breakouts from occurring, through exfoliating the skin thoroughly.

Glycolic acid can also help to even out discoloration on the skin, which can be left behind from acne scarring. It can also help to reduce the appearance of discoloration due to sunspots and hyperpigmentation.

By being able to penetrate the layers of the skin so deeply, it can target the areas of discoloration, while working to exfoliate the top layer of the skin to reveal an even tone and complexion.

Products with glycolic acid are also often targeting fine lines and wrinkles, to reduce their appearance. Glycolic acid is able to encourage collagen production in the skin, which helps to create a plumpness in the skin to help minimize the appearance fine lines and wrinkles.

Along with boosting the skin’s collagen production, glycolic acid can also improve the skin’s elasticity, which further helps reduce the appearance of fine lines to create a smooth texture.

While improving the skin’s elasticity and collagen production, glycolic acid makes sure to deliver a healthy dose of hyaluronic acid as well, which helps to keep the skin well hydrated and to lock in any existing moisture.

What Products Contain Glycolic Acid?

As glycolic acid can provide so many different skin benefits, there are a range of products that are formulated with the ingredient to provide you the best results for your skin type and concern.

Glycolic acid is largely found included in serums, toners, and moisturizers. It can also be found in facial and body cleansers, which can be an easy and gentle way to introduce glycolic acid into your routine if your skin is on the sensitive side.

Glycolic acid is also a popular ingredient for AHA chemical peels. The chemical peels are to be administered by a skincare professional, and is a higher concentrate of the product than what would be available in regular, over-the-counter, skincare products that you use at home.

What Type of Glycolic Acid Works For You?

As glycolic acid is an ingredient that targets many concerns and is available in a variety of skincare options, to find the formula that works for you depends on your concerns and your skin type. Glycolic acid is an ideal product for those with normal to oily skin, as it can be too drying for dry or sensitive skin types.

Cleansers are an excellent way to start using the ingredient in your skincare routine, and can be gentle enough for frequent use throughout the week. It can also work well to combat acne breakouts, while gently exfoliating the skin.

If you are looking for more of an exfoliation, especially if you are targeting discoloration or fine lines, using glycolic acid in a toner, serum, or moisturizer will be able to target those concerns specifically, as they have a longer amount of time to absorb into the skin than a cleanser does.

However, if you are wanting to target specific areas of concern, like hyperpigmentation, going for a chemical peel will be able to provide stronger results. AHA chemical peels can often be done on a monthly basis, to treat and target your concerns.

Applying Glycolic Acid After Moisturizer

As with any skincare products, knowing how to layer products or combine certain ingredients will help you in achieving the results you are after. Although it does have its own moisturizing properties, glycolic acid should always be followed up by a moisturizer both day and night

If you are using the product as a toner, you can apply your moisturizer after following the toner with any serums you use. Although if you are using the product as a serum, or as an exfoliating toner, it is best to wait for the products to absorb fully into the skin before applying the moisturizer.

Waiting until the serum or toner has been completely absorbed into the skin, allows for the skin to receive the full benefits from the ingredients, before adding another layer of product on top.

Best Ways To Use Glycolic Acid In Your Routine

Although glycolic acid can be easily added into your routine through various products, it is important to avoid using the ingredient too often to prevent any irritation.

While it is ideal for normal to oily skin, if glycolic acid is overused it can cause irritation such as redness, itchiness, or dryness to occur. It is best to incorporate the ingredient slowly into your routine to allow your skin the proper time to adjust to its exfoliating properties.

Depending on the type of product, glycolic acid can be used both during the day and at night. However, if you are newly adding the product into your routine, it is best to start by using the glycolic acid only at night and following up with your nightly skincare routine.

If you are planning on using the product during the daytime, it is important to follow up with sun protection to avoid any potential sun damage.

In using glycolic acid during the daytime, allow the product to absorb into the skin before applying your facial moisturizer. After your moisturizer has also been fully absorbed, make sure to end your skincare routine with sunscreen, as the glycolic acid can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun.

Through its exfoliating properties, it exposes the new, fresh layers of the skin that are more vulnerable to potential sun damage, which is why an SPF is crucial.

Along with incorporating the glycolic acid slowly into your routine, you want to be mindful of the other products you are using. While it can be layered with other skincare ingredients, it is best to avoid using glycolic acid if you are also already using retinol products or certain acne medications.

The retinol and acne medications can make your skin sensitive or prone to dryness, and adding glycolic acid into the routine can potentially cause further sensitivity, irritation, or dryness to occur.

Depending on your skin type, and how your skin responds to the ingredient, glycolic acid can be used several times throughout the week.


Glycolic acid a powerful chemical exfoliant that can work wonders on the skin.

Whether you are looking to even out areas of discoloration left behind by acne scars, wanting to add radiance to your complexion, or wanting a chemical exfoliant that can break down and slough off the dead skin cells that can clog pores, glycolic acid is making its way into many more skincare formulas.

By slowly incorporating this AHA ingredient into your routine, your skin will look bright, even, and clear for your best complexion yet!

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