The Differences Between Glycolic & Salicylic Acid

Skincare ingredients are vital components of our skincare products. Each of them has its own benefits in keeping your skin healthy. Two ingredients, in particular, that are beneficial and are found in many products are glycolic and salicylic acid. These common acidic ingredients help your skin in different ways. Here are three ways these ingredients play different roles for your skin.

They Are Under Different Acidic Categories

The salicylic acid ingredient is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid). “This means it is formulated to deeply exfoliate your skin and get into its clogged pores,” shares Nikki Donovan, a licensed medical aesthetician at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas. Because glycolic is an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid), it works better at the surface of the skin. So if you have clogged pores or your skin is in need of deep exfoliation, a product with the salicylic acid ingredient in it may be right for you. On the other hand, if your skin needs some moisturizing at its surface, glycolic acid is ideal.

Which Skin Type Each Benefits More

Another key difference is how each ingredient benefits different skin types. Dermatologists recommend the glycolic acid ingredient for normal-to-dry, sun-damaged skin. “This is because it could boost natural moisturizing factors within your skin,” notes Donovan. It could also reduce some signs of pigmentation. Salicylic acid is best for oily, acne-prone skin because of its ability to penetrate clogged pores.

How They Differ In Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are great for reducing those fine lines and wrinkles, but they are also composed of both glycolic and salicylic acids. However, a glycolic and salicylic peel serve two different benefits. “If you want a brightening tone to your skin, a glycolic peel will benefit you,” suggests Donovan. But for acne-prone skin, a peel with salicylic acid in it will be better.

Contact Us

When choosing whether to use a product with glycolic or salicylic acid in it, knowing your skin type is very important. We at Sanova Dermatology are here to help you find that out and to provide recommendations of products based on your skin type.  Contact us for questions about your skincare needs.


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