Skin Care Treatments

A Comparison between Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid

New types of skin care treatments are unfolding as people are discovering new and improved methods of making their skin fresh and glowing. For a long time, people are looking for a solution to exfoliate their skin, and finally, chemical peel treatment came into existence. 

A chemical peel treatment is a skin care treatment in which a chemical solution is used to cleanse and exfoliate the skin. Normally a chemical peel treatment is done using either glycolic acid or salicylic acid, and this has created confusion. Some people think that glycolic is better, and some believe in salicylic acid. 

Generally speaking, both glycolic acid and salicylic acid are the same as they work for skin exfoliation and cleansing. Both of the acids can be used for several skin care treatments like acne, acne scars, skin pigmentation, wrinkle, and fine lines. 

While they share some common characteristics, glycolic acid and salicylic acid have their difference. One of the common differences between the 2 is that while glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid. 

A Comparison between the 2 Treatments for Better Understanding 

  • Glycolic Acid 

Glycolic acid comes from the family of alpha-hydroxy or AHA acid family. These acids are water-soluble and occur naturally. Some of the primary sources of glycolic acid are sugar beets, sugar cane, and pineapples. 

In the process of skin exfoliation, glycolic acid is very effective because it breaks the bond between the skin cells and makes it lose. As the skin becomes loose, it becomes easy to exfoliate it and remove all the impurities from the upper layers. 

Apart from glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and malic acid are also a member of alpha hydroxyl family. But due to the small size of the glycolic acid molecule, it is best suited for the treatment process. 

Glycolic acid can be used for treating skin conditions like wrinkles, fine lines, skin pigmentation, exfoliation, and extraction. But while using an alpha hydroxy acid like glycolic acid, you need to keep in mind that it can increase sun sensitivity. It is recommended to wear suns cream after the treatment process for about a week. 

  • Salicylic Acid 

Salicylic acid comes from the family of beta hydroxyl or BHA acid family. These acids are not soluble in water, but they have the soluble property for oil. Salicylic acid can be derived naturally, or it can be produced artificially. 

 In the process of skin exfoliation, salicylic acid works on the deeper skin layers. As salicylic acid is oil-soluble, it can penetrate deeper skin layers and remove oil, dead skin, and other impurities from the skin pores.   

Glycolic acid can be used for treating skin conditions like acne, acne scars, burns scars, extraction, exfoliation, skin pigmentation, and skin spot. Unlike the alpha hydroxyl family, the acids of the beta hydroxyl family don’t increase sun sensitivity. Which means you can walk freely after the treatment process. 

Now, Which One is Better for Different Types of Skin Conditions 

  • For Acne 

Acne develops when skin oil, dust, or other impurities deposit on the skin pores and clog them. Another reason for acne development is hormonal imbalance. Due to hormonal imbalance, the amount of sebum increases, which starts to clog the skin pores. Now, as acne is a deep skin problem and caused due to oil, Salicylic acid can give better results and then the glycolic acid. 

  • For Aging and sun damage 

The first signs of aging are wrinkles and fine lines, normally, the wrinkles and fine lines develop as the process of formation of new skin cells becomes slow. But now, as we live busy and stressed live, wrinkles and fine lines can also develop because of poor skin care and sun damage. For these types of skin condition, glycolic acid is better than salicylic acid, because these conditions don’t need deeper exfoliation. 

  • For Keratosis Pilaris 

Keratosis pilaris can be understood as a condition in which thick skin tissues that can occur anywhere on the body. It happens when our body starts to overproduce a protein called keratin, which gets deposited on the follicles and creates raised bumps.   


Here is a comparison between glycolic acid and salicylic acid, of the most common acid that is used for the purpose of chemical peel treatment and skin exfoliation treatment. Now the most important thing is the use of these acids, for that it is always recommended that you consult with a skin care specialist. Because in his supervision and guidance, you can achieve the best results and a very low chance of any side effects.   

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