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Glycolic Acid vs. Salicylic Acid: Pros, Cons, And Which One Is Better For You?

Glycolic Acid vs. Salicylic Acid: Pros, Cons, And Which One Is Better For You?

Glycolic Acid vs. Salicylic Acid: Pros, Cons, and Which One is Better for You?

Glycolic and Salicylic are popular types of acids widely used in skincare products. They are available over the counter in many skincare preparations, such as toners, cleansers, and exfoliators. They help exfoliate your skin and prevent breakouts, but both have unique properties.

This article will help you decide which of them is more beneficial and best suited to your skin type.

What is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and is naturally found in sugarcane, and can also be made in a laboratory. It exfoliates the top layers of the skin and removes the dead skin cells, promoting new skin formation. 

  • Pros:

Glycolic acid helps protect against ultraviolet B rays and keeps bacteria out of the skin, thus preventing breakouts. Other beneficial effects of glycolic acid include:

  1. Reduces signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines
  2. Reduces hyperpigmentation and dark spots
  3. Enhances the firmness of the skin
  4. Brightens skin complexion
  5. Reduces the appearance of pores

It is best for acne-prone skin, aging skin, and skin that is prone to hyperpigmentation.

  • Cons:

The common side effects of applying glycolic acid to your skin include:

  1. Redness
  2. Tingling sensation
  3. Irritation
  4. Skin peeling, which gives the appearance of a dry and unhealthy skin

What is Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) found naturally in wintergreen leaves but can also be synthesized in the laboratory. Salicylic acid also has exfoliating properties and sloughs off the top layer of the skin, thus promoting new skin formation. 

  • Pros:

Salicylic acid reduces sebum production and works best in unclogging pores. Other beneficial effects of salicylic acid include:

  1. Anti-microbial effect
  2. Anti-inflammatory effect
  3. Reduces the appearance of blackheads
  4. Reduces hyperpigmentation

It is best suited for acne-prone skin, oily skin, and skin prone to hyperpigmentation.

  • Cons:

The side effects of salicylic acid use include:

  1. Redness and heating up of skin
  2. Skin peeling
  3. Irritation

Glycolic Acid vs. Salicylic Acid

  • Which One is Best for Acne?

Although both of these products are beneficial for reducing and preventing breakouts, salicylic acid is definitely a better pick. This is because salicylic acid reduces sebum production and provides anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects. Excessive sebum production can result in the clogging of your pores and breakouts. Controlling excess sebum production by using salicylic acid can be beneficial for your skin.

  • Which One is Better for a Chemical Peel?

If you desire a chemical peeling effect, go for a glycolic acid product. This is because glycolic acid has a small molecular size, and it easily enters and exfoliates the top layers of the skin. Moreover, it retains moisture, whereas salicylic acid has a drying effect that irritates the skin. In addition, you might remove excess sebum from your skin when using salicylic acid if you don’t have an oily skin type.

See Also
8 of the Best Benefits of Antioxidants for Your Skin


Hamdani, S. (2022, February 22). GLYCOLIC ACID VS SALICYLIC ACID: WHAT’S BETTER FOR YOUR SKIN? Retrieved from

Glycolic vs. Salicylic Acid I Courtesy of Atalo Aesthetics

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