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Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid With Glycolic Acid?

by Ella Goodman 31 Jan 2024

Hey there, skincare enthusiasts!

Are you ready to dive into a world where science meets beauty, and where every drop of your skincare routine counts?

Today, we're unraveling a hot topic that's been buzzing in the beauty community: can you really pair hyaluronic acid with glycolic acid?

Buckle up, buttercups, because we're about to embark on an enlightening journey into the heart of your skincare regimen.

Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid and Glycolic Acid Together?

Let's cut to the chase: Yes, you absolutely can use hyaluronic acid and glycolic acid together.

And let me tell you, it's like a match made in skincare heaven.

So, why do these two get along like a house on fire? Let's dive deep into this dynamic duo's chemistry.

Glycolic Acid: The Exfoliating Prodigy

First up in our skincare tag team is glycolic acid.

Hailing from the alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) family, glycolic acid is like the Hercules of exfoliation.

Its superpower lies in its small molecular size, which allows it to penetrate the skin easily and work its exfoliating magic. This means it can dive deeper than other AHAs, effectively breaking the bonds that hold dead skin cells together.

The result? It sloughs off dead skin, revealing the fresh, radiant skin underneath.

But glycolic acid isn't just a one-trick pony. It also stimulates collagen production, giving your skin a firmer, more youthful look.

Plus, it deals with hyperpigmentation like a pro, fading dark spots and evening out skin tone.

In simpler terms, it's like hitting the reset button on your skin, giving you a smoother, brighter, and more even complexion.

Hyaluronic Acid: The Hydration Maestro

Enter stage right: hyaluronic acid (HA), the hydrating superstar.

Unlike glycolic acid, HA isn't about exfoliation. It's all about hydration.

This naturally occurring molecule in our skin is a hydration magnet, capable of holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water.

Imagine a tiny sponge that expands dramatically when it comes in contact with water – that's HA for your skin.

When applied topically, HA goes into superhero mode, drawing moisture into the skin and locking it in place. This results in skin that's not only hydrated but also plump and bouncy.

Think of it like a moisture reservoir for your skin, continuously releasing hydration throughout the day.

The Perfect Pair: How They Complement Each Other

Now, why do glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid work so well together?

It's all about balance.

Glycolic acid removes the outer layer of dead skin cells, which can otherwise act as a barrier to other skincare products. With these cells out of the way, hyaluronic acid can penetrate the skin more effectively, delivering deep hydration.

It's like preparing a garden bed for planting: glycolic acid clears the weeds (dead skin cells), allowing hyaluronic acid to water the soil (your skin) more effectively.

What happens then? A complexion that's not only exfoliated but also deeply hydrated, resulting in skin that looks fresher, smoother, and more youthful.

Tailoring to Your Skin's Needs

Now, before you start layering these two powerhouses, it's essential to consider your skin type.

If you have sensitive skin, you might want to introduce glycolic acid slowly into your routine to avoid irritation.

On the flip side, if your skin is on the oilier side, you might find this combo a godsend for balancing out your skin's texture and moisture levels.

Incorporating both glycolic and hyaluronic acid into your skincare routine can be transformative.

Start with a glycolic acid product (like a toner or serum) after cleansing, then follow up with a hyaluronic acid serum or moisturizer. This way, you're ensuring your skin gets the full benefit of both exfoliation and hydration.

Remember, everyone's skin is different, so feel free to adjust the frequency and concentration of these products to suit your unique skin needs.

What Should I Apply First: Glycolic Acid or Hyaluronic Acid?

Order matters in skincare, just like in a gourmet meal.

When pairing these two, always start with glycolic acid.

But why should you start with glycolic acid, and how does this power move transform your skin?

Let's break it down.

Glycolic Acid: The Exfoliation Maestro

Picture glycolic acid as the opening act in your skincare concert.

It's not just any alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA); it's the A-list celebrity of AHAs.


Because of its tiny molecular size, it penetrates the skin with the finesse of a skilled ninja, swiftly breaking down the bonds between dull, dead skin cells on the surface.

This process is known as chemical exfoliation – a gentle yet effective way to reveal the fresh, glowing skin underneath.

But why exfoliate first?

Think of your skin as a clogged canvas. If you paint over debris and old paint (i.e., dead skin cells and sebum), you won't get that smooth, flawless finish.

Glycolic acid clears away the old, clogged layer, ensuring that what comes next (hello, hyaluronic acid!) can work its magic unimpeded.

The Perfect Set-Up for Hyaluronic Acid

After the star performance of glycolic acid, it's time for the hydration hero, hyaluronic acid, to take the stage.

With the top layer of dead skin cells out of the way, hyaluronic acid can penetrate deeply into the skin. It's like clearing a blocked path so that water can flow smoothly into a thirsty garden.

When applied to freshly exfoliated skin, hyaluronic acid sinks in deeply, pulling moisture into the skin's deeper layers and holding it there like a moisture magnet.

This not only plumps up your skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but also ensures a lasting hydration that keeps your skin supple and glowing all day long.

The Art of Application

Now, let's talk application technique – because it's not just what you apply, but how you apply it.

Start with a clean face, then apply your glycolic acid product. Use enough to cover your face in a thin, even layer, but don't overdo it – more isn't always better in the world of AHAs.

Give it a few minutes to work its magic. You might feel a tingling sensation – that's normal, but if it burns, wash it off immediately.

Once your skin feels smooth and ready (a few minutes should do the trick), it's time for hyaluronic acid. Apply it gently, patting it into the skin to encourage absorption. Hyaluronic acid is like a thirst-quenching drink for your skin, and you want every drop to count.

Does Glycolic Acid Toner Go Before Hyaluronic Acid?

Now, when it comes to glycolic acid toner, the plot thickens.

Glycolic acid toners are a special case because they're typically lighter and more fluid than other glycolic acid products.

Here's the deal: you should still use your glycolic acid toner before hyaluronic acid.

So, why does the glycolic acid toner take the stage before the hyaluronic acid?

Let's unpack this!

The Role of Glycolic Acid Toner in Your Skincare Routine

Picture your glycolic acid toner as the opening act in your skincare routine.

Toners, especially those infused with glycolic acid, play a crucial role. Unlike their heavier counterparts like serums or creams, toners are light, almost ethereal, in their consistency.

This means they're primed to penetrate the skin rapidly and start working their magic without delay.

Glycolic acid, our resident star in the AHA world, is known for its ability to exfoliate dead skin cells effectively, brighten the complexion, and promote a more even skin tone.

When in toner form, it's like a fast-acting, surface-level exfoliant that preps your skin for the next steps.

Think of it this way: applying glycolic acid toner is like preparing a canvas for a masterpiece. It removes any lingering impurities and dead skin after cleansing, ensuring that your skin is a clean, receptive slate.

The Science Behind the Sequence

Why exactly should glycolic acid toner precede hyaluronic acid?

The answer lies in how skincare products penetrate the skin.

Toners, particularly those formulated with AHAs like glycolic acid, are designed to work on the skin's outermost layers. They exfoliate and cleanse, creating pathways for subsequent products to be absorbed more effectively.

By applying your glycolic acid toner first, you're doing more than just exfoliating. You're actually enhancing your skin's ability to draw in and retain moisture, which is where hyaluronic acid comes into play.

Maximizing Hyaluronic Acid Absorption

After the toner has set the stage, it's time for hyaluronic acid to shine.

This hydration powerhouse, as we know, is all about pulling and retaining moisture in the skin.

When applied after glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid can penetrate deeper thanks to the exfoliating action of the toner. This allows for more effective hydration, as hyaluronic acid can reach the newer, fresher skin cells beneath.

Hyaluronic acid’s prowess in binding water to skin cells leads to that plump, dewy look we all crave. It’s the secret to turning a well-prepped skin surface into a hydration haven.

The Perfect Application Technique

When applying glycolic acid toner, think gentle and thorough.

Use a cotton pad or your fingertips, sweeping it across your face in an outward motion. This ensures even application without overstimulating the skin.

Give it a couple of minutes to work its exfoliating magic, then proceed with hyaluronic acid.

For hyaluronic acid application, consider a patting motion rather than rubbing. This technique allows for a gentle, more effective absorption, ensuring that your skin gets the full hydrating effect.

Is Glycolic Acid Better on Wet or Dry Skin?

Hold onto your seats, skincare junkies, because we're about to dive into one of the most crucial aspects of using glycolic acid – the art of application.

It's not just what you apply, but how and when you apply it that turns your skincare routine from basic to brilliant.

So, let's tackle the burning question: Should glycolic acid be applied to wet or dry skin?

Spoiler alert: dry skin wins this round, and here's the science behind it.

The Science of Glycolic Acid on Dry Skin

Glycolic acid, a superstar in the world of exfoliation, loves to work solo on your skin.

When applied to dry skin, glycolic acid can perform at its peak efficiency.

Think of it like a skilled artist working on a blank canvas. The dryness allows glycolic acid to adhere to your skin evenly and penetrate effectively without any interference.

Here's the chemistry behind it: Glycolic acid is water-soluble, meaning it dissolves in water.

When applied to wet skin, it can become diluted, reducing its potency and effectiveness. It's akin to watering down a potent drink – it just doesn't have the same kick.

By applying it to dry skin, you're giving this powerful AHA the best shot to work its magic.

The Right Way to Apply Glycolic Acid

The application process for glycolic acid is like a sacred ritual in your skincare regimen.

After cleansing, gently pat your skin dry with a soft towel. This doesn't just remove excess water; it also preps your skin for the glycolic acid application. Now, when your skin is dry and ready, it's showtime for the glycolic acid.

Apply a small amount evenly across your face, avoiding the eye area.

A little goes a long way here – you don't need to bathe in it to see results. Imagine you're painting a masterpiece; every stroke counts. This method ensures that the glycolic acid penetrates the skin uniformly and deeply.

Customizing Glycolic Acid Use to Your Skin

If you're a glycolic acid rookie or have sensitive skin, consider starting with a lower concentration.

Glycolic acid, while fantastic, is still an acid, and it means business. Starting low and slow allows your skin to acclimate to the product, reducing the risk of irritation.

As your skin gets used to it, you can gradually increase the strength, letting your skin enjoy all the benefits without the backlash.

The Crucial Step: Sun Protection

Now, here's a non-negotiable step – sunscreen.

AHAs like glycolic acid can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage. This is because glycolic acid removes the top layer of dead skin, exposing fresh, new skin that's more vulnerable to UV rays.

Always, and I mean always, follow up with a broad-spectrum sunscreen in the morning. It's like giving your skin a shield to ward off any potential sun damage.

Wrapping It Up: Your Skincare, Your Rules

TL;DR - Pairing hyaluronic acid with glycolic acid can be a game-changer for your skincare routine.

By understanding the science behind these products and applying them correctly, you're not just putting stuff on your face – you're conducting a symphony of skincare that sings to the tune of radiant, healthy skin.

Remember, your skin's needs are unique, so feel free to tweak this advice to suit your skin type and concerns.

And most importantly, have fun with it! Skincare is as much about self-care and enjoyment as it is about results.

Now go forth and glow like the skincare superstar you are!

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