Glycolic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid

Glycolic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid

The exfoliation process is just one of the most vital steps in our skincare routine. It rids your skin of surface imperfections like acne, wrinkles, and other blemishes. Hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid and glycolic acid, are clinically proven to treat these skin issues. But, with so many selections, how will you know which one is the best for your skin?

Adapting face acids to your beauty regimen is a daunting task. It’s your skin, and it is right to be always mindful of what you apply to it. And that leads us to our question, what is the difference between glycolic acid vs salicylic acid?

Well, worry no more! In this article, we are going to scrutinize and tackle the details of this case. We’ll be talking about the difference, benefits, as well as list down all the best products for you.

Glycolic Acid And Its Benefits

A naturally occurring colorless and odorless AHA or alpha-hydroxy-acid, glycolic acid comes from sugary fruits like pineapples, sugar beets, and sugar canes. AHAs are water-soluble acids that break down and peels away the top layer of dead skin.

Since glycolic acid facilitates in enhancing skin cell turnover, it is best for treating hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, and diminishing the appearance of scars. Products with glycolic acid have a concentration between 5% to 30%. Lower levels of glycolic acid are milder and would reduce the possibility of irritation.

Just remember to wear a sunscreen when using AHAs to prevent sun-damaged skin.

Salicylic Acid And Its Benefits

BHAs or beta-hydroxy acid, like salicylic acid, are oil-soluble and found in the bark of a willow tree. Unlike its counterpart, it penetrates deep into the skin to exfoliate the dead skin from the top layers down to your pores. 

Salicylic acid has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for treating acne, cystic acne, whiteheads, as well as blackheads. It is also great for improving your skin’s texture and removing excess oil.

Between 1% to 10% concentrations, a product with 2% salicylic acid is much common. What’s more, it doesn’t increase your skin’s susceptibility to sun damage. It is safe to use, even without sunscreen.

When To Use Glycolic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid

When To Use Glycolic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid

Both glycolic and salicylic acid are excellent exfoliants. Nevertheless, they serve a different purpose. You use salicylic acid if you have oily and acne-prone skin. While glycolic acid, on the other hand, can remedy sun damage and hydrate the skin.

Some products contain both AHA and BHA. They, however, are specially formulated to be safe and tested on skin. If you are using separate products for each face acid, it is much safer to alternate between the two products rather than use them at the same time. Make use of these exfoliants depending on your skin issues, such as:

  • Reversing Effects On Sun-Damaged And Ageing Skin

Excessive exposure to the sun and aging can take a toll on your skin. Over time fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, melasma, enlarged pores, and uneven skin tone will develop. Glycolic acid works well to remedy and reverse these effects. Similarly, you can also use glycolic acid vs salicylic acid for acne scars and other surface imperfections, too.

  • Getting Rid Of Excess Oil And Redness

Given that salicylic acid is oil-soluble, its formula Is excellent for normal to oily skin. It helps prevent your skin from developing bumps, clogged and enlarged pores, and other blemishes. BHA  is also naturally soothing and gentle on sensitive skin. 

  • Curing And Preventing Acne

Salicylic acid breaks through the topmost layer of your skin to better cure acne from its source. The 1% salicylic and 10% buffered glycolic acid combination has shown to give the best results. By adding glycolic acid into the solution, it rids of dead skin to reveal newer and brighter skin free of acne.

  • Treating Chicken Skin Or Keratosis Pilaris

Chicken skin is a skin condition where there is a build-up of excess keratin. It blocks your skin’s hair follicles, making your skin look and feel like sandpaper. Although it is harmless, it is challenging to conceal using makeup and also tricky to get rid of on your skin.

To exfoliate and unclog the hair follicles, you can use glycolic acid. It works by peeling the top layers of skin and treating keratosis pilaris from its source. For better results, adding a low concentration of salicylic acid will speed up the process. Make sure that you also include an intense hydrating moisturizer to control the dryness caused by excessive shedding.

Best Glycolic Acid Products

Glycolic acid’s low molecular weight makes it the best chemical exfoliator as it can penetrate deeper into your skin than its counterparts. The next list should help you find the best glycolic acid that would give you a brighter, glowing, and more even complexion.

1. Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads

A potent mix of 5% glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and hyaluronic acid, these exfoliating night pads are formulated for oily and congested skin. Make it part of a weekly night routine to improve pores, lighten skin tone, and decongest your skin. It is a powerful exfoliator, so it is crucial to stick with using it only once every seven days.


  • Contains 5% glycolic acid combined with salicylic acid
  • Exfoliates skin to remove dead cells
  • Reduce the appearance of skin discoloration
  • Helps to unclog pores, treat blackheads and blemishes
  • Hyaluronic acid keeps skin well-hydrated


  • May cause skin damage or breakout on more sensitive skin

2. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Afraid to use harsh acids on your face? This toning solution contains a high concentration of 7% glycolic acid but only gently exfoliates your skin. It also has Tasmanian pepper berry, which helps decrease irritations, typically comes with acid use. Ginseng and aloe vera soothes skin while leaving it soft and smooth.

You can use this once every night after cleansing your face. Remember to use sunscreen or limit the amount of sun exposure while you use this toner.


  • Formulated with 7% Glycolic Acid
  • Visibly brightens and clears skin
  • Provides mild exfoliation
  • Improves complexion and texture
  • Contains Tasmanian pepper berry reduces irritation


  • Wear sunscreen to prevent sun damage

3. L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Serum

It contains 10% glycolic acid, effectively reduces spots and wrinkles in just a couple of weeks.  Aloe makes this serum gentle enough for every night usage. The lightweight formula breaks down dead skin cells and helps reveal a brighter and more even complexion. 

Apply the serum every night on clean and dry skin. If you are going out in the sun, don’t forget to wear protective clothing and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.


  • With 10% glycolic acid
  • Anti-aging properties diminish dark spots and wrinkles
  • Very potent formula but gentle on the skin
  • Noticeable results in as short as two weeks
  • Safe and suitable for all skin types
  • Paraben-free, fragrance-free, contains artificial coloring


  • Excessive sun exposure can cause spots to darken

Best Salicylic Acid Products

The most effective way to fight pimples and treat blemishes is by using salicylic acid. It is excellent in peeling away skin and addressing skin issues down from its source. These are five of the best salicylic products that you should give a try:

1. Eva Naturals Skin Clearing Serum

Not only is it the best anti-aging serum, but it is also useful in getting rid of acne and other skin issues. The combination of vitamin C, antioxidants, and hyaluronic acid helps repair skin damage caused by the sun. It also keeps skin well-hydrated, so it becomes softer and smoother. Salicylic acid in the formula takes care of removing and preventing acne. 


  • Has 2% salicylic acid
  • Also contains Vitamin C, Retinol, Niacinamide, Hyaluronic acid, and MSM
  • Remedies and protects the skin from sun damage
  • Unclogs pores and exfoliates the skin
  • Reduces redness and inflammation
  • Uses essential oils and organic ingredients


  • May cause mild irritation on acne-prone sensitive skin

2. Cerave SA Lotion

This lotion is best for dry, rough, and bumpy skin that needs a lot of moisture. What it does is gently exfoliate the skin to remove blemishes and improve texture. It also takes care to leave your skin hydrated and moisturized longer compared to other products.

Three essential ceramides work to repair and maintain the natural barrier that protects your skin from damage. The formula is very gentle on the skin as it contains no fragrance, artificial coloring, and other harsh chemicals.


  • A combination of Salicylic acid, Lactic acid, Hyaluronic acid, and Vitamin D
  • Exfoliates and moisturizes your skin longer
  • Contains ceramides which improve skin’s barrier
  • Fragrance-free, dye-free, hypoallergenic, and non-comedogenic
  • Gentle and non-irritating


  • Feels heavy and greasy, especially on oily skin

3. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Exfoliant

Get rid of your enlarged pores, dead skin cells, blackheads, wrinkles, and other imperfections using this leave-on exfoliator. It contains 2% BHA that facilitates shedding the layers to expose a newer, brighter, and lighter skin.  Use it every day to clear pores of dirt and debris to prevent acne and breakouts. This product leaves skin well-moisturized and with better texture.


  • Unclogs and minimizes pores
  • Removes dead skin cells and blemishes
  • Smooths and brightens skin
  • Gentle everyday exfoliant
  • Contains no parabens, no fragrance, and harmful chemicals


  • May cause skin to purge before you start seeing positive results

What to Look for When Buying Glycolic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid Exfoliants

After going through our list of best glycolic acid and salicylic products, it’s time to learn how to choose the right product for yourself. Here are the three things that you should bear in mind before purchasing salicylic acid or glycolic acid.

Know Your Skin Type

First, and most importantly, is to know your skin. Choose between glycolic acid and salicylic acid, depending on your skin type and what issues you are trying to remedy.

  • Dry And Mature Skin Type

Glycolic acid is best for both dry or mature skin because it hydrates while also exfoliating. This face acid peels away dead skin to diminish wrinkles and reveal much younger-looking skin.

  • Oily, Sensitive, And Acne-Prone Skin

Salicylic acid unclog pores and clears your skin of acne. It works deep into your skin to treat blemishes 

Face Acid Concentration

When purchasing over-the-counter products with glycolic acid, choose one that contains less than 15% concentrations. To avoid irritation, use 5% only twice a week and gradually increase frequency and dosage. It works slowly, but it would help you reduce adverse reactions.

For salicylic acid, the safest highest concentration is 2%. Less potency is best if you have sensitive skin. You can use it one to two times a day or as indicated in the packaging.

Additional Ingredients

Other ingredients included in either glycolic acid or salicylic acid can affect its overall effects and results. Beauty and skincare products, as a rule, should be non-comedogenic, paraben-free, fragrance-free, and contain no harmful chemicals.


Can I apply glycolic acid and salicylic acid together?

Yes, however, it can be too harsh, especially on sensitive skin. If you are using a skincare product that contains both, follow the instruction religiously and apply a moisturizer.

Are the glycolic acid and salicylic acid in face wash effective?

No, because the face acid needs to remain long enough on your skin to make any changes.

How long do you need to use the product to see results?

Results vary depending on the health, issue, skin type, and how consistent you use the product. In most cases, four to eight weeks is enough time to see noticeable changes.

Using face acids are proven effective in encouraging skin cell turnover and peeling away dead skin. It would be best if you always based your decision choosing glycolic acid vs salicylic acid on what your skin needs. Remember to be consistent and diligent with your skincare routine to ensure you get positive results.

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