I’ve always avoided Glycolic Acid due to a bad breakout I experienced almost a decade ago from Neostrata 10% Glycolic Acid and Derma E Glycolic Acid Cleanser and Toner.
I thought I’d give th active another shot when I started using The Ordinary Peeling Solution and realized that it had glycolic acid, but didn’t break me out. I also didn’t experience any untoward reaction from several Glycolic Acid Facial sessions with Aesthetic Science Clinic.
Maybe the key to not breaking out, at least with my skin, is to rinse off glycolic acid after a few minutes. 🤷 This is what the RN/esthetician does at Aesthetic Science Clinic. They apply a thin layer of glycolic acid then rinse it out. This apparently makes it easier to do extractions. Note: You can request the esthetician not to do extractions when you don’t have active acne.
Anyway, I found this video of Dr. Davin Lim on how to do Glycolic Acid peel safely at home. I recommend going through his youtube channel if you’re looking to treat your acne scars with peels or laser treatments.
What you’ll need*
*Based on Dr. Davin’s video
- Glycolic Acid 5-10% — for first timers
- Gauze — to soak Glycolic Acid in; used as a cotton pad
- Neutralizing Agent — to neutralize the acid (plain water and/or baking soda solution)
- Eye Irrigation — I don’t know exactly what Dr. Davin uses but I have contact lens solution on hand just in case the acid gets into my eyes
- Vaseline — apply on the corners of the mouth and the sides of the nose to avoid irritation and dryness
I don’t know where to source higher-percentage glycolic acid solution. I bought a decanted Pixi Glow Tonic Exfoliating Toner (which has 5% Glycolic Acid) from my workmate.
I folded the gauze pad to the size of a cotton pad and soaked it in Pixi Gow Tonic. I was careful not to put too much to prevent it from dripping when I wipe the gauze across my face. Tip: Try the gauze on the back of the hand first to make sure it’s sufficiently wet but not dripping.
I didn’t feel any pain or burning sensation, but the solution felt warm. I wiped the gauze once all over my face and twice on the nose. According to Dr. Lim, the nose is more tolerant to acids.
I left the solution for 3 minutes and washed it off with Baking Soda solution to neutralize the acid, then immediately with filtered water. I made sure no acid and baking soda is left on my skin.
3 minutes is just a guideline. Based on the video, it’s important to observe how the skin is doing. As soon as you feel any intolerable pain or once you see erythema (redness), wash off the acid right away.
Dr. Lim recommends against a DIY peel if you’re prone to cold sores (it could activate the herpes virus), or if you currently have an infection, eczema, or rosacea.
My skin looked smooth and supple after washing off the glycolic acid, BUT the day after, lots of pustules (small pimples with pus) broke out from my forehead (I wish I took photos). I’m not sure if this is an effect of the peel itself, the glycolic acid, or some other ingredient in Pixi Glow Tonic (e.g., plant extracts or fragrance). I rarely break out these days so it’s either or all of those.
I can’t really fault PIXI because I used their product off-label, but I’m willing to try this again with another Glycolic Acid product. Let me know if you have product recommendations.