Glycolic Acid vs Salicylic Acid

Glycolic Acid Vs Salicylic Acid

From time to time, your skin care routine is brimming with many miraculous skin care ingredients. The topical use of both glycolic acids and salicylic acids has been receiving a positive response to various dermatological concerns due to their medicinal effectiveness. However, before introducing skin care products with glycolic acid and salicylic acid in your skin care regimen, gaining a deep understanding of these ingredients is a long way to go. According to a recent survey conducted in US revealed that the majority of people do not know their skin type and use wrong skin care products. If you are not sure which is better for your skin among salicylic acid and glycolic acid. We are going to decode the difference between Glycolic acid vs salicylic acid to clear your confusion.

Glycolic acid

Glycolic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy acid (AHA) that is widely loved for its mild exfoliating properties. These water-soluble acids are procured from natural sources like sugarcane, sugar beet, and milk etc. The topical application of alpha-hydroxy acids has remarkable positive results in improving the skin texture and natural glow. Numerous scientific research studies have demonstrated that AHA’s are chemical peels, which are quite good for aging skin and facial discolorations. This is the reason, AHA’s are one of the major ingredients in numerous skin care products like face wash, creams, and lotions.

Works best for

  • Fades away hyperpigmentation
  • Hydrates skin
  • Minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Boosts the natural radiance of skin

 Benefits of glycolic acid for skin

1. Fades away hyperpigmentation

It has been observed that consistent use of alpha hydroxy acid is quite effective to get rid of hyperpigmentation, sun spots and uneven skin tone. A research study published in 2018 has concluded that topical use of AHAs has also shown clear dark spots left from sun damage. Alpha hydroxy acids inhibit the activity of tyrosinase enzyme which plays an essential role in the synthesis of melanin pigment.

2. Hydrates skin

AHAs not only slough off dead cells but also helps to keep your skin hydrated. Humectant properties of AHAs help to lock in the moisture thereby improving the appearance of dry skin.

3. Minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

Research mentioned in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology has concluded that topical AHAs have shown to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. AHAs help in cell renewal and also promote collagen production which helps to diminish fine lines and improve the skin texture.

4. Boosts the natural radiance of skin

According to dermatologists, It is one of the best hydroxy acids for your skin. AHAs are great chemical exfoliators to attain bright, smooth, and glowing skin. They penetrate skin layers and loosen up the bond between dead skin cells to clear all the impurities. Hence, its use helps to perk up overall skin complexion.

Salicylic acid



Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), mostly obtained from willow tree bark and wintergreen leaves. This oil-soluble ingredient penetrates into the deeper layers of skin and helps to clean the clogged pores. Hence, it prevents the clogging of pores, which in turn makes it an ideal ingredient for acne prone skin. In addition, salicylic acid possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which reduce the risk of acne flare-ups.

Works best for

  • Prevents breakouts
  • Deeply cleanses excess oil from pores
  • Soothes inflammation and redness
  • Kills acne bacteria


1. Prevent future breakouts

Being a comedolytic agent beta hydroxy acid (BHAs) inhibits the formation of blackheads and whiteheads, which may further turn into pimples.

2. Deeply cleanses excess oil from pores

People with oily skin care are more prone to breakouts because of excess sebum production. When your skin produces excess sebum, your pores become congested with oils, dirt and dead cells which ultimately manifest into pus filled pimples. Salicylic acid is an oil soluble ingredient and can get deep into your pores to remove excess oiliness and other impurities.

3. Soothes inflammation and redness

BHAs possess natural anti-inflammatory properties which help to provide relief in inflammation and irritation associated with acne.

4. Kills acne bacteria

Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes)  is a bacteria that is considered the most common cause of acne infection. Research has shown that beta hydroxy acids possess antimicrobial activities that help to kill acne causing bacteria.


Can you use Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid together?

You can reap the benefits of Glycolic Acid and Salicylic by opting for skin care products comprising both ingredients. Over the counter products containing both AHAs and BHAs offer good results in treating active acne and preventing risk of future outbreaks. Also, face wash with glycolic acid and salicylic acid is considered good for oily and acne prone skin types. If you are dealing with hyperpigmentation and dark spots, AHAs face wash is great to use. Importantly, for beginners it is advised to start with the low percentage AHA BHA for daily use.

 Glycolic acid vs Salicylic Acid

Indeed, both glycolic acid and salicylic acid are powerful ingredients when it comes to resolving your skin problems. Always remember that knowing the needs of your skin is the most crucial step in the pursuit of healthy skin. It is quite natural to get lured by skincare products and ingredients available in the market. However, you should not forget the fact that glamorous and healthy skin only happens when you offer the right care. Next time, spare some time to explore the products that work best for “YOUR” specific skin type. While salicylic acid works great for acne prone skin types, Alpha hydroxy acids do a wonderful job to treat hyperpigmentation.



Research studies have shown that glycolic acid can increase your skin's sensitivity to sun which causes sunburn or problem of skin pigmentation. It is important to always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above when you AHAs in your skin care routine.