Are you getting the most out of your skincare product?

Glycolic acid is a common active ingredient in a number of skincare products, but how effective is it in your particular product of choice? PHOTO: SKINCEUTICALS
Glycolic acid is a common active ingredient in a number of skincare products, but how effective is it in your particular product of choice? PHOTO: SKINCEUTICALS

Your nightly cream or body butter may proudly tout the presence of glycolic acid — but how useful is it really?

If you’ve got a skincare regime, odds are, one of your products has glycolic acid in it. 

A naturally-occurring substance derived from sugarcane, glycolic acid belongs to the group of alpha hydroxy acids, rumoured to be the secret behind the radiant beauty of Cleopatra herself. The Egyptian queen supposedly bathed in fermenting goat’s milk, which contains high levels of alpha hydroxy acids. 

At high concentrations, glycolic acid improves skin’s ability to retain its natural moisture, resulting in a firmer and more even look. As such, it remains a common ingredient in skincare products due to its ability to enhance cellular turnover and exfoliate old skin cells, in order to make way for newer and brighter skin cells. 

In particular, glycolic acid shines most when used between chemical peels. “Chemical peels are beneficial for skin with rough texture, photo damage and wrinkles,” says Dr Gerard Ee, managing director of Clifford Clinic. 

“When an acceptable level of glycolic acid is used between the peel sessions, it will help to maximize the effect of the treatment and prolong the results.”

High concentrations of glycolic acid have also been shown to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, proteins that improve skin complexion. 

The operative word, of course, being at high concentrations. 

Skincare products often claim to contain 10 per cent glycolic acid. However, there is a key difference between the active percentage of glycolic acid and the actual percentage of glycolic acid.

Getting your money's worth

Don't just look at the percentage of glycolic acid on the label — the free acid value is a much better indicator of how effective a glycolic acid-containing product will be. PHOTO: SKINCEUTICALS

The active percentage of glycolic acid, also known as the free acid value, is the true indicator of how effective a particular skincare product is going to be. 

As pH levels increase, the active percentage of glycolic acid decreases. For instance, at pH 4, glycolic acid has an active percentage of just 40 per cent. 

This means that the free acid value of glycolic acid in a product that claims to have 10 per cent glycolic acid is just 4 per cent — a far cry from what it says on the label. 

But this isn’t the case with SkinCeuticals’ Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight cream. Specially formulated to have an optimal pH level of 3.5, its glycolic acid percentage is 14.6 per cent, giving it a free acid value of 10 per cent, far more than what might be in other products. 

Glycolic acid isn’t the only active ingredient in the Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight cream. The cream also contains 2 per cent phytic acid, a polyphosphate derived from seeds and legumes to provide both dual-action exfoliation and skin brightening effects. 

Phytic acid also acts as a chelating agent. It inhibits the ability of iron molecules to catalyse free radical formation, thus combating dullness and promoting skin clarity. 

The final major ingredient in Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight cream is the 1 per cent soothing complex. A combination of natural oils and botanicals, including jojoba and sunflower seed, the soothing complex helps to form a protective, breathable layer on skin to help lock in hydration and provide comfort.

See to believe

A dansyl chloride study found that patients using Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight exhibited accelerated shedding and renewal of the outermost layer of skin. PHOTO: SKINCEUTICALS

The results speak for themselves. In a dansyl chloride study — one that determines the rate of cellular turnover in the skin — conducted by SkinCeuticals, patients using Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight exhibited accelerated shedding and renewal of the outermost layer of skin, which is typically associated with a more youthful-looking appearance. 

Across an eight-week period, the cream was also shown to significantly improve key markers of skin appearance, with skin radiance improving by an average of 36 per cent, and skin texture by an average of 37 per cent. Improvements were seen as early as just two weeks into the study.

So it’s no wonder SkinCeuticals is the No. 1 US medical aesthetic skincare brand worldwide, and a skincare partner of choice for dermatologists, aesthetic clinics and premium medical spas. 

SkinCeuticals rose to prominence as the pioneers of Vitamin C serums with the research of founder Dr Sheldon Pinnell, a renowned skin cancer researcher and former Chief of Dermatology at Duke University. 

To date, SkinCeuticals still holds the patent rights for the most effective topical Vitamin C serums. Furthermore, the brand has expanded to a full portfolio of high potency skincare for all skin needs and skin types, with the same dedication to world-class clinical research and medical partnership.

The brand’s first-ever flagship retail counter at Tangs Orchard is now open, letting visitors enjoy a complimentary skin diagnosis and opening specials. 

You can also visit for a list of medical professionals and hospital pharmacies Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight is available at. 

And who knows? You too could have smooth skin a queen would be envious of — without the hassle of fermenting your own bathtub full of goat’s milk.