Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid has the smallest sized molecules of all the alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). Because of these super tiny molecules, glycolic acid can easily penetrate the skin allowing for a more efficient exfoliation compared to other AHAs. Glycolic acid’s fame is due to the many benefits it has for the skin: it has effective skin-renewing properties, so it is often used in anti-aging products; it can help smooth fine wrinkles and improve the skin's tone and texture; it plumps the skin and helps boost hydration levels.
It can also help fight sun damage as it fades minor hyperpigmentation and discolorations left by acne or other wounds. Not only that, Glycolic acid sweeps away dull, dead cells and may soften the look of raised scars and pitted scars, but it will not make them disappear.
How does it do it? Glycolic acid works by speeding up the cell turnover. This means it helps dissolve the bonds that hold skin cells together, allowing dead skin cells to slough off more rapidly than they would on their own. A faster cell turnover also leads to the creation of more collagen - the protein that gives skin its firmness, plumpness, and elasticity. As you age, collagen production naturally slows down and excessive sun exposure can also majorly affect it. Using glycolic acid regularly can help prevent this breakdown of collagen.