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The Glycolic Acid Purge: A Survival Guide

by Yu-Jun Park 15 Mar 2024

Listen up, skincare warriors! 

So you've just purchased a hot new serum infused with glycolic acid (bonus points if it’s boosted with kojic acid too!), and you're ready to slough off those dead skin cells for a clear, luminous complexion. 

You're on board with K-Beauty, you follow the 10-step Korean skincare routine to a T, but wait! Your skin suddenly decides to throw a tantrum.

Welcome to the infamous "glycolic acid purge". 

But don't worry, folks, we've got your back. 

Strap in, and let's dive into the art of surviving this little-understood skincare gremlin.

Does skin get worse before it gets better with glycolic acid?

Skin can indeed get worse before it gets better with glycolic acid.

And understanding the science of what we're dealing with is the first step to glowier skin!

This lovely skincare wizard, glycolic acid, is derived from sugar cane and holds a lightweight molecular structure. 

This means it slips beneath the surface of your skin with the stealth of a ninja, working hard to unclog pores and increase cell turnover. 

It's all very scientific, but to put it simply, it's like your own personal skin reviver with the gentle touch of a pixie!

So, why might your skin throw a minor temper tantrum (read: breakout) when starting with glycolic acid?

Well, all ninjas cause a little chaos, right? 

Glycolic acid speeds up the process of skin renewal, which means shedding the old to pave the way for the new. 

As it deep-dives into pores, it pushes out the gunk that's been squatting there, uninhibited. 

You know, the usual annoying suspects - dirt, oil, dead skin cells, leftover makeup. Leaving this squad for the surface might cause what looks like an acne eruption.

Don't fret! This is simply a 'skin purge,' not a breakout. 

The difference? A breakthrough breakout is the skin revolting due to an allergic reaction, irritation, or overuse of a product. 

Skin purging, on the other hand, is the result of a 'clean-up.' It's the detox phase your skin initially goes through when introducing it to ingredients that increase cell turnover like our friendly glycolic acid.

Didn't know your skin could detox just like you, did you?

While it may feel counter-intuitive, this purging phase is typically a good sign. 

It means your skin is getting used to glycolic acid doing its magnificent job - ousting the pesky, pore-clogging culprits causing your skin woes.

But remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will be your radiant skin! 

Glycolic acid’s effect starts showing over time - which might range from a few weeks to a couple of months, depending on your skin type and age. 

Each skin reacts differently – some may purge heavily while others show minimal to zero purging.

If your skin keeps playing up long after you've started using glycolic acid, consider checking in with a dermatologist. 

Our skincare sorcerer may not be suited to all skin types. Especially those with rosacea or extremely sensitive skin. 

It's always important to listen to your skin's SOS, read its cues, and adjust your skincare regime accordingly.

In the grand scheme of radiant skin, is a brief purging period worth it? 

You bet! Glycolic acid's star-power goes beyond just initial pore-cleaning. 

Over time, it refines texture, improves tone, softens lines and lends a fresh-faced, healthy glow you’ll love! 

So hold tight! The skin purge may appear dramatic initially, but this beauty journey with glycolic acid promises to be worth every bumpy ride. 

Trust us; it's not just the calm after the storm, but a radiant dawn breaking after a cloudy night.

How long does purging last with glycolic acid?

The length of the purge varies. It makes take a couple of weeks; it might take your skin a month or more. There’s no one-size-fits-all here!

Now, perhaps you're wondering: why on Earth does purging even occur with glycolic acid? 

Well, it's due to the way it accelerates our skin's natural exfoliation process. 

Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), making it a first-rate exfoliant.

How does this work? Imagine all those dead skin cells are guests overstaying their welcome at a party. 

And glycolic acid is like a mega-charismatic host, nudging them out dancing! 

This skin-shifting shindig causes increased cell turnover, bringing those under-the-surface blemishes and pimples (who'd been hiding out, introverts that they were) into the spotlight.

Bizarre as it may seem, this flare-up is a good sign. It means your skin is responding to the treatment. 

The purge is essentially a cleaning-out process. Glycolic acid is helping your skin shake things up by redecorating and detoxing all in one fell swoop.

Here's an interesting little snippet: the duration of your skin's purging phase might directly correlate with the state of your skin before you started using the glycolic acid. 

More clogged pores and lurking blemishes may mean a longer purge, while a cleaner complexion may have a shorter ride through skin turbulence.

This is not a quick-fix solution, oh no! Glycolic acid sends your skin on a bit of a journey — let's call it 'The Grand Skin Voyage.' 

It takes time for skin cells to renew — typically, a whole skin cycle is about 28 days. And that's where the '2-6 weeks' ballpark figure for the purging phase comes in.

It's always a good idea to test new skin products slowly and on a small area first. This gives your skin a chance to adjust and reduces the likelihood of an adverse reaction. 

If you notice any extreme discomfort, prolonged irritation, or signs of an allergic reaction, stop usage immediately and consult a dermatologist.

Also, remember to stay consistent. Inconsistency in application can prolong your purging period (lesson here, consistency is key!). 

Stay steadfast, apply regularly as directed, and keep your grubby hands off those pesky pimples.

Now don't forget — this is a process of renewal. Just like a phoenix rising from the ashes, your skin will emerge radiant, rejuvenated, and ready to shine its brightest. 

So, hold on tight, have faith, and remember, your skin is doing its best— it's all part of the journey to becoming the best version of your skin! 

In essence, the answer to "how long does purging last with glycolic acid?" can, unfortunately, be akin to another question, "how long is a piece of string?" 

Yup, we're totally being annoying like that.

There are many variables involved, but the answer generally lies between 2-6 weeks. 

Use this time to love, nurture, and believe in your skin. Your perseverance will soon be rewarded with glowing, fresh, and healthier skin! 

After all, we're in this for the long haul, right?

Should I put moisturizer over glycolic acid?

"Should I put moisturizer over glycolic acid?" you ask. 

And with a smile of mild amusement and a twinkle of confidence, we answer - Absolutely, yes! 

This isn't just encouragement for a skincare adventure, but rather, it's skincare science at its best. Let's drill down into the 'why', shall we? 

Glycolic acid, darling of the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family, boasts exfoliating prowess. 

It unseats dead skin cells, promotes cell renewal, and allows a radiating, renewed version of our complexion to cinematically step into the spotlight. 

There's no denying that the appeal is undeniable. Go, glycolic, go! 

But here's the thing: Glycolic acid, with all its benefits, is as intense as it is effective. 

This intensity can potentially dry out the skin, leaving it more in need of moisturization than ever. Hence, moisturizing post-application is crucial. 

However, it isn't just about slathering on moisturizer right after applying glycolic acid. 

Timing is key. Along the timeline of your skincare routine, the glycolic acid demands its moment in the limelight, undisturbed. 

This powerful exfoliant needs solo time to pull focus on your skin. Think of it as your acid requesting some "me time" with your skin. 

During this intimate bonding moment, the glycolic acid sinks into the skin, unclogging your pores and whisking away those stubborn, surface-bound dead skin cells

It's stripping away the old to make way for the new – talk about a skincare revolution! 

After this alone time – ten to fifteen minutes should suffice – is when you bring back the spotlight to the rest of your skincare squad. 

And leading the charge is your trusty moisturizer. 

The glycolic acid's work, while impressive, can leave the skin feeling a smidge parched. Moisturizer, thus, forms the next line of skin defense to lock hydration back in!

Put simply, think of it as building the perfectly stacked skincare sandwich. Glycolic acid is your protein-packed filling, and moisturizer is the all-important bread that keeps it all together. One replenishes the skin, while the other locks in that new-found glow. 

They play different roles, but the teamwork makes the skincare dream work.

Remember, due to glycolic acid’s strength and potential to dry out skin, it's essential to not ONLY moisturize post-application but also incorporate items for extra hydration. 

Consider hyaluronic acid, for instance. This hydration hero holds considerable strength in retaining skin moisture. 

Use them all in tandem, and you'll have a skincare regimen that's as nourishing as it is invigorating.

So, in conclusion - just to make sure it's crystal clear - yes, do put that moisturizer onto the battleground after the glycolic acid has done its duty. 

And make sure you do it like you mean it because your skin needs that lockdown of hydration after a rejuvenating acid trip. 

Dive in with enthusiasm, and your skin will thank you for it!

Remember, these skincare trophies deserve a moment to shine individually before tagging in their partners. 

It might seem high maintenance, but hey, it's all in the name of love - for your skin, of course. 

And who said love wasn't worth fighting for?

How do you know if glycolic acid is working?

Ah, the inevitable question that arises after employing glycolic acid in your K-Beauty routine: How can you tell it's working? 

Well, allow me to shed some enlightening, K-beauty-inspired wisdom on that particular quandary. 

You see, glycolic acid isn't coy. When it starts working its magic, believe me, your skin will sing its praises.

First, let's clear one thing up right off the top. 

This is a relationship wherein "It's not you, it's me" just won't cut it. We're dealing with straightforward chemistry here.

Post the purge period, there are specific tell-tale signs that your skin will radiate to proclaim that glycolic acid is indeed working. 

The most noticeable and delightful of these is the reveal of a clearer complexion. 

Suddenly, you'll gaze into the mirror and discover pores that seemingly shrank overnight. Your once-inconspicuous skin is now smooth as silk with a texture that redefines healthy. 

But wait, we're not done. 

Sitting majestically atop these newfound benefits is the crowning glory: a glorious GLOW! 

This isn't an ordinary, run-of-the-mill glow. Oh no, this is the 'I-just-had-an-at-home-facial' radiance that will be the envy of all. 

When these signs begin to make an appearance, give your skin the metaphorical high five it deserves – or perhaps a gentle pat would be more skincare friendly.

However, don't start your cartwheel routine just yet. It's important to remember that all things worth the effort, including your clear complexion, can take a little ol' thing called time. It might be a drag, but boy is it worth it. 

Stick to your Korean skincare routine – and keep trusting in the transformative power of glycolic acid

Resist the urge to rush forward. The waiting game may seem unending, but patience is a virtue, especially in skincare.

So here's to you - the undisputed emperor of exfoliation, sovereign of serums, guru of glow. Hold your head high; persevere through the glycolic acid purge and prepare to strut your well-earned glow. 

After all, your skin is nothing less than a work of art, a masterpiece in progress. And masterpieces aren't completed with haste, but with love, care, and unyielding patience.

Remember, this is more than just skincare – it's a labor of love!

So strap in, stay patient, and enjoy the journey. Your radiant reveal awaits!


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