Glycolic Acid and Discolouration/ Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
When it comes to discolouration of the skin there are some complaints that topical products such as glycolic acid can help with and others where you would be best to seek professional advice.
Dark spots from breakouts and PIH – Yes, glycolic acid can help to reduce discolouration/blemishes and PIH (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation) left over from breakouts, because glycolic acid helps to remove the top layer of skin and increases cell turnover, this in turn reduces the blemish.
Dark spots from the sun – This depends on the discolouration, if you have a small light patch in one area glycolic acid may help to fade this providing you wear SPF daily and try to reduce sun exposure. If the discolouration is symmetrical, meaning you have discolouration in opposite areas such as both cheeks or forehead and top lip, this could indicate melasma which tends to need professional treatment (see end of article).
Chloasma, discolouration during or after pregnancy – This can fade by itself but some customers have reported that while using glycolic acid it has helped to reduce the discolouration quicker. If however you have had this discolouration a number of years and it hasn’t faded, it may be best to seek professional help (see end of article).
Discolouration on knees, knuckles and anywhere there is thicker skin – If the discolouration in this area is due to a build up of skin, because glycolic acid helps to exfoliate the skin, regular use will remove this build up and can reduce the darkness.
Under eye discolouration – Acids are not suitable for under the eyes, discolouration in this area tends to be hereditary and can also appear as we age or lose weight. Because the skin under our eyes is much thinner than the rest of our skin the blood vessels are more visible and this is what makes the skin look darker. If your discolouration is not from lack of sleep and is always visible, the best treatment is usually filler, if injectables aren’t your thing then an orange based concealer can help under foundation.
Freckles – not sure why anyone would ever want to remove their gorgeous freckles! If they’ve appeared in the sun then glycolic acid can help to fade them, if they’re always there then it’s unlikely glycolic acid will help.
Vitiligo, white patches – Unfortunately as this is a loss of pigment, glycolic acid will not help.
Discolouration from surgery – it’s always best to seek professional treatment for newer surgical scars, usually they will fade by themselves but if the scarring is in a more prominent place, visit a dermatologist or skin clinic who can assess your skin and then offer a treatment plan. If the scar is old and already fading, glycolic acid may help to speed up the process but don’t expect drastic results.
Stretch Marks – While we have had customers state that glycolic acid has helped their stretch marks fade, it's more than likely that exfoliating the area and removing the the dead skin softens the appearance of the mark but it's not going to remove it. Stretch marks do tend to fade naturally on their own and unfortunately there aren’t any topical products that are going to be of much help as these are tears within the skin. Laser could be an option as well as microneedling.
What causes discolouration? A simple explanation, Tyrosine is an amino acid which controls the melanin production in our skin, melanin is responsible for the colour/pigment of our skin, the more melanin you have, the darker your skin tone. Hyperpigmentation is caused when an enzyme called tyrosinase tells the body to produce melanin, this can happen when we’re in the sun (your tan is your body trying to protect itself), it can be triggered by a change in hormones or if there has been trauma, if you have melasma which can be caused by sun damage or hormones then you need something that will control and inhibit tyrosinase such as hydroquinone and this is where it’s best to visit a professional (also see end of article).
If you have any kind of discolouration then it’s important to always wear SPF and reduce sun exposure as much as possible as the sun will make it worse.
If you are unable to see a dermatologist or a professional for your skin, there are now great online options such as Dermatica* which offer prescription strength skincare which can help with conditions such as melasma.
Please remember, skincare is not a replacement for professional or medical treatment, if your skin has drastically changed or even if there is a small change you’re unsure of, always consult a professional such as a dermatologist or ask at your GP surgery if they have a Dr or Nurse that specialises in skin issues.
*this is a referral link but not an advert.