Is there an Initial Breakout with Glycolic Acid?

by Kate on February 6, 2013

in Acne, Health, Healthy Living, Natural Beauty, Skin Care

I started using Glycolic Acid about two weeks ago to treat my first trimester pregnancy acne that has popped up in the last couple months. One side effect I was well aware of with the Glycolic Acid was the potential for an initial breakout. And I must say I think I’m definitely having one. This is a classic initial breakout in that I had initial clearing in the first week or so followed by increased breakouts now, two weeks later. It’s not terrible–definitely not as bad as the initial breakouts you get from benzoyl peroxide. Overall, I’m just seeing more small red papules and tiny whiteheads.

Should I Decrease My Glycolic Acid Applications?

I’ve read that if you experience initial breakouts on Glycolic Acid you should consider reducing the frequency of your applications as you may be causing the skin to exfoliate too quickly, thus causing irritation which causes breakouts. I have been using 10% Glycolic Acid morning and night for the past two weeks, and I admit from everything I’ve read I may have jumped in too fast. Apparently you’re really supposed to work up to the twice daily applications. Oops. So I’m not sure what to do now. Should I forge ahead and just let my skin adapt or cut back to once a day applications and work back up to twice a day?  I think for now, I’m going to forge ahead.

Switching to a New Glycolic Acid Product aha+In the meantime I’ve ordered a new Glycolic Acid product! I’ve been happy with the Alpha Hydrox Oil Free Formula but it has seemed pretty drying, and since I’m concerned about irritation I’ve decided to give the AHA+ a try.  I used it a few times when I used to be on the regimen but never stuck with it because it always gave me initial breakouts (I think the combination of the benzoyl peroxide and AHA was just too much for my sensitive skin). The AHA+ includes Lichochalcone, a skin soothing ingredient, so I’m hoping it might calm the initial breakout. It’s also much better bang for your buck. The 16oz size is $28.45 ($1.78 per oz), and the 8 oz size is $16.52 ($2.065 per oz) whereas the Alpha Hydrox was $10.59 for 1.7 oz ($6.22 per oz!)!

I have to say, one area it does seem to be working is on my chest–my chest was only lightly broken out (mostly just clogged pores) and but for a few initial breakouts I see some definite clearing. The main frustration with Glycolic Acid (and indeed most acne treatments) is red marks. But a Manuka Honey mask is great for those.

I must admit, I’m really missing my caveman regimen–I just felt so healthy using it. And even though multiple sources have told me Glycolic Acid is safe during pregnancy (it is, after all, derived from fruit sugar), I feel a little guilty using it. Then again, any sources that say it’s not safe a generally referring to the higher concentrations used for chemical peels. And truth be told, when you feel nauseated and bloated and not even close to having any kind of glow (thanks, first trimester)…a little Glycolic Acid pick-me-up doesn’t seem so bad.

Anybody else have experience with pregnancy acne? Did you try Glycolic Acid, or find something else that works? How about the AHA+ anybody have a success story using it alone to clear your skin?

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*In the spirit of full disclosure, links to products in this post may be affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission if you decide to purchase any of the products I recommend. Know that I only recommend products that I have used and love myself.

*I am not a doctor, a nurse, or any kind of health practitioner. I’m just a gal with a pretty keen intuitive sense, great research abilities, and curiosity that is easily peaked. Please understand that my advice is really just another opinion and it’s for you (and your doctor) to decide the best course for your health and well-being.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy April 5, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Hi, I just found your blog and found the content really interesting! I am also in my first trimester (almost second) and have been suffering from pregnancy acne the last 6-7 weeks. I had clear skin before thanks to benzoyl peroxide but since having to give that up, my skin is out of control. I finally broke down and went to a dermatologist. She prescribed me Finacea and Clindamycin. I’m using the Clindamycin to help with the inflammation. Honestly, I don’t feel great about using the prescriptions but my acne was really getting out of control and had started to affect me emotionally. Another product I just ordered was the Glytone mild wash gel which has a 4.7% glycolic acid. I’m excited to try it when it gets here next week. How is your glycolic treatment going? I would love to hear about your experience so far!


Amanda June 30, 2013 at 6:37 am

Hi there! I just found your site as well – all the articles are very interesting!! I loved reading this about glycolic acid. I’m 28, but around the time I turned 24 or 25 I had realllyyyyy bad acne. I was going through a lot of life stress at the time, which I’m sure is what triggered it, and it really continued until about a year ago. I also tried ‘s regimen with benzoyl peroxide, but truth be told I REALLY hate using BP. I live in a very hot climate, so I feel like the BP and hot weather made my face extremely red. Also, I hated that I was bleaching everything that got near my face. I did notice that the redness went down when I added AHA into the mix, and I started weaning off the BP and only using AHA – and it worked like magic!! My face is no longer super-red and irritated, and I feel like I dont’ have to compensate with a ton of extra moisturizers on top of the AHA (like I did with BP). My face feels a lot more fresh and I rarely get breakouts anymore. Now.. if I can only find a way to deal with all the scars I have on my cheeks. But i figure I can deal with them later on in life – hopefully by then someone will come up with a safe(ish) method of getting rid of acne scars.

Oh – I almost forgot – I used to have really bad back acne (especially where my sports bra lies – I’m a runner and workout almost every day) but around the time I started using AHA I put it on my back every day after I get out of the shower, and I’m telling you, it’s like magic!! My back, which used to be covered in cystic acne, is now baby smooth. I’d definitely recommend using it to anyone who has backne!!

And I also use’s formula – because of the price, and you can buy it economy size. :) Sorry for the long response – I just love this stuff, and hope others give it a try!!! My only setback is that I’m worried that it has a lot of chemicals in it, but most everything else I use is PABA-free and for sensitive skin, so I figure if this is the only harsh thing I’m applying to my face then I don’t worry too much. :)


Kate July 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm

That’s so awesome! I’m so glad you’ve had such a good experience–yeah the benzoyl peroxide gives so many people redness and irritation (myself included) that often looks worse than the acne does! AHA at least evens out your skin tone and gives you a glow so even if I do get a breakout, I find my skin just looks overall better. So true about the back acne too!! Works like a CHARM.


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