Oh, blackheads. Let us count the ways we hate you. You pester our skin with tiny black pinprick blemishes that are equal parts stubborn and exasperating. It seems like no matter how diligent we think we’re being with our skincare routine, there are always a few rogue blackheads that refuse to leave our pores, littering the skin across our nose, chin, or forehead. They just sit there, taunting us. “Will you stop at nothing?” we yell while shaking our fists to the sky and waiting for our pore-extracting face mask to work its magic.
As far as anti-blackhead skincare goes, we’ve tried our fair share. Some products have worked wonders (like select retinol serums), while others have left much to be desired. One of our all-time favorite blackhead-removing product categories, though, has to be our varied collection of glycolic acid exfoliators. According to experts, our love of glycolic acid is founded on reason because the powerful skincare ingredient is basically the closest thing there is to a blackhead magic eraser.
Glycolic acid is an incredibly effective ingredient for reducing and clearing blackheads because it is an alpha hydroxy acid with a smaller molecule, which means it can penetrate deeper into the pores to dissolve excess dirt, sebum, and pore-clogging skin cells. While that action alone helps to dissolve the oil and dirt that causes blackheads, it also supports cell turnover, which means your skin is creating new, healthier skin cells at a more rapid pace, which results in clearer skin.
Glycolic acid, in regard to blackhead removal, brings about mixed reactions. Some people are overjoyed to have a new effective blackhead-busting skincare ingredient to try, while others remain skeptical. This might be due to the fact that they’ve tried other acids in the past, such as lactic acid, to no avail. Lactic acid is also an alpha hydroxy acid, but since its molecule is larger, it doesn’t penetrate quite as deeply as glycolic acid. Because of that, Glycolic Acid is more powerful and effective at ridding blackheads on the skin.
Lactic acid will help with blackheads as well, but it tends to work more on the surface of the skin versus deeper into the pores. In fact, glycolic acid has the smallest molecule size out of all AHAs—not just lactic acid. It has the smallest molecules in the group so it is able to penetrate skin deeply and easily, making it the most effective for treating fine lines, acne, blackheads, oiliness, etc.
by Kaitlyn McLintock