Are you toning your skin or treating your skin? Here's the difference.

Glycolic acid and skin safe alcohols are used to treat the skin and tone the skin. But commonly these two get mixed up. The major difference is the strength of the two popular skincare ingredients. We'll walk through what they both are and the best way to use them for either toning the skin or treating the skin. 

First, what is glycolic acid and what is a skin safe alcohol?

Glycolic Acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid made from sugarcane that’s commonly used and applied as a dermatology office chemical peel treatment (process of putting acid on the skin to exfoliate). The term “chemical” can sound intimidating, but all it means is that it doesn’t rely on scrubbing or scraping your skin to exfoliate and clean.  It gives better results than harsh scrubbing beads or brushes simply through application to the skin. 

Skin safe alcohol is a cleansing agent. It's commonly used in toners to remove excess oil, dirt, and debris left on the skin surface after cleansing. Other well know alcohols are retinol, which is the inactive form of Retin-A, according to Dermatologist, Dr. B. Alcohol can have drying properties. Additionally, it helps allow other ingredients to travel deeper into the skin for better results.

Now which one is for toning the skin and which one is for treating the skin?

Dr. B uses glycolic acid daily in his dermatology clinic to treat acne, wrinkles, and skin hyperpigmentation. He says, "It's the most effective topical treatment for better looking skin." On the other hand, he noted, that he uses alcohol to clean the skin before using glycolic or other AHAs for a chemical peel treatment. Alcohol when used in a facial toner can be helpful to clean off pore-clogging oils and debris. Plus, it helps to restore the natural pH level of your skin. 

The difference is the glycolic, non-neutralized of course. It travels into the pores to clean out acne causing bacteria, actives cell turnover, and stimulates collagen growth. In comparison, alcohol stays topical and doesn't have the cell turnover benefits that glycolic acid does. Therefore glycolic acid is used to treat the skin and alcohol is used to tone the skin. 

Dr. B recommends theses products for toning and treating your skin. 

Tone: Dermatologist's Choice Purifying Facial Toner $25

Treat: Ultra Anti-Aging Cream with non-neutralized glycolic acid $75

Tone + Treat: Glycolic Peel Cleansing Pads $48

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