Combat uneven tone and texture with a small but mighty skin-saver: glycolic acid.
What is glycolic acid?
Glycolic acid is one of several alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which are naturally occurring chemicals found in foods such as sour milk, sugarcane, apples and citrus fruits. The glycolic acid in skin care, however, is uaually the synthetic form, which is more stable, ensuring better delivery to the skin. (Naturally derived formulas often go rancid or lose their potency faster than synthetic ones.) Glycolic acid's molecules are the smallest and lightest of all AHAs, so they're able to penetrate the skin more easily. "You don't need a major concentration to have long-lasting efficacy," says Pascale Mora, the scientific communications director for Vichy International. Using even a small concentration (three percent or lower) can yield results. With continuous use, glycolic acid can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone and lessen breakouts, leading to younger- and healthier-looking skin.
In the simplest terms, glycolic acid acts as an exfoliant, removing dead skin and stimulating skin-cell renewal. "It helps reduce skin dullness, unclog pores and reveal radiant skin by getting rid of older cells at the surface of the skin," says Eric Dupont, the founder of IDC, a Quebec-based skin-care brand. The results? Glycolic acid leaves skin soft and smooth; over time, it works at the cellular level, boosting collagen production.
Finding your formula
Products containing glycolic acid may cause itchy, tight or red blotches for some people (usually those with sensitive skin). According to Dr. Dennis Gross, a New York City-based dermatologist and the founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, "Irritation is directly related to the concentration of the acid." But no matter your skin type, Dr. Gross recommends mixing a lower-concentration glycolic acid with other anti-aging ingredients, such as malic and lactic acids, instead of jumping to a higher concentration of glycolic acid on its own. Start with a more quickly absorbed glycolic formula, such as a peel, an exfoliant or a toner, with a concentration of 10 percent or less.
Glycolic acid is most effective when paired with other active ingredients. To fight acne and reduce shine look for a product containing both glycolic and salicylic acids, or brighten an uneven skin tone with a mix of vitamin C and glycolic acid. For an extra dose of anti-aging benefits, pair glycolic acid with either lactic acid, malic acid or lip hydroxy acid, which unblocks pores so that exfoliation is more effective. There's room to play. The two rules to follow? Moisturize your skin generously and apply sunscreen daily. (But you should already be doing that.)
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): A group of water-soluable acids—including glycolic, citric, lactic, malic and tartaric acids—that are found in foods and can remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin.
Glycolic acid: With the smallest and lightest molecules of any AHA, glycolic acid easily penetrates the dermis, making it the most effective AHA for skin-care purposes.
Lactic acid: An AHA derived from sour milk, lactic acid is best known for lightening and brightening the skin.
Malic acid: Found in fruit, particularly apples, this AHA helps minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Salicylic acid: A lipid-soluable beta hydroxy acid best known for its ability to fight acne.
Vitamin C: Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C promotes collagen production in the skin and is a potent antioxidant.
This triple-action mask exfoliates with mechanical (physical exfoliation), enzymatic and chemical actions. Add it to your skin-care routine once per week for radiant, smooth skin.
Perfect for blemish-prone skin, this cleansing gel unclogs pores and promotes cell turnover with salicylic and glycolic acids.
Brighten dull skin with this mask that contains glycolic acid, rejuvenating papaya enzyme and brightening Viniferine for an instant touch of radiance.
Five-percent glycolic acid, this toner also has soothing aloe vera and skin-renewing ginseng for revitalized, glowing skin—at a seriously affordable price.
This overnight treatment contains glycolic and salicylic acids and niacinamide (an anti-inflammatory); the combo helps unclog pores and tackle blackheads while lifting away dead skin cells.
This two-step peel is ideal for sensitive skin and first-time glycolic-acid users. With a blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids, it fights three signs of aging: fine lines, enlarged pores and uneven skin texture.
Dalal, with her daughter and sister, Fatima. Image courtesy of Dalal Al-Waheidi.
Self-improvement and self-care are important, but this time of year always brings me back to the focus of my childhood New Year's experiences: my family.
By the time the fireworks crescendoed over Cairo and my 22-month-old-daughter woke up to witness midnight on her second New Year's eve, my mind raced with changes I wanted to make in the year ahead to strengthen my family.
Ringing in the New Year with my sister at a Nile-side café, sharing plates of Arabic mezze such as hummus, baba ghanouj and kebab, was very special. Separated by thousands of kilometers and national borders, I don't get to see my loved ones nearly as often as I'd like and the holidays present a rare opportunity to rekindle the bonds of family.
As we talked—and the clock moved closer to midnight—sharing our plans for the New Year and reminiscing about our childhood, it struck me that the types of resolutions we usually think of around this time of year are foreign to me. Growing up in Kuwait and Gaza, the New Year was a very different affair.
Sure, there were fireworks and parties—but even at their loudest, our celebrations felt quieter, more subdued and grounded. There were no glaring campaigns encouraging you to join a gym, take that dream vacation or switch phone companies. New Year's Eve was another occasion to spend time as a family and connect with those closest to you.
It wasn't until I moved to Europe and eventually came to Canada that I saw the full force of the self-improvement craze as people promised to slim down and tone up, get more sleep and stick to a budget.
Self-improvement and self-care are important—being fulfilled in ourselves empowers us to care for others—but this time of year always brings me back to the focus of my childhood New Year's experiences: my family.
Firstly, I'm committing to use technology to enhance my family's relationships, instead of just to fill time while commuting. I'm going to be present with the people in my life, leaving my phone in the other room to make the most of the time I have with my loved ones over dinner. And for my family we can't share a meal with, I'm going to make sure they're an active presence in my daughter's life through video chats and photos.
Next, my husband and I are committing to volunteering together. Families that are actively engaged in their communities create a generation of change-makers and one of the greatest gifts I can give my daughter is the knowledge that she can have an impact. That starts with modeling behaviour for her now.
Lastly, I'm going to ensure my daughter grows up knowing what it means to be a part of a diverse community that cares for each other. Whenever I travel I'm reminded of how special Canada is, where people from all backgrounds speaking a multitude of languages celebrate cherished cultures side by side. This year my family is going to celebrate the threads that make up our diverse tapestry by sharing meals with our neighbours.
As 2016 drew to a close, headlines around the world declared it the worst year in recent memory: darker; more politically divisive; full of disaster, disease and an uncharacteristically high number of celebrity deaths. We have the potential to make 2017 better—not just for ourselves (when we finally lose that extra five pounds or remember to pack lunches for work) but for our family's and for each other, when we learn about issues together, leave notes of kindness to brighten one another's day, or tell the people in our lives what we're grateful for.
These are simple steps I plan to take for my family but my goal is much larger. I imagine a day, not too far off, when my daughter is a little older and we can talk about the issues and challenges she sees in the world. I want to raise her to care about little injustices and dream of ways she can help because she knows she can have an impact. That starts now, with a strong grounding in our home and our family.
Looking to revamp your wardrobe? Now's the time to get shopping—everything's on sale!
We know the holiday season—and all the indulgence that goes with it—can take a serious hit on your bank account. But with the long stretch of sub-zero temperatures and blankets of snow ahead, it's nice to pick up a couple of new fashion items to keep you fresh. Our tip? The best bargains are surprisingly scored after the Boxing Day madness, so we went ahead and collected our top contenders to have you starting 2017 off right.
Wilfred Free skirt, $35 (from $85), aritzia.com.
L&L Relaxed Straight Denim, $24 (from $60), additionelle.com.
Wool blend coat, $80 (from $180), hm.com.
London Rebel mules, $56 (from $80), asos.com.
Suede shift dress, $15 (from $43), oldnavy.ca.
Velvet blazer, $50 (from $159), zara.com.
Marecchia boot, $50 (from $100), aldoshoes.com.
Sequin dress, $80 (from $180), eloquii.com.
Nude flounce top, $17 (from $25), forever21.com.
Utility cords, $40 (from $70), gapcanada.ca.
Plaid jacket, $129 (from $215), bananarepublic.ca.
Embroidered blouse, $30 (from $90), zara.com.
Classic flannel shirt, $9 (from $30), oldnavy.ca.
L&L Lace blouse, $16 (from $40), additionelle.com.
Minimum lace top, $52 (from $90), asos.com.
Fluffy coat, $90 (from $180), mango.com.
Textured stripe utility jacket, $60 (from $108), gapcanda.ca.
Wilfred dress, $85 (from $145), aritzia.com.
Faux leather knee-high boots, $37 (from $61), forever21.com.
Lace midi dress, $40 (from $90), zara.com.
Fluffy sweater, $30 (from $60), mango.com.
L&L Faux Shearling Coat, $84 (from $210), additionelle.com.
Merino wool sweater, $43 (from $85), bananarepublic.ca.