When sifting through skincare products, you’ve probably come across many that contain glycolic acid. Sure, the word “acid” sounds harsh, like something that’s going to damage your delicate skin rather than improve it. But used in the right amount, glycolic acid can give you brighter, smoother, and even younger-looking skin.Here, cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson shares the important details on what this glycolic acid is, its risks, and how it can be used to improve your complexion.What is glycolic acid?“Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which naturally occur in fruit,” Wilson explained. Other AHAs include lactic acid, citric acid and mandelic acid. These acids work as chemical exfoliatiors, sloughing off dead skin cells without any sort of grittiness or scrubbing action.What can glycolic acid do on my skin?Since it exfoliates the skin, glycolic helps brighten, fade hyperpigmentation, even skintone, smooth out texture, slightly tighten, and even reduce fine lines. It’s also a great ingredient to layer under thicker creams, moisturizers and sunscreens to keep skin fresh and decrease the chance of clogging pores. Chemical exfoliation also helps other products work better, since it sweeps away all the stuff that acts as a barrier and hinders ingredients from penetrating the skin.What skin type is it best for?“All skin types can benefit from glycolic acid,” Wilson explained. Dry skin can use it to remove rough patches; normal skin can use it to even skintone or boost cell renewal; and oily skin can use it to clear away dead skin cells that could clog pores and cause acne.What are the risks?If your skin is sensitive, glycolic acid can cause irritation. “If irritation occurs, then instead of evening the skintone, it can actually cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or dark spots,” Wilson noted. Start with a lower percentage and move up to a higher strength if your skin seems able to handle it — over-the-counter products contain anywhere from 3% to 10% glycolic acid. You should already be wearing SPF every day, but you should do so especially when you use an AHA because they make skin more susceptible to sun damage.How often should you use it?“Use as needed. Your skin will let you know,” said Wildon. If your skin’s surface feels rough and scaly or looks dull, your pores feel congested, or if your current skincare regimen no longer seems to be working, it might be time to incorporate a product with glycolic acid into your skincare routine. A good one to try that you simply use once a week is StriVectinLabs 5-Minute Weekly Glycolic Peel, a two-step treatment that helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and pores, while improving texture and brightening skin. With 10% glycolic acid, the treatment delivers instant results, and comes with an anti-aging primer that detoxifies and preps skin for maximum results.Want more effective, at-home dermatology tips? Head over to our DIY Dermatology hub.This post is sponsored by StriVectinLABS.