A Beginner’s Complete Guide to Using Glycolic Acid for Better Hair

A Beginner’s Complete Guide to Using Glycolic Acid for Better Hair

Glycolic acid for hair growth promises lustrous locks, but only when applied correctly. Misusing this potent chemical exfoliant risks irritation, scalp damage and even hair loss. That’s why application techniques require thoughtful precision. Follow this definitive guide to incorporate glycolic acid into your hair care regimen the right way.

Understanding Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid derived from sugarcane that belongs to the chemical exfoliants group along with enzymes and retinoids. By breaking the bonds between dead, dry skin cells clustering surface-level, glycolic acid dissolves these clingy cohorts to reveal brighter, smoother and more even-toned skin.

This resurfacing ability led the skincare world to quickly embrace glycolic acid as an anti-aging powerhouse. Also, Glycolic peels performed by dermatologists take the benefits up a massive notch, correcting pigmentation disorders, smoothing acne scarring, refining enlarged pores and boosting collagen production.

Naturally, beauty devotees wondered whether glycolic could also remove debris, flakes and buildup from clogged hair follicles to combat dandruff, optimize growth and enhance shine. The scalp skin and hair shaft stand to reap similar exfoliation rewards, but only with cautious application.

How Glycolic Acid Benefits Hair

Glycolic acid is theoretically able to provide several advantages for hair health:

Deep Cleansing Exfoliation

Glycolic acid dissolves the bonds of the dead, dry skin cells that mix with scalp oils and become dandruff flakes. This also clears away product residue, hard water deposits, pollution particles and other debris that congest follicles.  

Unclogging hair pores allows strands to emerge smoothly. Preventing ingrown hairs also enables proper growth instead of distortion beneath the surface.

Enhanced Hair Softness & Shine

Exfoliating buildup smooths down the cuticle layer around each strand to reflect more light for enhanced shine. Glycolic may also swell the hair shaft with moisture for touchable softness and pliability if the acid concentration isn’t too drying.

Healthy Scalp Environment 

Glycolic acid drops scalp pH to around 3-4, closely matching hair and skin’s naturally acidic preferences for optimal function. By removing pore-clogging dead cells, glycolic also allows the scalp to absorb moisture more readily.

Potential Side Effects of Glycolic Acid on Hair

While the prospect of glycolic transforming lackluster locks seems enticing, application missteps pose too large of risks. However, Use too frequently, leave on too long or fail to dilute properly according to one’s tolerance levels and glycolic acid can cause:

Redness & Irritation

Glycolic acid can disrupt the scalp barrier, causing burning, stinging, itching, peeling, dryness and red, irritated patches. Those with sensitive skin are most vulnerable but anyone is susceptible with overuse.

Increased Sun Sensitivity  

Glycolic acid thins the skin’s protective outer layer and decreases melanin over time. Also, This makes the scalp incredibly prone to sunburn. Hyperpigmentation may emerge as dark spots.

Brittle, Dry Hair

Removing too many protective oils and layers through excessive use creates transepidermal water loss. Hair grows dry and brittle, vulnerable to breakage, particularly in low humidity environments.

Hair Loss

In rare cases, some glycolic acid users experience actual hair loss, likely due to disturbing the hair growth cycle through scalp inflammation or stripping away too many natural oils. Usually reversible.

How To Apply Glycolic Acid to Hair The Safe Way

With such extreme risks at hand for overzealous use, learning proper application techniques ensures safe, effective incorporation of this chemical exfoliant for optimal hair wellness. Follow these guidelines:

Patch Test First  

Apply a dime-sized amount of chosen glycolic acid product to a small section of hairline and monitor closely for 24-48 hours before moving forward with wider application across the scalp. Also, Redness, stinging, itching or irritation signify it’s unsafe to proceed.  

Start Low & Go Slow

The ideal dosage and frequency for glycolic acid differs across scalp sensitivity levels. Start with just 3-5% formulations once weekly, working up to 10% over many months if lower doses prove tolerable. 7% makes a solid moderate starting point.

Limit First Use Frequency

Initially using glycolic acid for hair growth just once weekly allows the scalp barrier to adjust while still receiving exfoliation benefits. This conservative approach prevents overdoing early on before gauging tolerance. 

Rinse Thoroughly After 3-5 Minutes   

Gently massage glycolic treatment across the scalp and hairline for only 3-5 minutes max, then rinse out completely with lukewarm water. Limiting contact time prevents chemical burns. Apply SPF protection before sun exposure afterwards.

Discontinue At Any Sign of Irritation

If scalp redness, burning, peeling or itching manifests post-application, cease usage immediately. Providing a rest period for skin to heal before reattempting risks further damage. Consult a trichologist or dermatologist for guidance tailored to your scalp health.

Use Pre-Formulated Hair Products When Possible

Seeking out glycolic acid skincare products specifically designed for safe scalp and hair use ensures appropriate acid concentrations for these sensitivities. Also, Cleansers, masks, scrubs and serums within haircare lines contain buffering and soothing agents in glycolic-acid fortified formulas intended for scalp exfoliation. Tread carefully with leave-on skincare toners.

Undertaking at-home glycolic acid scalp facials seems tempting for those desiring enhanced hair softness, volume and growth. But application techniques truly determine whether your hair thrives or takes a turn for the worse under chemical exfoliation. Follow these conservative guidelines carefully for the best chance of success!

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