Buffered vs. Unbuffered Glycolic Acid

Many people associate glycolic acid with peels, but the truth is that it is not necessary to peel to benefit from glycolic acid, or indeed any other Alpha Hydroxy Acid. Whilst buffered acid products do not have a dramatic visible peel effect, this does not mean that they are without benefit. [pullquote]Exfoliation is only one benefit of AHA based skin care[/pullquote]On the contrary, buffered acid products can be more effective (and safer) than harsher, unbuffered solutions. Buffered AHA products can be optimised for different purposes and different skin types. Generally speaking buffered AHA products, even if they do not trigger peeling, will still have some exfoliating properties. This fact alone can lead to significant long term results if such products are used daily. However, exfoliation is only one of the benefits that AHA based skin care has to offer.

Glycolic Acid is More Than Just an Exfoliator

Glycolic acid (and AHA’s generally) is also an effective skin moisturiser with the ability to pull water into the skin. Increasing moisture levels in the skin results in a softer, more dewy complexion, improves skin texture and diminishes fine lines and wrinkles.

Boost the Moisturisation Potential of Your Skin Care

To optimise the mositurising benefits of a glycolic acid product there are two things to look for:

First, the glycolic acid should be buffered. This means that the Ph level of the product has been changed to bring it closer to the natural pH of human skin. This makes the glycolic acid less immediately active as an acid, resulting in a less irritating product. As well as being less irritaing, buffered glycolic acid retains its moisturising properties– in fact studies show that buffered glycolic is more moisturising than unbuffered glycolic acid.

Second, the product should be a natural oil based lotion or cream. The glycolic acid will draw moisture into the top layers of skin, and the natural oils in a cream will then lock that moisture in (as well as providing extra nutrients).

Despite being less ‘active’ as an acid the exfoliation/renewal benefits of buffered glycolic acids are not lost completely and will still bring results over time. Meanwhile, the moisturistation and skin plumping benefits are increased and brought to the fore.

Long-Term Skin Renewal

Contrary to popular belief, buffered acids are no less effective at renewing the skin. Buffering provides a time-release quality to the product. This prolonged effectiveness leads to significant long term results. In addition, because buffered acids are less irritating such products can be used as part of a daily routine.

The moisturisation benefits of glycolic acid
The moisturisation benefits of glycolic acid

In summary, buffered glycolic acid skincare can:

  • Boosts skin moisture levels
  • Trigger long term renewal with gentle exfoliation
  • Improve skin suppleness and elasticity
  • Banish dry, flaky skin
  • Restore a radiant, youthful glow to the skin
  • Improve skin tone and texture
  • Diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles

Amy recommends Hydraplenish Time Release Moisturiser, with 10% buffered glycolic acid for brighter more radiant skin. This body cream contains the best of nature’s moisturisers, Squalane, Jojoba, Rosehip Seed and Tamanu Oils. Formulated for head to toe touchability!


  1. Becker FF1, Langford FP, Rubin MG, Speelman P. (1996) “A Histological Comparison of 50% and 70% Glycolic Acid Peels Using Solutions with Various pHs” Dermatol Surg. 1996 May;22(5):463-5.
  2. Anderson FA. 1998. “Final Report On the Safety Assessment of Glycolic Acid” International Journal of Toxicology January 1998 vol. 17 no. 1 suppl 1-241