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Glycolic Acid for Scalp Care: Clinical Evidence

Recently, a Glycolic Acid product by The Ordinary has been making the rounds on Tik Tik as a cure-all for scalp health. Many people are using the glycolic acid toner as a pre-shower treatment in order to combat dryness and dandruff. Today, we’ll look at clinical research and expert opinions on glycolic acid to determine whether its use as a scalp treatment is more helpful or harmful.

What is Glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid belongs to the AHA family of small-molecule acids. It is regularly used in skincare for its exfoliating properties, as the acid reacts with the uppermost layer of the epidermis to weaken lipid bonds that hold dead skin cells in place. The effect is a sloughing off of dead skin cells to reveal fresher, younger skin. This is why many people use the acid as a facial toner to chemically exfoliate the skin and encourage a smoother and more youthful skin texture.

How does it work on the scalp?

When used on the scalp, glycolic acid works in much the same way as it does on the face. It can loosen and dissolve any dry skin patches or dandruff enough that they may be washed away in normal shampooing. Additionally, the hydroxy acid in glycolic acid actually has microbial effects, which may prevent future dandruff and other fungal issues on the scalp.

What are the dangers?

While it may be an effective exfoliant for stubborn dry skin, glycolic acid use can also weaken the hair at the roots when used for long periods of time. Particularly as The Ordinary’s popular glycolic acid product boasts a 7% concentration, it is important to limit use to once or twice a week only for as long as the worst of your dandruff persists. From there, it’s best to reduce usage to once a month or less, as needed for flakey flare-ups.

Where can I find Glycolic acid for the scalp?

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid toning product is not specifically designed for use on the scalp, but it does offer a lower price tag than other hair care products. Alternatives include products meant explicitly for use on the scalp, such as The Inkey’s exfoliating scalp product, which also contains a 7% glycolic acid concentration.

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