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Using glycolic acids with growth factor serums

glycolic acids with growth factor serums
May 24, 2013 Reviewed by Marta 9 Comments

A frequently asked question is whether it is OK to use glycolic acid and other AHAs or retinol with a serum that has growth factors. For example, KI or Cellular Repair Serum by E’shee and Medik8 Growth Factor; or those with human conditioned media, such as ReLuma or AQ. Would those heavy-duty exfoliators interfere with the growth factor actives? The answer is yes, and more so than I originally surmised. 

To get to the bottom of this question, I initially turned to Nataly Giter, the founder of E’shee and she explained to me that exfoliation is not just removing the dead skin layer (which is beneficial), but it also strips the protective layer of lipids from the surface. The skin will first replace the protective layer, and only then will it start producing new collagen and elastin.

This means it will take longer to see results from the growth factor serum. Given that they are on the pricier end of the serum spectrum, this is not a good thing, as taking longer to see results means using more product while becoming disappointed and frustrated.

We all love glycolic/AHA exfoliants, but they are best used in moderation. Some people are using a nightly mask with 10% glycolic concentration. It seems that if you want to preserve the protective lipids, it would be better to cut this kind of thing back to once – or twice a week, at most.

So if you are introducing growth factors into your beauty routine, the advice seems to be to wean yourself off the glycolics and retinols. It is easy to get addicted to them because they seem to instantly resurface the skin, but if you allow the growth factors to do their thing, your skin’s condition will improve due to collagen production. Certainly, my experience of using growth factor serums for the past couple of years is that they have rendered heavy-duty exfoliation almost unnecessary. 

  • August 27, 2013

    by Marta

    Hi Summerstorms, manual exfoliation would not strip lipids unless you were really, really aggressive (multiple times per day) with it. Yes, my understanding is that all other actives, such as those building collagen, would have to work harder. Therefore, it is a good idea to be judicious in the use of AHAs.

  • August 27, 2013

    by SummerStorms

    I have a question, similar to one asked before... Would anything that exfoliates have the effect of stripping the lipids? (This would include manual exfoliation, skin brushing etc)

    Also, perhaps this would apply to some other ingredients that stimulate collagen growth? such as peptides? Would exfoliating make them take longer to work, too, because the skin was busy putting its 'mantle' back up?

    I am VERY glad to have read this, given that I was looking at both exfoliators and growth factor serums. Thank you, Marta! If I do use both, it will involve a 'phase' of exfoliating, then a little break, then 2-3 months of using a growth factor product.

  • June 29, 2013

    by Marta

    Good question Howard. Yes to BHAs. As far as a glycolic cleanser goes, I'd say that it will interfere a lot less than a mask as it is quickly rinsed off. But if you are spending time on money on a growth factor serum, it might be a good idea to cut back the cleanser to every other day or 2-3 times per week.

  • June 29, 2013

    by Howard

    Please pardon this question. .Would Cleansers with AHAs also be included in affecting Growth Factors ? And would BHAs also affect?

  • May 29, 2013

    by lien

    I'm using Revive and I'm not sure if you're familiar with the line. Their flagship product is the Night Renewal cream and it contains glycolic acid and their thought is that it will bring the growth factors deeper into the epidermis. Is this being counter active?

  • May 27, 2013

    by Marta

    Hi J

    Yes it is fine to use an exfoliating brush. It is only alpha hydroxy acids and retinols that are of concern

  • May 27, 2013

    by j

    Is daily brushing still okay? I want to prepare my skin for better absorption of the KI serum I've been using, but I don't want to strip the protective layer of lipids. Would toner be beneficial before using the KI serum? I'm wondering now if the cleanser I've been using hasn't also been stripping my skin. As I'm on my third or fourth bottle of KI, I sure regret all those 10% glycolic masks I used! Glad I know better now.

  • May 24, 2013

    by Marta

    Hi Denise, this is a conundrum. I suppose one option would be to stop the retinol on the forehead lines and see if ReLuma picks up again. But otherwise cutting back the retinol to 2-3 times a week might help

  • May 24, 2013

    by Denise

    This is interesting! I've been using Osmosis Correct with .5% retinol for the last four weeks or so. I'm thrilled with results: smoother skin, firmer skin tone, perfect pores. However, I've been noticing that my Reluma serum doesn't seem to be working on my forehead wrinkles anymore. I'm slowly losing some of the gains I made on deeper wrinkles, but I don't want to give up my retinol entirely. Do you have any idea what a good balance would be?

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