8 Best Glycolic Acid Products – Peels, Pads, Toners, Serums, Cleansers

A girl applying the best glycolic acid product to her face

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What does glycolic acid do for your skin, what are its most important benefits and which are the best glycolic acid product options on the market?

    • Glycolic acid gently but efficiently exfoliates the skin, removing all the dead, dry and damaged skin cells;
    • By doing so, this AHA brightens dull complexion, prevents breakouts, reduces spots and sun damage and it helps with aging signs;
    • You can use glycolic acid products to treat acne, dull skin, ingrown hairs, large pores, small wrinkles and fine lines, dry, dehydrated or congested skin, etc.

In the ever-changing game of skin care where ingredients are prized one day and advised against the next, only a handful of components stand the test of time. The few “chosen ones” you can find in many, many products, as dermatologists love them, reviewers rave about them and they usually even have a significant scientific background.

One of the miracle workers, glycolic acid, really is worth all the hype it gets. This acid holds the power to improve practically anyone’s skin, as it brightens the complexion, fades imperfections, prevents breakouts, helps with large pores, treats congested skin, and even has a considerable anti-aging effect.

Glycolic acid is often included in professional strength peels you can get in-office, and the results are pretty impressive. However, there are also many OTC glycolic acid skin care products you can safely use at home and get amazing benefits.

We’ll talk in a minute about what some of the best glycolic acid product options you have are. But first, let’s see what exactly glycolic acid can do for your skin and why it is so popular in contemporary skin care…

What Does Glycolic Acid Do For Your Skin

A photo of a product containing glycolic acid
Glycolic acid is a type of AHA (alpha hydroxy acids). AHAs are water-soluble exfoliating acids with relatively small molecular weight. They exfoliate the skin’s surface to improve the look and feel of practically any skin type.

Glycolic acid is made from sugar cane. Compared to other acids in the group, glycolic acid has a lower molecular weight than other AHAs. This makes it the most efficient AHA, as it can sink deeper into the skin than any other AHA.

Since its main task is skin exfoliation, glycolic acid can be used to improve a variety of skin problems and imperfections. Here’s what the best glycolic acid products can do for your skin:

  1. Exfoliate – Glycolic acid dissolves the bonds between dead skin cells, helping the skin to shed dead, dry layers. This reduces rough, dry patches and reveals the new, young, healthy layers of the skin underneath.
  2. Brighten – Glycolic acid evens out the skin tone and brightens a dull complexion. It also helps fade skin imperfections, such as hyperpigmentation and other post-inflammatory marks and spots.
  3. Cell turnover – By removing dead, dry skin cells, glycolic acid stimulates the skin to produce new cells at a quicker rate. This helps the skin to heal and regenerate itself faster, giving you a healthier, clearer complexion.
  4. Anti-aging – This acid prevents premature aging signs and reduces the already existing fine lines and wrinkles. It smooths the skin and makes it firmer and suppler by stimulating collagen production.
  5. Sun damage – In the right concentrations, glycolic acid can reduce sun damage signs, such as dark spots and the breakdown of collagen. You can find it in many products for sun-damaged skin.
  6. Prevent acne – Glycolic acid purifies the skin and removes everything that could potentially clog your pores. It also has an antibacterial effect that can help prevent the development of acne.
  7. Large pores – By removing all the dead skin cells and other impurities, glycolic acid deeply cleanses the pores, making them appear smaller and less visible. This also helps prevent the formation of comedonic acne and blackheads.
  8. Hydrate – Most of the best glycolic acid products have multiple effects on the skin, one of them being hydration. Glycolic acid is a humectant that pulls moisture into the skin and that way keeps it plump and moisturized. It also increases the levels of hyaluronic acid in the skin.
  9. Ingrown hairs – If you have problems with ingrown hairs, it might be because of the buildup of oil, debris and dead skin cells that can easily clog hair follicles. But, by exfoliating the skin, glycolic acid can help greatly in preventing ingrown hairs.
  10. Improved skin – Glycolic acid softens dry patches, smooths the skin’s surface and keeps the skin healthier, prettier and more youthful. It also helps the skin to better absorb serums and moisturizers.

8 Best Glycolic Acid Products

*All prices mentioned are from December 2022.

Best glycolic acid exfoliator:

1. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Price: $34.00/3.3 fl. Oz.

If you are looking for a gentle, non-abrasive exfoliant to help shed dead skin cells and keep your skin smooth and youthful, make sure to check out this one. With 8% glycolic acid, this product revitalizes the skin, reduces imperfections and enhances natural glow.

The formula is sheer, gel-like. You can use this product daily, once or twice a day. Simply apply a small amount after your cleanser and toner; no need to rinse.

Best glycolic acid face wash:

2. Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser


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Price: $44.00/6.75 fl. Oz.

We all need a good cleanser in our lives, and why not use one that doubles as an exfoliant? This face cleanser enhances the hydration of your skin by removing all the dry skin and allowing your serum and moisturizer to penetrate the skin.

The formula contains three exfoliating acids, glycolic, lactic and salicylic, which thoroughly cleanse the skin and make it fresh and smooth. The cleanser also physically exfoliates the skin, using gentle jojoba beads.

Best glycolic acid toner:

3. Pixi Glow Tonic Exfoliating and Brightening Toner


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Price: $29.00/8.5 fl. Oz.

Speaking of the best glycolic acid products, we have to mention the famous Glow Tonic by Pixi Beauty. This toner thoroughly purifies and gently exfoliates the skin, preparing it for application of the following products.

Glow Tonic makes the skin smooth, youthful and radiant, refines the pores and stimulates the skin renewal process. Other than 5% glycolic acid, the toner also contains energizing ginseng and soothing aloe vera.

Best glycolic acid serum:

4. IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Serum Facial Treatment


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Price: $29.00/1 fl. Oz.

If you’d rather get your exfoliating treatment in a form of a serum, here’s one that is efficient, easy to use and suitable for all skin types. It is formulated with 10% glycolic acid for visibly refined skin and minimized appearance of pores in only one week.

This serum is also super hydrating, as it contains some of the best hydrators out there: hyaluronic acid, glycerin and aloe vera juice. The formula is vegan, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic and suitable even for sensitive skin.

Best glycolic acid cream:

5. Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Night Cream

Price: $69.00/1.7 fl. Oz.

If your main skin concern are dark spots and uneven skin tone, you will love this night cream! It contains several components efficient in fading skin imperfections, including glycolic acid, papaya enzymes and viniferine.

Of course, a good night cream also needs to be super nourishing, moisturizing and restoring. That is why Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Night Cream also contains glycerin, shea butter extract, grape seed oil, panthenol, squalane and vitamin E.

Best glycolic acid pads:

6. Bliss That’s Incredi-Peel Glycolic Acid Pads


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Price: $25.00/15 ct.

We are all in for convenience, and there’s nothing more convenient in skin care than a product you just swipe across your face, seal with your moisturizer, then go to bed and forget about it. Let the spa-strength formula work for you during the night and wake up with a fresh, glowing face.

Perfect for any skin type, and especially if you want to enhance the treatment of discolorations, clogged pores and fine lines. The product contains 10% glycolic acid, vitamin E, licorice and calendula extracts, witch hazel, glycerin, etc.

Best glycolic acid peel:

7. Alpha H Liquid Gold with 5% Glycolic Acid


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Price: $56.00/3.8 fl. Oz.

At-home peels need to be effective, but also gentle and restoring, so that they don’t damage the skin in the process. Liquid Gold Glycolic Acid Peel is formulated with 5% glycolic acid, plus a few soothing and replenishing components, including silk proteins, licorice root extract and glycerin.

This peel improves the skin’s elasticity and reduces the signs of aging, sun damage, pigmentation and skin dullness. It stimulates skin renewal, promotes collagen production and keeps your skin bright and youthful.

Best glycolic acid mask:

8. REN Skincare Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask


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Price: $58.00/1.7 fl. Oz.

We sure love the intense care face masks provide, and why not add an exfoliating one to your weekly rotation? The combination of AHAs and fruit enzymes makes this mask superb when it comes to fighting dullness, fine lines, rough texture and uneven skin tone.

This mask leaves the skin soft and smooth, visibly brighter and rejuvenated. The exfoliants remove from your skin everything that shouldn’t be there, and the replenishing and soothing ingredients (grape, black currant and cranberry seed oil, vitamin E) nourish and restore.

(2) Comments

  1. Hari Prakash says:

    Appreciate your effort in detailing the post. Its a very informative one.

    1. Jovana R. says:

      Thanks so much, glad you liked it!

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