Glycolic acid is an incredibly effective alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that helps minimize the signs of aging and improve skin tone and texture. These are some of the absolute best glycolic acid exfoliants available.

Our Recommendations

1. Renewal Body Lotion

Alpha Skin Care Renewal Body Lotion

Alpha Skin Care Exfoliant for Exfoliation and Moisturization

Alpha Skin Care Renewal Body Lotion

For those in need of some exfoliation on their body, this lotion is an excellent choice. This body lotion contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which exfoliate to even skin tone and texture and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliation and Moisturization
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After showering, massage the body lotion into the skin.
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This body lotion contains a 12% concentration of glycolic acid. Glycolic acid (an AHA) is an effective exfoliator that works on the surface of the skin to even tone and texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Exfoliating
  • Hydrating

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

In addition to the glycolic acid, this body lotion contains moisturizing ingredients to lightly hydrate, including glycerin.

Water, Petrolatum, Glycolic Acid, Glycerin, Ammonium Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Dimethicone, Mineral Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Lanolin Alcohol, PEG-40 Stearate, Sorbitan Stearate, Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Idopropynl Butylcarbmate

2. Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Exfoliant for Exfoliating, Lightly Hydrating, and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

This 8% AHA product exfoliates the skin while also lightly hydrating to keep the skin smooth, calm, and moisturized.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating, Lightly Hydrating, and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a dime-sized amount of the lotion over the entire face. Those with drier skin may choose to use an additional moisturizer on top. During the day, follow up with an SPF.
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The star ingredient in this exfoliating lotion is glycolic acid. Glycolic acid – an alpha hydroxy acid – is an exfoliant that reduces the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps smooth the skin for a more even tone and texture.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Hydrating

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin

In addition to the glycolic acid, this lotion contains a variety of ingredients that help soothe and moisturize the skin, including glycerin, vitamin E, matricaria flower extract, and sunflower seed oil.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid (exfoliant), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-replenishing emollient), Glycerin (skin-replenishing/hydration), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Beheneth-5 (emulsifier), Behenyl Alcohol (fatty alcohol/emollient thickener), Dimethicone (silicone slip agent), Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate (emollient thickener), Polyglyceryl-3 Stearate (emollient emulsifier), Undecane (emollient), Phospholipids (skin-replenishing fatty acids), Allantoin (skin soothing), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant),Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract (soothing plant extract), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (non-fragrant skin-replenishing emollient), Bisabolol (soothing plant component), Arctium Lappa Root Extract (burdock root; antioxidant and soothing plant), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (licorice-derived soothing agent), Panthenol (hydrating B vitamin), Sodium Acrylates Copolymer (film-forming agent), Tridecane (emollient), Hydrogenated Polyisobutene (emollient), Sclerotium Gum (emulsion stabilizer), Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate (emulsifier), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent), Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

3. AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon Exfoliant for Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

This exfoliating serum combines the power of glycolic acid with other calming ingredients to reveal a smoother skin tone and texture while soothing the skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage the product into the skin. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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This serum contains an 8% concentration of glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). Glycolic acid improves skin tone and texture while minimizing signs of aging.

Pros

  • Contains soothing ingredients to counteract irritation
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the glycolic acid, this serum contains a variety of ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin, including aloe, allantoin, castor oil, centella asiatica (tiger grass) extract, and papaya fruit extract.

Water, Glycolic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lactate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Sodium Hyaluronate, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Panthenol, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Portulaca Oleracea (Green Purslane) Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana (Arnica) Flower Extract, Artemisia Absinthium (Mugwort) Extract, Achillea Millefolium (Common Yarrow) Extract, Gentiana Lutea (Yellow Gentian) Root Extract, Alcohol, Polyquaternium-10, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance

4. Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Ordinary Exfoliant for Exfoliating

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

This chemical exfoliator is one of the most-loved The Ordinary products, with an effective 7% concentration of glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA).

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, dispense the product onto a cotton round, and gently sweep across the face, neck, and chest.
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Regular exfoliation is necessary in order to maintain clear, smooth skin. This product contains an effective 7% concentration of glycolic acid, which has been shown to reduce the signs of aging (including wrinkles and sun spots) and minimize texture.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight and non-greasy
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

This chemical exfoliator also contains Tasmanian pepperberry, which helps reduce irritation, as well as aloe vera and ginseng, which soothe the skin.

Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

5. B5 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum

La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum

La Roche-Posay Exfoliant for Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum

This serum combines glycolic acid with other exfoliating and soothing ingredients that minimize fine lines and wrinkles, brighten hyperpigmentation, and improve overall skin tone and texture.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: At night, after cleansing, apply the serum all over the face, neck, and chest.
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This serum contains a 10% concentration of exfoliating glycolic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid), which promotes the production of collagen and speeds up skin cell renewal. This is excellent for fighting fine lines and wrinkles and evening skin tone and texture. It also contains kojic acid, lipo-hydroxy acid, and tranexamic acid to further exfoliate and brighten the skin.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Dermatologist tested

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

In addition to the acids mentioned above, this serum contains vitamin B5, which helps soothe the skin.

10% Pure Glycolic Acid, Aqua / Water, Alcohol Denat., Glycolic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Potassium Hydroxide, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Tranexamic Acid, Kojic Acid, C12-13 Alkyl Lactate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Panthenol, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Disodium Edta.

6. 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Exfoliant for Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

This gel exfoliant contains glycolic acid (an alpha-hydroxy acid, or AHA), a chemical exfoliator that sheds dead skin cells to reveal smooth, younger looking skin.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Exfoliating and Reducing the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply a dime-sized amount of the gel all over the face. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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AHAs like glycolic acid are commonly used to reduce the signs of aging, including wrinkles. This gel exfoliant contains an effective 8% concentration of glycolic acid, along with other soothing ingredients.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • May irritate more sensitive skin

In addition to the glycolic acid, this exfoliator contains soothing and hydrating ingredients, including chamomile, aloe, and green tea.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Chamomilla Recutita Matricaria Flower Extract (chamomile/skin-soothing), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (hydration), Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract (green tea/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin replenishing), Panthenol (hydration), Sodium PCA (skin replenishing), Propylene Glycol (hydration), Butylene Glycol (hydration), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture-enhancing), Polyquaternium-10 (texture-enhancing), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Sodium Benzoate (preservative)

7. 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel

Paula's Choice Exfoliant for Evening Tone and Texture

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel

This peel contains a high concentration of chemical exfoliators, which work to resurface the skin and unclog pores to smooth fine lines and wrinkles and achieve a more even complexion.

Skin types: Normal, Oily, Dry and Combination
Best for: Evening Tone and Texture
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, apply the peel over dry skin. Leave on for ten minutes, and then rinse with lukewarm water. Use no more than once per week.
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This peel contains an effective blend of chemical exfoliators that work to achieve a smoother and more even skin tone and texture. The AHAs (glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid) help minimize fine lines and wrinkles, smooth texture, and diminish hyperpigmentation, while the BHA (salicylic acid) unclogs pores.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

Since the chemical exfoliators can be irritating, this peel contains soothing ingredients, including chamomile, licorice extract, and allantoin. This peel is potent, and you should patch test prior to using (particularly if you’re new to acids).

Water (Aqua), Aminomethyl Propanol (pH adjuster), Glycolic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Lactic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Mandelic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Isoamyl Laurate (emollient), Tartaric Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Propanediol (hydration), Salicylic Acid (beta hydroxy acid/exfoliant,) Malic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Butylene Glycol (texture enhancer), Clitoria Ternatea (Butterfly Pea) Flower Extract (antioxidant/skin-soothing), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin replenishing), Glycyrrhetinic Acid (licorice-derived skin soothing), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Tocopherol (vitamin E/antioxidant), Bisabolol (skin soothing), Allantoin (skin soothing), Hydroxyethylcellulose (thickener), Hydrogenated Lecithin (skin-restoring), Xanthan Gum (thickener), Polyglyceryl-4 Laurate (emulsifier), Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6 (stabilizer/thickener), Titanium Dioxide (Cl 77891) (mineral-derived pigment), Mica (CI 77019) (mineral-derived pigment), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin"

    Accessed Aug. 2, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 2, 2021.

8. AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

COSRX Exfoliant for Evening Skin Tone and Minimizing Fine Lines and Wrinkles

COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

This chemical exfoliator uses the power of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) to brighten dull skin, even the skin tone, and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Evening Skin Tone and Minimizing Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, dispense the product onto a cotton pad, and then gently wipe all over the face.
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This product contains the chemical exfoliator glycolic acid, an AHA that has been shown to minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration (including sun spots). It also contains pyrus malus (apple) fruit water, a natural AHA that further helps exfoliate and brighten the skin, as well as niacinamide, which minimizes the appearance of pores.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May not be suitable for sensitive skin

In addition to the AHAs, this product contains ingredients that counteract the potentially irritating effects of the exfoliators, including panthenol and sodium hyaluronate.

Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Niacinamide, Sodium Hydroxide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol

FAQs

Can I exfoliate with glycolic acid everyday?

Using a serum with a higher concentration of glycolic acid (like the products mentioned above) on a daily basis is not recommended, as it can irritate the skin and cause damage to the skin barrier. Stick with using glycolic acid products one to two times per week. For stronger products – like the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel – use no more than one time per week, and don’t use any other exfoliating product for a few days before or after using it.

Can I leave on glycolic acid overnight?

Yes, serums, lotions, and toners containing glycolic acid are meant to be left on, rather than washed off. Peels (like the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 25% AHA + 2% BHA Exfoliant Peel) should be rinsed off. Refer to the directions on the product for the most suitable usage.

Can I use glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid together?

Yes, glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid can be used at the same time. Since hyaluronic helps pull moisture to the skin, it may help minimize some of the dryness that the glycolic acid can cause.

The Bottom Line

Glycolic acid is an excellent skincare ingredient if you’re looking to achieve a clearer skin tone and texture and fight signs of aging. If you’re interested in adding glycolic acid to your skincare routine, consider choosing one of the best glycolic acid exfoliants mentioned above to help exfoliate and improve your overall complexion.