Glycolic acid is a highly effective, multi-benefit alpha hydroxy acid. If you’re looking to add this ingredient to your skincare routine, here are our recommendations for the best glycolic acid products.

Our Recommendations

1. AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

Mizon Product for Gentle Exfoliation

Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

This toner is an excellent product if you’re looking for gentle daily exfoliation. It contains AHAs, BHAs, and papaya enzymes that exfoliate to unclog pores and smooth tone and texture.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Gentle Exfoliation
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, soak a cotton pad with the toner, and then swipe all over the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
See on Amazon

This exfoliating toner contains glycolic acid and lactic acid, which are alpha hydroxy acids. These AHAs work on the surface of the skin to improve tone and texture and minimize signs of aging. It also contains salicylic acid, a BHA that works deep in the pores to unclog and prevent acne.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Exfoliating

Cons

  • Contains fragrance

In addition to the AHAs and BHAs, this toner contains glycerin, which hydrates, and papaya fruit extract, which further exfoliates.

Water, Glycerin, Sodium Lactate, Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, 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, Salicylic Acid, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Fragrance

  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. 26, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 26, 2021.

2. Renewal Body Lotion

Alpha Skin Care Renewal Body Lotion

Alpha Skin Care Product 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

3. Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Product 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.
See on Paula's Choice

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)

4. AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon Product 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.
See on Amazon

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

5. 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask

Drunk Elephant Product for Smoothing Texture, Anti-Aging, and Evening Skin Tone

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask

This powerful mask contains a potent blend of AHAs and BHA to resurface, unclog pores, and reveal a smooth and even skin tone and texture.

Skin types: Normal, Oily, Dry and Combination
Best for: Smoothing Texture, Anti-Aging, and Evening Skin Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Apply an even layer to clean, dry skin, and leave on for up to 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. Use no more than once weekly.
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This super powerful mask has a 25% concentration of an AHA blend (glycolic acid, tartaric acid, lactic acid, and citric acid), as well as a 2% concentration of BHA (salicylic acid). These chemical exfoliators fight signs of aging, smooth the skin, brighten, and unclog pores. It also contains chickpea flour, which brightens the skin.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • May irritate sensitive skin

Since this mask has such powerful active ingredients, it is best to avoid applying serums or treatments with other strong actives (like AHAs, BHAs, and retinol) after use.

Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Salicylic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Silybum Marianum Seed Extract, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Powder, Cicer Arietinum Seed Powder, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Passiflora Edulis Seed Oil, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium PCA, Allantoin, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Dextrin, Polydextrose, Sorbitan Isostearate, Amylopectin, Niacinamide, Phytosphingosine, Lactic Acid, Propanediol, Citric Acid, Titanium Dioxide, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Polysorbate 60, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol

  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. 27, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

6. Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Ordinary Product 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.

7. AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary Product for Improving Skin Texture and Tone

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

This peeling solution is one of the best The Ordinary products, particularly for those looking for a high-strength but budget-friendly at-home peel.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Improving Skin Texture and Tone
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Cleanse the skin, and wait for it to fully dry. Once dry, apply the peel evenly over the face and neck. Leave on for up to 10 minutes, and rinse with lukewarm water.
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This peel offers a range of benefits, thanks to a high concentration of alpha-hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid), as well as an effective concentration of beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid). The AHAs help to exfoliate the top layer of the skin to reduce the signs of aging, improve texture, and minimize hyperpigmentation, while BHA unclogs pores for a clear complexion.

Pros

  • Oil-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Alcohol-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • High probability of irritation (best used by those experienced with acids)

This peel contains ingredients to help counteract irritation, including Tasmanian pepperberry and vitamin B5. However, this peel is still very strong for an over-the-counter product, and is best suited for those who already have experience using chemical exfoliators in their routine.

Glycolic Acid, Aqua (Water), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan gum, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Over-the-counter Acne Treatments"

    Accessed Aug. 12, 2021.
  2. 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. 12, 2021.

8. 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula's Choice Product 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)

FAQs

Is it okay to use glycolic acid everyday?

If a product contains a low concentration of glycolic acid, it may be suitable for daily use, if your skin reacts positively to it. However, many products contain a higher concentration of glycolic acid, and should only be used around one to three times per week (or even less frequently for super high concentration products, like The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution or the Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask). When first adding a glycolic acid serum to your routine, start with using it one to two times per week, and then increase your usage after a few weeks if it seems suitable for your skin.

What is the best glycolic acid product for acne scars?

All of the facial products recommended above can help improve the appearance of acne scars. Consider trying the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Lotion Exfoliant, the Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum, The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, or the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant. Use your product of choice consistently for the best results. 

Can I use glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid together?

Yes, you can layer glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid together. You’ll commonly find hyaluronic acid (or sodium hyaluronate, the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid) in glycolic acid products. Since hyaluronic acid attracts moisture to the skin and locks it in, it may help minimize some of the dryness that glycolic acid can cause.

The Bottom Line

Glycolic acid is a great ingredient to add to your routine if you’re looking to smooth texture, fight signs of aging, and promote a more even skin tone. If you’re considering using a glycolic acid product, consider any of our recommended products above.