12 Dermatologists Name Their Favorite Glycolic Acid Product

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12 Dermatologists Name Their Favorite Glycolic Acid Product featured image

Glycolic acid has the smallest molecular size of all alphahydroxy acids, so it can penetrate the skin more easily, which has often been the reason it’s had a rep for being one of the more harsh (causing irritation, etc.). But, as cosmetic chemists figure out innovative ways to mitigate glycolic acid’s potential side effects while maintaining its powerful exfoliating benefits, we now have more ways than ever to incorporate the active ingredient into our daily routines. Good-bye dull skin; hello newfound radiance. These are the 10 formulas top derms recommend.

1 / 10

SkinCeuticals Retexturizing Activator ($82)

This serum contains 20-percent glycolic acid, which is much higher than most other products like it. Additionally, it works as a bifunctional serum to exfoliate and hydrate skin, and it does not dry out the skin. It is also excellent for very young patients, and gives them tight, glowing skin, especially with daily use. For adult patients, it helps to erase fine lines and occasional blemishes.

The serum can be used by patients who are also using topical retinoids, especially tretinoin and various retinols. In fact, topical retinoids help to achieve more even and better results.”

—Saddle Brook, NJ dermatologist Frederic Haberman, MD

2 / 10

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution ($7)

“This product is a mask that you wash off after 10 minutes, and it’s tinted red so you can see if you’ve missed a spot. It really improves skin texture immediately. And you can’t beat the less-than-$10 price!”

— New York dermatologist Mitalee Christman, MD

3 / 10

Revision Skincare Brightening Face Wash ($33)

“One of my favorite glycolic acid products is this cleanser that’s great for all skin types. It helps gently exfoliate the skin’s surface—glycolic and salicylic acid—while also brightening the skin with vitamin C, leaving it feeling refreshed and glowing.”

Chicago dermatologist Omar E. Ibrahim, MD 

4 / 10

Skinbetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream ($125)

“This cream combines glycolic acid and a retinoid to completely retexturize the skin and improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and skin tone! It is also very safe and tolerable, particularly for sensitive skin!” 

—Fort Lauderdale, FL dermatologist Dr. Matthew J. Elias 

5 / 10

Glytone Enhance Brightening Solution ($37)

Three top docs call this product their go-to:

“Formulated with a unique combination of organic acids, this lightweight, fragrance-free cream provides instant hydration while visibly improving the appearance of unwanted dark spots for a more even, radiant skin tone. Azelaic acid brightens the skin and glycolic acid exfoliates dead skin cells from the skin surface and increases the penetration of azelaic acid into the skin. This visibly improves the appearance of unwanted dark spots and leaves skin soft and hydrated. I also loves the combination of these two acids for a non-prescription-strength option to treat melasma.” 
—Baton Rouge, LA dermatologist Ann C. Zedlitz, MD

“When my skin or my patients’ skin needs to kick into gear, we can manage it via glycolic acid! I love this Glytone product, and also the brand’s in-office peels that are available to dermatologists. I like to be able to control the way I use glycolic acid.” —Prospect, KY dermatologist Tami Buss Cassis, MD

“Glytone Enhancing Brightening Solution brightens skin and also minimizes acne and blemishes.” —Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD 

6 / 10

Skinbetter Science Intensive AlphaRet Overnight Cream ($125)

“I absolutely love SkinBetter’s Intensive AlphaRet Overnight Cream because it combines two anti-aging gold standards—a retinoid and a stronger concentration of glycolic acid [than the regular version shown on a previous slide]—in one elegant formulation. Not only is this anti-aging cream an amazing powerhouse against wrinkling and sun damage, but it also retexturizes skin and evens out tone brilliantly. Also, being well-tolerated by all skin types, AlphaRet can easily fit into any skin-care regimen. If you want younger-looking, more glowing skin, AlphaRet will help get you there. I literally recommend it to all of my patients if they aren’t already on a retinoid, because who doesn’t want more youthful, glowing skin?”

—Bloomfield Hills, MI dermatologist Linda C. Honet, MD

7 / 10

Glyderm Face Lotion Lite 5 ($37)

“My go-to glycolic acid product is Glyderm’s Lotion Lite 5%. Formulated for normal-to-oily skin, it is remarkably well-tolerated and loved by even those with rosacea and sensitive skin. It exfoliates gently while providing nourishing hydration to give skin an extra glow. Used daily, it can be a main source of exfoliation in place of a retinoid, or give an extra boost to those using a retinoid regularly and looking to step it up.”

—Birmingham, AL dermatologist Corey Hartman, MD

8 / 10

Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion ($43)

“I like to recommend a product containing glycolic acid to my patients with dry, rough, bumpy skin on the body. Some may have a condition called keratosis pilaris—also known as KP or ‘chicken-skin’—commonly found the thighs or back of the arms. Glycolic acid helps this type of skin by acting as a humectant, drawing water into the skin thus helping to moisturize. It also acts as an exfoliant, helping to remove the dry, rough, dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. My go-to glycolic acid product to be used soley on the body is Glytone’s Exfoliating Body Lotion. It is best used right after bathing.”

—Englewood Cliffs, NJ dermatologist Ana Cristina Laureano, MD

9 / 10

Arieed MD ReDeem Miracle Pads ($84)

“These pads can be applied to the face or décolleté on a weekly basis to minimize and clear out the pores, exfoliate the skin, and repair sun damage. The main ingredient is glycolic acid, but they are also formulated with a blend of other acids, such as mandelic, salicylic, kojic and TCA for deeper, more effective exfoliation. The pads are strong, so they should only be used once a week for a very effective, results-oriented, at-home ‘mini-peel.’ In addition, the Miracle Pads are perfect for the ‘maskne’ that we’re now seeing a lot of due to the pandemic.”

—Greenwich, CT dermatologist Mitchell Ross, MD  

10 / 10

Skin + Pharmacy Advanced Anti-Aging Therapy Glycolic Peel Pads ($14)

“Available at CVS Pharmacy, these pads are infused with the powerful alphahydroxy acid, glycolic acid. As a chemical exfoliant, glycolic acid removes dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, which can build up over time, diminishing light reflection and making the complexion look dull. These pads strip down that layer of dead skin cells so skin looks fresh and dewy, and allows for greater absorption of your other products.”

—Newport Beach, CA dermatologist Zenovia Gabriel, MD

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