If having a glowing, youthful complexion with improved fine lines, reduced discolouration and a smoother texture is way up there on your priority list, you've come to the right place.
In case you didn't know already, there's a magical skincare ingredient out there that can do all that and then some. Seem too good to be true? According to dermatologists, it's not. This otherworldly ingredient, otherwise known as glycolic acid, is a chemical exfoliant AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) that works almost as well as getting a professional facial. "It's a substance derived from sugar cane and is known for its exfoliating benefits," explains Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist. "It helps to get rid of dead skin cells and therefore brightens the skin."
It also works even better when paired with certain other ingredients. "It can work well with niacinamide, which is soothing on the skin and helps to reduce sensitivity and irritation," Garshick says. "Similarly, it pairs well with hyaluronic acid to help boost moisture and reduce any potential dryness or irritation." Obviously, this all sounds good and dandy, but these ingredient pairings are especially key if you have sensitive skin. Chemical exfoliants can be drying and potentially irritating if you aren't used to them yet, so when selecting the right glycolic acid product for you, you'll want to make sure it has another moisturising agent in it.
There are so many ways to incorporate this super-effective ingredient into your routine, but we believe wholeheartedly in the power of a good serum. It's the best way to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to skincare products. If you're ready to take the plunge, find the best glycolic acid serums below.
1. Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum
This serum contains a powerful blend of both alpha-hydroxy acids (including glycolic) and beta-hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) to boost glow and unclog pores at the same time. It leaves your skin glowing and radiant and your pores refined.
2. Typology Glycolic Acid Serum
While serums that champion one single ingredient can often feel a little daunting, this one from Typology really does work well if you use it correctly. We recommend applying it every three nights maximum, straight after cleansing. You'll wake up with brighter, smoother skin.
3. Pixi Overnight Glow Serum
If you're a fan of Pixi Glow Tonic but want something a little less intense, this serum is for you. The 10% glycolic acid formula works to exfoliate skin overnight, leaving it revitalised, plump and more even in tone come morning.
4. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum
Drunk Elephant's lightweight serum is a bedtime go-to for Garshick because it blends glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids. "It combines both benefits of alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids to help brighten the skin and reduce dullness while also reducing oil."
5. Paula's Choice Resist Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA
If any brand is going to get a glycolic serum right, it's Paula's Choice. Containing a potent blend of AHAs (including glycolic, lactic and malic) with a low percentage of salicylic acid, this stuff attacks skin exfoliation from all angles, leaving your complexion smooth and radiant beyond compare. Plus, it's pH-balanced so as not to disrupt your skin's natural defence barrier too severely.
6. Sunday Riley Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment
It would almost be a crime to leave this cult-favourite product off the list. This glycolic acid treatment penetrates deeply into pores to remove congestion and contains other exfoliating ingredients like potassium lactate to really boost up your radiance levels.
7. Murad Rapid Dark Spot Correcting Serum
For a dark-spot corrector that works lightning fast, try this gem from Murad. It contains glycolic acid, resorcinol and tranexamic acid to help minimise hyperpigmentation and increase the removal of dull surface cells.
8. SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight
In addition to glycolic acid, this overnight treatment from SkinCeuticals incorporates 2% phytic acid to further help brighten the skin. It's also a great complement to a chemical peel to pre-condition the skin.
9. Alpha-H Liquid Gold Exfoliating Treatment With Glycolic Acid
This serum from alpha-H is another great option for those with sensitive skin because it contains a lower percentage of glycolic acid (5%). Licorice root and other silk proteins also add extra hydration and antioxidants and help prevent moisture loss.
10. Kate Somerville Liquid ExfoliKate Triple Acid Resurfacing Treatment
Few glycolic acid products are quite as effective as those found in Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate range. This leave-on treatment blends AHAs (including glycolic acid) with fruit enzymes to supercharge exfoliation, while white tea extract and honey soothe any potential flare-ups. Unlike some of the more intensive products in the range, this one is suitable for slightly more sensitive skin types.
11. L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Laser Ampoules 10% Glycolic Acid Peel
Featuring 10% glycolic acid to deeply exfoliate and aloe to soothe, these ampoules contain a supercharged glycolic serum designed to be used as a seven-day boost for dull skin—and they really work. Plus, they won't cost you a fortune, either.
12. Medik8 Balance Moisturizer With Glycolic Acid Activator
This unique little set comes with a moisturiser and glycolic acid activator. Using the glycolic acid activator beforehand, you'll create a smooth, freshly exfoliated canvas for the rest of your nightly routine.