If having a glowing, youthful complexion with improved fine lines, reduced discoloration, 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 moisturizing 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 derm-approved glycolic acid serums below.
1. La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 Dark Spot Corrector
Garshick has many favorites, but La Roche-Posay's serum tops her list. "This dark spot–correcting serum contains a blend of 10% glycolic acid, topical tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and lipo-hydroxy acid to help improve the appearance of discoloration as well as vitamin B5 and La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water to help soothe the skin."
2. SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Clearing Serum
This formulation combines glycolic acid with retinoid and lactic acid as well as antioxidants to protect against free radical damage. "This combination helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while also improving skin tone and texture without leaving behind significant irritation. It contains a blend of moisturizing and soothing ingredients such as ceramides, squalane, and hyaluronic acid," says Garshick.
3. Glytone Enhance Brightening Complex
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 acid. "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. MaeLove The Night Renewer
According to Garshick, this Night Renewer is a great option for those with sensitive skin. "It contains 10% glycolic acid and is incorporated into a cream formulation. It also has soothing ingredients like vitamin E, squalane, shea butter, arnica flower, and aloe to calm the skin and hyaluronic acid for extra hydration," she says.
6. Sunday Riley Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment
It would almost be a crime to leave this cult-favorite 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
8. SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight
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. Urban Skin Rx Clear Complexion Acne Serum + Spot Treatment
For those with acne-prone skin, try this combo treatment from Urban Skin Rx. It's one of the best glycolic acid serums that features other ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, echinacea, and willow bark to fight acne, unclog pores, and soothe the skin.
11. L'Oréal Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum
Featuring 10% glycolic acid to deeply exfoliate and aloe extract to soothe, this serum is an absolute overnight powerhouse. Oh yeah, and it won't cost you a fortune, either.
12. QRxLabs Glycolic Acid Renewal Serum
13. Medik8 Balance Moisturizer & Glycolic Acid Activator
14. Doctor Babor AHA Peeling Overnight
15. CeraVe Nightly Exfoliating Treatment
16. Artnaturals Glycolic Acid Serum