7 Best Glycolic Acid Cleansers To Renew Your Skin (2024 ✅)

written by: Tom Qiao
last update: May 12, 2023

Did you know that adding a glycolic cleanser to your skincare routine is one of the best ways to keep your skin looking younger, smoother, and more vibrant?

That's because alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid draw out impurities, resurface skin texture, brighten skin tone, and even stimulate collagen production. (source: Soleymani et al., 2018)

Washing your face with a glycolic acid cleanser also prepares your skin to better absorb subsequent skincare treatments like a chemical peel, retinol serum, or face cream.

But with so many glycolic acid cleansers on the market, which one is right for you? 🤔

In this post, I'll discuss how to choose a glycolic acid cleanser and my top recommendations, but we'll need to start from the beginning with an often forgotten concept: free acid value.


What Is Free Acid Value? (And Why It Matters)

Whether you're shopping for a glycolic cleanser, a lactic acid lotion, or a simple chemical peel, it's very important that you understand the concept of free acid value (FAV).

In short, free acid value is a better measure of the true concentration of glycolic acid than the raw percentage on the product (unless it specifically says "free acid value").

That's because glycolic acid, like all acids, exists in two forms (in aqueous solution):

  • Free Acid: a non-polar version that's oil-soluble and can penetrate your skin's oily barrier
  • Ionized/Dissociated: a polar version that's not oil-soluble and cannot

Here's an excellent diagram by LabMuffin that shows these two forms of glycolic acid:

LabMuffin Glycolic Acid
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7 Best Glycolic Acid Cleansers To Renew Your Skin (2024 ✅) 2

The free acid form of glycolic acid is on the left while the ionized/dissociated products, namely a hydrogen ion (H+) and the conjugate base of glycolic acid (OH-), are on the right.

At lower pH levels: more free acids are present which raises the effectiveness of glycolic acid but increases the potential for skin irritation as well.

At higher pH levels: fewer free acids are present which lowers the effectiveness of glycolic acid but increases its safety profile by reducing the potential for skin irritation.

If you'd like to learn more about free acid value, check out LabMuffin and Goals To Get Glowing.

Now, let's move on to the best glycolic acid cleansers! 😀

What Is The Best Glycolic Acid Cleanser?

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Editor's Choice: Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser (4.7 PFAV Glycolic Acid)
  2. Strongest Cleanser: Platinum Skin Care Revitalizing Glycolic Cleanser 10
  3. Most Popular Pick: Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser
  4. Best Value for Money: Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Facial Cleanser
  5. Best for Acne: Replenix Gly-Sal 10-2 Cleanser
  6. Best for Anti-Aging: Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel
  7. Best for Sensitive Skin: Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser

At 4.7% free acid value, Glytone will detoxify your skin by removing surface impurities and dead skin cells, open up clogged pores to reduce breakouts and blemishes, and smooth out the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by drawing moisture into the epidermis.

These qualities all originate from glycolic acid's role as a humectant at low free acid levels:

  • 0-2% Free Acid Value: Increased Moisturization
  • 2-4% Free Acid Value: Smoother & Softer Skin

In addition, Glytone is an excellent way to prep your skin for further treatments as glycolic acid will increase the penetration of skincare ingredients like retinol and hyaluronic acid.

Finally, this glycolic acid face wash doubles as a makeup remover that'll leave your skin feeling lighter, smoother, and more refreshed, just in time for bed! 😴

For best results, follow up with Glytone's bestselling Rejuvenating Cream 20.

My Verdict: For a glycolic acid cleanser that does it all, I recommend Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser with 4.7 PFAV to keep your skin looking its best while prepping it for further treatments.

If you have dry skin, go with Glytone Mild Cream Cleanser (3.4 PFAV Glycolic Acid).


My Verdict: Give your skin a splash of the strongest glycolic acid face wash on the market with Platinum Skin Care Revitalizing Glycolic Cleanser 10 for extremely effective exfoliation™.

If you have dry skin, go with Platinum Skin Care Lactic Anti-Aging Cleanser.

Finally, silica microbeads polish your skin texture for visibly smoother skin while shea butter comforts and nourishes for a hydrated and balanced complexion.

My Verdict: Give your skin a well-deserved spa day (without the expensive credit card bill) with Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser, filled with plant extracts and essential oils, plus silica microbeads and rich shea butter for a luxuriously smooth finish to your day.

My Verdict: Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Facial Cleanser is a clay-based face wash that will draw out impurities and remove dead skin cells for a cleaner, smoother, and fresher look.

10% glycolic acid (not in free acid value, so likely <4% FAV) smooths and refines skin texture while 2% salicylic acid unclogs pores, reduces the appearance of acne, and balances oily skin.

Meanwhile, green tea extract protects your skin from inflammation (free radical damage).

My Verdict: Clear up your complexion with Replenix Gly-Sal 10-2, a professional and affordable face wash featuring 10% glycolic acid, 2% salicylic acid, and green tea extract.

My Verdict: If you're looking to reverse signs of aging (or age gracefully), Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel is a must-have for a refreshing and energizing face wash experience that delivers visible results for wrinkles and fine lines.

My Verdict: Let Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser help you rinse up, clear blemishes, fade hyperpigmentation, and remove makeup, leaving your skin feeling smooth and refreshed.

Article written by Tom Qiao
Tom is the founder and editor of TheDermDetective.com where he applies his decades of personal experience with skincare problems like acne and acne scarring to provide readers with practical advice and product recommendations.

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