7 Best Glycolic Acid Cleansers To Renew Your Skin (2021 ✅)

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Find the best glycolic acid cleanser for your skin type, skin condition, and budget! Overall, my top recommendation is Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser (4.7 PFAV Glycolic Acid).

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.

RELATED:

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

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.

💡 Putting it all together: the raw percentage of a glycolic acid product is misleading as it doesn't account for the pH level, which has a massive effect on actual free acid value. For example, 20% glycolic acid @ pH 3.83 is 10% free acid value but @ pH 4.25 is only 5.5%.

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
Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser
1
EDITOR'S CHOICE

Glytone 
Mild Gel Cleanser

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Best For:

✅ Normal to Oily Skin
✅ Signs of Aging
✅ Uneven Skin Tone
✅ Breakouts / Blemishes
✅ Clogged Pores
✅ Makeup Removal

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid

Key Features:

🧪 4.7% Free Acid Value
👍 6.7 oz Size
👍 Non-Comedogenic
🏆 Professional Quality
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews

Need a glycolic acid face wash that does it all?

Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser has all your skin conditions covered with a powerful 4.7% free acid value.

(Glytone calls it Precision Free Acid Value or PFAV)

As I explained earlier, only the free acid forms can actually penetrate your skin's oily barrier, making FAV a better measure of the true concentration of glycolic acid.

For context, you'd need ~17% glycolic acid at pH 4.25 to achieve a 4.7% free acid value.

(I assumed pH = 4.25 as Glytone did not disclose the pH. At pH 4, you would need ~12% glycolic acid.)

So when you're comparing two glycolic acid face washes, keep in mind that Glytone is about 12-17% glycolic acid (when you include both free acid and ionized forms).

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
Glytone PFAV System

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).

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Platinum Skin Care Revitalizing Glycolic Cleanser 10
2
STRONGEST CLEANSER

Platinum Skin Care 
Revitalizing Glycolic Cleanser 10

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Best For:

✅ Normal to Oily Skin
✅ Signs of Aging
✅ Sun Damage
✅ Uneven Skin Tone
✅ Breakouts / Blemishes
✅ Clogged Pores
✅ Chemical Peel Prep

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Vitamin A, C, E

Key Features:

🧪 10% Free Acid Value
🧪 pH = 4.5
👍 6 oz Size
👍 Cruelty-Free
🏆 Professional Quality

If you're looking for the strongest glycolic acid cleanser, this is it!

Platinum Skin Care Revitalizing Glycolic Cleanser 10 uses a full 10% free acid value, the highest of any face wash.

Fortunately, the pH has been buffered (raised) to 4.5 to increase the safety profile, which means powerful exfoliation without excessive skin irritation.

(the natural pH of glycolic acid is around 3.83)

At 10% free acid value, you can expect to achieve a significant increase in cell turnover (i.e. exfoliation) which will dramatically improve anti-aging concerns like wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots.

In addition, this face wash will slowly fade sun damage, brighten dark spots, and minimize enlarged pores.

For best results, use Revitalizing Glycolic Cleanser 10 together with a chemical peel, like Platinum Skin Care's #1 bestselling TCA peel.

RELATED:

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.

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Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser
3
MOST POPULAR PICK

Botanic Tree 
Glycolic Acid 
Exfoliating Cleanser

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Best For:

✅ Daily Face Wash
✅ Spa Experience

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Salicylic Acid
⭐ Bamboo
⭐ Green Tea
⭐ Seaweed
⭐ Shea Butter
⭐ Willow Bark Extract
⭐ Essential Oils

Key Features:

🧪 10% Glycolic Acid
👍 6 oz Size
👍 Under $20
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews
🏆 12,000+ Ratings!

For the ultimate spa experience, start off with a luxurious face wash with plant extracts and essential oils like Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser.

With over 12,000+ reviews, Botanic Tree is currently the most popular glycolic acid cleanser with an impressive ratio of 80% 5-star ratings!

Botanic Tree uses 10% glycolic acid, but it's not all in free acid form, so we'll need to do a manual calculation.

Unfortunately, the pH is not provided either but at pH 4 it would be about 4% free acid value.

(10% glycolic acid @ pH 4 = 4% free acid value)

Next, we have a whole garden of botanical extracts including bamboo, green tea, seaweed, and willow bark (a natural source of salicylic acid) that revitalizes dull skin, soothes sensitivity, and reduces redness.

Meanwhile, essential oils like tea tree oil, peppermint oil, and lavender oil, help fight acne and clogged pores while indulging your senses.

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

Oh, and did I mention that it's all under $20? 😍

Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser Ad

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.

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Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Facial Cleanser
4
BEST VALUE FOR MONEY

Jack Black Deep Dive
Glycolic Facial Cleanser

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Best For:

✅ Bulk Buyers
✅ Savvy Shoppers
✅ Exfoliation Enthusiasts

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Kaolin Clay
⭐ Volcanic Ash
⭐ Botanical Extracts
⭐ Vitamin C & E

Key Features:

👍 10 oz Value Size
👍 Certified Organic
👍 2-in-1 Cleanser & Mask
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews
🏆 1,500+ Ratings!

If you're looking for the best deal on the market, consider Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Facial Cleanser.

At current prices, this 10 oz value size face wash works out to ~$3 per oz and will last you many, many months.

In fact, Jack Black is a 2-in-1 cleanser and mask combo with glycolic acid, kaolin clay, and volcanic ash, perfect for drawing out impurities and opening clogged pores.

Aside from that, there's a ton of botanical extracts in the ingredient list as well, including wolfsbane flower, rosemary, olive, green tea, chamomile, and calendula.

Meanwhile, vitamin C and E are both present for additional antioxidant protection.

With 1,500+ reviews, Jack Black has received overwhelmingly positive feedback with 80% 5-stars (very, very few products achieve this feat 🏆).

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.

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Replenix Gly-Sal 10-2 Cleanser
5
BEST FOR ACNE

Replenix 
Gly-Sal 10-2 Cleanser

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Best For:

✅ Acne-Prone Skin
✅ Pimples
✅ Breakouts
✅ Blemishes

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 10% Glycolic Acid
⭐ 2% Salicylic Acid
⭐ Green Tea Extract

Key Features:

👍 6.7 oz Size
👍 Non-Comedogenic
🏆 Excellent Reviews

Are you constantly worrying about your acne?

I know how it feels - I've had cystic acne since I was a teen and it took me many years to finally achieve clear skin.

Fortunately, salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), is one of the most effective treatments for pimples.

Salicylic acid is lipophilic (i.e. oil-soluble) which allows it to penetrate oily skin and remove trapped dead skin cells, keratin, and excess sebum inside your hair follicles.

The result: clearer and smoother skin with fewer breakouts and blemishes over time.

For an effective duo of glycolic acid and salicylic acid, Replenix Gly-Sal 10-2 is a professional and affordable face wash for under $20.

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).

Replenix Gly-Sal 10-2 Cleanser Ad

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.

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Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel
6
BEST FOR ANTI-AGING

Peter Thomas Roth 
Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel

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Best For:

✅ Wrinkles
✅ Fine Lines

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Salicylic Acid
⭐ Citric Acid
⭐ Botanical Extracts
⭐ Arginine

Key Features:

👍 8.5 oz Value Size
👍 Luxurious Gel
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews
🏆 1,300+ Ratings!

Complete your anti-aging skincare routine with the bestselling Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel.

With over 1,300+ reviews, this luxurious gel effectively cleanses your skin surface and leaves you feeling refreshed and energized with botanical extracts of peach, lemon, lime, linden tree, and grapefruit.

(it has an amazing smell as well! 😀)

Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and citric acid all work to reduce the visibility of wrinkles and fine lines, revitalize your skin tone, and shrink enlarged pores.

Finally, arginine (an amino acid) helps your body rebuild collagen protein structures while natural white oak bark brightens your skin's appearance.

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.

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Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser
7
BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN

Mario Badescu 
Glycolic Foaming Cleanser

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Best For:

✅ Sensitive Skin
✅ Dry Skin

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Sage Leaf
⭐ St. John's Wort
⭐ Chamomile
⭐ Marsh-Mallow
⭐ Yarrow

Key Features:

👍 6 oz Size
👍 Under $15
🏆 Excellent Reviews
🏆 4,000+ Ratings!

If you're struggling to find skincare products that won't trigger your skin sensitivities, allow me to introduce you to Mario Badescu.

This prestige beauty brand has consistently produced some of the highest rated skincare products, including its No.1 Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater.

Mario Badescu is known for its botanical formulas and has a philosophy of "simple, gentle, and effective".

In this case, Glycolic Foaming Cleanser is a prime example, with glycolic acid working alongside botanicals like:

  • Sage Leaf & Marsh-Mallow: conditions and smooths
  • St. John's Wort & Chamomile: soothes sensitivity
  • Yarrow: promotes healthy, youthful skin

With 4,000+ reviews (and a very high % of 5-star ratings), many satisfied customers claimed to have found the perfect cleanser for their sensitive skin!

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.

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Best Glycolic Acid Cleanser
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