The 7 Best Glycolic Acid Creams for Soft & Supple Skin (2024 βœ…)

written by: Tom Qiao
last update: February 10, 2024

Glycolic acid creams are an effective and affordable way to keep your skin in tip-top shape and maintain the results of a professional or at-home chemical peel. But with so […]

Glycolic acid creams are an effective and affordable way to keep your skin in tip-top shape and maintain the results of a professional or at-home chemical peel.

But with so many glycolic acid products on the market, which one is right for you? πŸ€”

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

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

Whether you're shopping for a glycolic acid cream, 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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The 7 Best Glycolic Acid Creams for Soft & Supple Skin (2024 βœ…) 9

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 creams! πŸ˜€

What Is The Best Glycolic Acid Cream?

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Editor's Choice: Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Cream
  2. Strongest Cream: Glytone Rejuvenating Cream 20
  3. Best Budget Pick: Alpha Skin Care Essential Renewal Cream
  4. Best Value for Money: Jack Black Line Smoother 8% Glycolic Acid Treatment
  5. Best Body Lotion: Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion
  6. Best Day Cream: Peter Thomas Roth 10% Glycolic Solutions Moisturizer
  7. Best Night Cream: Caudalie Vinoperfect Dark Spot Correcting Glycolic Night Cream

Here's a useful chart from Glytone on free acid value and its effects on your skin:

Free Acid Values and Their Effects
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The 7 Best Glycolic Acid Creams for Soft & Supple Skin (2024 βœ…) 10

At 5.5% free acid value, glycolic acid will provide a "moderate increase in cellular turnover", removing layers of dead skin cells and replacing them with younger-looking skin.

This is helpful if you want to reverse signs of aging as your body's natural rate of cell turnover decreases with age. By removing damaged and pigmented skin cells via chemical exfoliation, you'll start to see visible improvements in wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots.

Meanwhile, an antioxidant complex of vitamin A, C, E, green tea extract, and coenzyme Q10 keep your skin nourished and protected from free radical damage.

Finally, Glycolix Elite is non-comedogenic, as well as paraben-, gluten-, oil-, and fragrance-free.

My Verdict: For an effective yet affordable glycolic cream, Glycolix Elite Resurfacing Cream combines 20% glycolic acid (5.5% free acid value) and antioxidants in a rich cream formula to power up your anti-aging routine and keep your skin looking brighter, clearer, and smoother!

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Glytone PFAV System
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The 7 Best Glycolic Acid Creams for Soft & Supple Skin (2024 βœ…) 11

Finally, a word of caution: a higher free acid value will cause more skin irritation, including burning, stinging, and redness. Always patch test and apply sparingly to sensitive areas.

My Verdict: If you want the strongest glycolic cream, Glytone Rejuvenating Cream 20 provides powerful anti-aging benefits with 20% FAV to deliver unprecedented results for your skin.

Alpha Skin Care Essential Renewal Cream Ad
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In addition, you can expect mild improvements in wrinkles and fine lines, softer skin texture, and increased skin hydration, benefits that stem from glycolic acid's role as a humectant (rather than as an exfoliant) at low free acid levels.

Finally, Alpha Skin Care uses a rich cream base that's perfect for dry skin, but if you prefer a lightweight formula, it's available in a gel base for combination and oily skin as well.

My Verdict: For a budget-friendly glycolic acid cream, Alpha Skin Care is the best option with 10% glycolic acid (4% free acid value) in a rich cream base for smoother skin, every day.

Jack Black Line Smoother 8% Glycolic Acid Treatment Ad
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The 7 Best Glycolic Acid Creams for Soft & Supple Skin (2024 βœ…) 13

While Line Smoother is suitable for daily use, guys (and gals) should not apply it after shaving to avoid unnecessary skin irritation, such as burning, itching, and redness.

For best results, use Line Smoother with the rest of Jack Black's glycolic acid collection:

My Verdict: Jack Black Line Smoother 8% Glycolic Acid Treatment provides amazing value with a premium anti-aging formula that'll keep your skin looking younger, stronger, for much longer.

For the best deal, get both products plus a free loofah with Glytone's 3-Piece KP Kit.

Glytone KP Kit Ad
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My Verdict: If you have KP, bacne, scaly plaques, or dry skin, Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion will smooth out your skin texture and soften rough & bumpy skin with 17.5% free acid value.

Peter Thomas Roth 10% Glycolic Solutions Moisturizer Ad
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The 7 Best Glycolic Acid Creams for Soft & Supple Skin (2024 βœ…) 15

My Verdict: Keep your skin hydrated and glowing with PTR 10% Glycolic Solutions Moisturizer with a rich (yet lightweight) moisturizing lotion and aloe vera, arginine, and vitamin A, C, E.

Editor's Note:Β in contrast, there's been plenty of research on pure vitamin C's (L-ascorbic acid) ability to penetrate the skin barrier at low pH levels (source: Dermatologic Surgery, 2001).

Caudalie Vinoperfect Dark Spot Correcting Glycolic Night Cream Ad
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Finally, it has a rich gel cream texture that's perfect for dry skin and includes a mild fragrance with green notes of bergamot, sweet orange, mandarin, and lemonwood.

My Verdict: If you're looking to fight dark spots, Caudalie has you covered with a dynamic duo of glycolic acid and viniferine to promote a brighter, clearer, and more even complexion.

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Article written byΒ 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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