7 Best Glycolic Acid Creams for Soft & Supple Skin (2021 ✅)

Written By: 
Tom Qiao
 | 
Last Updated: 
May 28, 2021
Affiliate Disclosure: I earn a small commission when you buy products via affiliate links on this website.

Find the best glycolic acid cream for your skin type, skin condition, and budget! Overall, my top recommendation is Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Cream.

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? 🤔

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.

RELATED:

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

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 creams! 😀

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
Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Cream
1
EDITOR'S CHOICE

Glycolix Elite 
Glycolic Acid 20% 
Resurfacing Cream

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Best For:

✅ Wrinkles
✅ Fine Lines
✅ Age Spots
✅ Dark Spots
✅ Uneven Skin Tone
✅ Enlarged Pores
✅ Blemishes / Breakouts

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Vitamin A, C, E
⭐ Green Tea Extract
⭐ Coenzyme Q10

Key Features:

🧪 pH = 4.25
🧪 5.5% Free Acid Value
👍 Non-Comedogenic
👍 Fragrance-Free
🏆 Professional Quality
🏆 Excellent Reviews

Are you looking for an effective glycolic acid cream?

Glycolix Elite is the perfect solution with 20% glycolic acid, vitamins, and antioxidants, all at an affordable price!

With 600+ reviews, it's one of the most popular products for smoothing wrinkles and fine lines, fading dark spots, and correcting uneven skin tone.

Consistent use will help minimize enlarged pores and reduce the frequency of blemishes/breakouts.

Now, in terms of glycolic acid concentration, the company doesn't mention "free acid value" anywhere, which means we'll need to manually calculate it.

Using LabMuffin's calculator (20% glycolic acid @ pH 4.25), I arrived at an estimated 5.5% free acid value.

Remember, we care about the free acid value because it's a better measure of bioavailability and allows us to make apples-to-apples comparisons between products.

That's because only the free acid forms of glycolic acid will actually penetrate your skin's oily barrier.

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

Free Acid Values and Their Effects

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 Rejuvenating Cream 20
2
STRONGEST CREAM

Glytone 
Rejuvenating Cream 20

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Best For:

✅ Wrinkles
✅ Fine Lines
✅ Age Spots
✅ Hyperpigmentation
✅ Melasma
✅ Uneven Skin Tone
✅ Dark Spots / Sun Spots
✅ Acne Scars

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Sweet Almond Oil
⭐ Coconut Oil

Key Features:

🧪 20% Free Acid Value
👍 Fragrance-Free
🏆 Professional Quality
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews

Searching for the strongest glycolic acid cream?

Glytone Rejuvenating Cream 20 is the highest strength over-the-counter cream with 20% free acid value.

(Glytone calls it Precision Free Acid Value or PFAV)

With 200+ reviews, this glycolic acid product received overwhelmingly positive feedback with ~80% of users leaving a 5-star rating, a testament to its effectiveness.

However, it contains a very high level of free acids so make sure to work your way up from the 15% version.

At 20% free acid value, Glytone will cause a significant increase in cell turnover and collagen production, resulting in much smoother and firmer skin.

In addition, it dissolves dead skin cells all the way down to the stratum basale (basement layer of the epidermis), reversing basal cell atypia (abnormal basal cells).

Editor's Note: basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, is caused by abnormal basal cell growth.

RELATED:

Glytone PFAV System

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.

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Alpha Skin Care Essential Renewal Cream 10%
3
BEST BUDGET PICK

Alpha Skin Care 
Essential Renewal Cream

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Best For:

✅ Wrinkles
✅ Fine Lines
✅ Dark Spots
✅ Uneven Skin Tone
✅ Uneven Skin Texture
✅ Dry Skin
✅ Blemishes / Breakouts

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid

Key Features:

🧪 pH = 4.0
🧪 4% Free Acid Value
👍 Fragrance-Free
🏆 Excellent Reviews

Shopping for a budget-friendly option?

At under $20, Alpha Skin Care Essential Renewal Cream is the best glycolic acid cream in this price range.

With over 900+ reviews, it's one of the most popular glycolic acid products on the market as well!

While it's listed as a 10% glycolic cream, you should know by now the importance of calculating free acid value to make an apples-to-apples comparison.

Using LabMuffin's calculator (10% glycolic acid @ pH 4.0), I arrived at an estimated 4% free acid value.

Now, that's not half bad, considering Alpha Skin Care is around half the price of Glycolix Elite (5.5% free acid value) and you're getting a 2.0 oz full-size product.

Interestingly, 4% free acid value is also considered the minimum threshold for stimulating cell turnover.

Alpha Skin Care Essential Renewal Cream Ad

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.

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Jack Black Line Smoother 8% Glycolic Acid Treatment
4
BEST VALUE FOR MaONEY

Jack Black Line Smoother 
8% Glycolic Acid Treatment

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Best For:

✅ Wrinkles
✅ Fine Lines
✅ Dark Spots
✅ Uneven Skin Tone
✅ Uneven Skin Texture
✅ Dry Skin
✅ Blemishes / Breakouts

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Vitamin E
⭐ Aloe Leaf Juice
⭐ Licorice Root Extract

Key Features:

🌿 Organic Ingredients
👍 Oil-Free
👍 Lightweight Lotion
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews

Get a premium glycolic acid lotion at an affordable price with Jack Black Line Smoother 8% Glycolic Acid Treatment.

Although it's marketed towards men, Line Smoother stands out for its amazing value at $32 for 3.3 oz.

That works out to $10 per oz which is about the same as Alpha Skin Care Essential Renewal Cream.

However, the pH of Line Smoother isn't publicly available, so we can't calculate a corresponding free acid value.

But if we assume a pH of 4 (as manufacturers usually raise the pH of glycolic acid to increase its safety profile), then we arrive at a 3.2% free acid value.

In any case, Line Smoother is an excellent glycolic lotion to reduce visible signs of aging, even out discoloration, and clear up acne, for both men and women alike.

With 300+ reviews, it's a bestselling men's face lotion that includes vitamin E and aloe leaf juice to protect and nourish your skin, while licorice root extract helps brighten dark spots and correct uneven tone.

Jack Black Line Smoother 8% Glycolic Acid Treatment Ad

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.

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Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion
5
BEST BODY LOTION

Glytone 
Exfoliating Body Lotion

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Best For:

✅ Keratosis Pilaris
✅ Chicken Skin
✅ Rough & Bumpy Skin
✅ Red Inflamed Bumps
✅ Scaly Plaques
✅ Body Acne
✅ Dry Skin

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Caffeine

Key Features:

🧪 17.5% Free Acid Value
👍 Fragrance-Free
👍 Lightweight Lotion
🏆 Professional Quality
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews

Do you dream of smoother, softer, and KP-free skin?

Fortunately, a glycolic acid body lotion like Glytone can do wonders for keratosis pilaris by opening up keratin plugs (clogged pores), smoothing out rough & bumpy skin, and eliminating red inflamed bumps.

Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion is 17.5% free acid value which means a very high concentration of glycolic acid is bioavailable, resulting in significant cell turnover.

Since the skin on your body is much thicker than on your face, a higher percentage of glycolic acid is required to produce the same exfoliation benefits.

With daily use, Glytone helps restore hydration to dry skin, reduce body blemishes like KP and bacne, and improve the appearance of scaly plaques or cracked skin.

With 900+ reviews, Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion is a bestseller for treating KP and works even better with Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash (8.8% free acid value).

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

Glytone KP Kit Ad

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.

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Peter Thomas Roth 10% Glycolic Solutions Moisturizer
6
BEST DAY CREAM

Peter Thomas Roth 
10% Glycolic Solutions Moisturizer

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Best For:

✅ Wrinkles
✅ Fine Lines
✅ Age Spots
✅ Pores
✅ Brightness
✅ Clarity

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Aloe Leaf Juice
⭐ Arginine
⭐ Vitamin A, C, E

Key Features:

👍 Time-Released Formula
👍 Rich Moisturizing Lotion
🏆 Professional Quality
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews

Do you need a lightweight glycolic acid moisturizer that won't weigh you down during the day?

Peter Thomas Roth 10% Glycolic Solutions Moisturizer will keep your skin hydrated with its rich moisturizing lotion while slowly improving what's underneath.

Featuring 10% time-released glycolic acid, this moisturizer gently resurfaces dead skin cells to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

(the pH is not disclosed but I estimate 4-5% FAV)

Meanwhile, aloe vera, arginine, and vitamins A, C, and E soothe and renew your complexion.

With 200+ reviews, many customers say they've seen smaller pores, more even tone, and fewer signs of aging while using 10% Glycolic Solutions Moisturizer.

As always, make sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ before any direct sun exposure.

Peter Thomas Roth 10% Glycolic Solutions Moisturizer Ad

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.

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Caudalie Vinoperfect Dark Spot Correcting Glycolic Night Cream
7
BEST NIGHT aCREAM

Caudalie Vinoperfect 
Dark Spot Correcting Glycolic Night Cream

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Best For:

✅ Dark Spots
✅ Sun Spots
✅ Melasma
✅ Post-Acne Marks
✅ Brightness
✅ Clarity
✅ Sensitive Skin

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Viniferine
⭐ Papaya Extract

Key Features:

💡 New Formula! (Apr 2021)
👍 95% Natural Origin
👍 Hydrating Gel Cream
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews

If you're a fan of Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, you're going to love this next product!

Vinoperfect Dark Spot Correcting Glycolic Night Cream is Caudalie's unique take on glycolic acid creams, combining your favorite alpha hydroxy acid with the luxury brand's patent-protected viniferine and papaya enzymes.

Viniferine, a.k.a. ε-viniferin or grapevine sap extract, was discovered by French professor Joseph Vercauteren, whose extensive research into grape polyphenols inspired the original creation of Caudalie in 1993.

This unique molecule helps inhibit melanin production to brighten dark spots and even out discoloration.

Viniferine is up to 62x more effective than vitamin C, according to in vitro tests by Professor Vercauteren (source: Google Patents, Chromatographia, 2014).

However, don't take in vitro results (outside the body) at face value because it's missing important factors like the rate of skin penetration, which ultimately determines the product's effectiveness.

Editor's Note: 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

In any case, this unique glycolic cream has received extraordinary reviews with 300+ ratings.

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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