The 7 Best Glycolic Acid Products for A Perfect Routine (2024 βœ…)

written by: Tom Qiao
last update: December 25, 2022

Glycolic acid products are an effective and affordable way to keep your skin in tip-top shape and maintain the results of professional treatments like chemical peels and microneedling. But with […]

Glycolic acid products are an effective and affordable way to keep your skin in tip-top shape and maintain the results of professional treatments like chemical peels and microneedling.

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 buy a glycolic acid product 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)

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 Products for A Perfect Routine (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 products! πŸ˜€

What Are The Best Glycolic Acid Products?

Here are my top recommendations for the perfect glycolic acid routine:

  1. Best Glycolic Acid Cleanser: Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser (4.7 PFAV Glycolic Acid)
  2. Best Glycolic Acid Toner: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution
  3. Best Glycolic Acid Serum: La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 Serum
  4. Best Glycolic Acid Cream: Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Cream
  5. Best Glycolic Acid Peel: Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Peel
  6. Best Glycolic Acid Mask: Glytone Rejuvenating Mask (3 PFAV Glycolic Acid)
  7. Best Glycolic Acid Body Wash: Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash (8.8 PFAV Glycolic Acid)

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
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The 7 Best Glycolic Acid Products for A Perfect Routine (2024 βœ…) 10

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).

Effaclar Clarifying Solution may help smooth skin texture and shrink enlarged pores as well, but keep in mind that 2% glycolic acid is a low concentration, so don't expect dramatic results.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution Ad
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Finally, the last key ingredient is thermal spring water from La Roche-Posay, France, rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium, but most importantly selenium.

Research funded by thermal spring water companies (La Roche-Posay, Avène, Uriage, Vichy) has shown that the natural minerals in spring water have anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial for inflammatory skin diseases like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

(sources: Seite, 2013 and Merial-Kieny, 2011)

My Verdict: With 2,000+ reviews, La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution is my #1 pick with an amazing formula of 0.5% salicylic acid, 2% glycolic acid, and thermal spring water that will help you reduce breakouts, minimize pores, and improve skin texture. πŸ‘

Finally, panthenol (vitamin B5) moisturizes and balances out the drying effects of glycolic acid while thermal spring water, rich in minerals like selenium, nourishes your skin and provides anti-inflammatory benefits to reduce the appearance of redness. (source: Seite, 2013)

La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 Serum Ad
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My Verdict: Let La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 Serum help restore your skin's natural brightness with a professional formula of 10% glycolic acid, TXA, and kojic acid to fade dark spots and target skin discoloration, all for the same price as your average drugstore brand.

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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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!

Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads vs Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Peel
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In terms of results, hundreds of customers claim Glycolix Elite helped clear up their breakouts, promote smooth skin, and fade dark spots and acne marks.

However, I noticed that most of the top reviews on Amazon are a bit outdated (2016-2018).

Finally, as one helpful reviewer points out: make sure to neutralize this chemical peel after 1-5 minutes and rinse with cold water as it does not include a neutralization pad.

My Verdict: Whether you're a beginner to chemical peels or a seasoned veteran, Glycolix Elite is the obvious choice for an affordable yet effective glycolic acid peel!

Glytone Rejuvenating Mask Ad
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The 7 Best Glycolic Acid Products for A Perfect Routine (2024 βœ…) 14

Meanwhile, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) helps fade dark spots and brighten your complexion while kaolin and bentonite clays draw out impurities and detoxify your skin.

Finally, soluble collagen accelerates the recovery process to build smoother and firmer skin while glycerin helps keep your skin hydrated.

My Verdict: Keep your skin looking younger and smoother with Glytone Rejuvenating Mask featuring 3.0 PFAV glycolic acid, vitamin C, purifying clays, collagen, and glycerin.

And the result?

Softer, smoother, and KP-free skin with fewer blemishes and more even skin tone. πŸ€—

If you're interested, here's a helpful diagram on free acid value and its effects:

Glytone PFAV System
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Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash is oil-free and works into a rich lather that deeply cleanses and leaves your skin feeling fresh & smooth while reducing blemishes and pigmentation.

For best results, apply Glytone with a loofah to save on product and physically exfoliate the surface of your skin and enhance the penetration of the glycolic acid.

My Verdict: Make KP, body blemishes, and body pigmentation a part of your past using Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash with 8.8% free acid value. For even better results, use together with Glytone Exfoliating Body Lotion with 17.5% free acid value in Glytone 3-Piece KP Kit.

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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