7 Best Glycolic Acid Products for A Perfect Routine (2021 ✅)

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Find the best glycolic acid products for your skin type, skin condition, and budget!

Overall, here are my top recommendations:

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? 🤔

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

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 products! 😀

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)
Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser
1
BEST CLEANSER

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).

RELATED:

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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La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution
2
BEST TONER

La Roche-Posay 
Effaclar Clarifying Solution

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Best For:

✅ Acne
✅ Blackheads / Whiteheads
✅ Clogged Pores
✅ Enlarged Pores
✅ Uneven Skin Texture
✅ Sensitive Skin

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 0.5% Salicylic Acid
⭐ 2% Glycolic Acid
⭐ Thermal Spring Water

Key Features:

👍 6.76 oz Value Size
👍 Oil-Free / Fragrance-Free
👍 Non-Comedogenic
🏆 Extraordinary Reviews
🏆 2,000+ Ratings!

A few years ago, I stumbled across La Roche-Posay after falling in love with Cicaplast Balm B5.

(I literally achieved glass skin using this face cream 😀)

To my surprise, La Roche-Posay was very affordable, no more than your average drugstore brand.

And yet, this company always provides amazing formulas that are gentle yet effective and safe for sensitive skin.

That's why I recommend Effaclar Clarifying Solution as the best glycolic acid toner for most skin conditions.

With 0.5% salicylic acid and 2% glycolic acid, this toner is excellent for refreshing tired skin, purifying clogged pores, and reducing the appearance of acne.

Using a daily toner, especially one with both AHA/BHAs, helps regulate oily skin by removing excess oils, dirt, makeup, and dead skin cells to avoid clogging pores, preventing future blemishes and breakouts.

RELATED:

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

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, all for just $15. 👍

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La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 Serum
3
BEST SERUM

La Roche-Posay 
Glycolic B5 Serum

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Best For:

✅ Dark Spots
✅ Brown Spots
✅ Discolorations
✅ Uneven Skin Tone

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 10% Glycolic Acid
⭐ Transexamic Acid
⭐ Kojic Acid
⭐ Vitamin B5
⭐ Thermal Spring Water

Key Features:

👍 Professional Quality
👍 Safe for Sensitive Skin
👍 Fragrance-Free / Oil-Free
👍 Non-Comedogenic

Many years ago, I discovered La Roche-Posay after falling in love with Cicaplast Balm B5 Recovery Cream.

(I literally achieved glass skin using this face cream 😀)

Now, it's one of my top picks for professional formulas at affordable prices (seriously, La Roche-Posay costs no more than your average drugstore brand!).

For an effective glycolic acid serum, look no further than Glycolic B5 Serum, a bestselling dark spot corrector with 10% glycolic acid, transexamic acid, and kojic acid.

Glycolic acid removes dead skin cells, smooths fine lines and wrinkles, and corrects uneven tone, while kojic acid is a natural brightening agent that helps fade dark spots.

Transexamic acid (TXA) is a more recent innovation in skincare that targets skin discoloration by removing excess plasmin and plasminogen, which in turn dials down melanin production. (source: Paula's Choice)

RELATED:

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

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.

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Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Cream
4
BEST CREAM

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.

RELATED:

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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Clinique Even Better Clinical Radical Dark Spot Corrector Interrupter
5
BEST PEEL

Glycolix Elite 
Glycolic Acid 20% 
Resurfacing Peel

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Best For:

  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Melasma
  • Dark Spots
  • Uneven Tone
  • Age Spots / Sun Spots
  • Fine Lines / Wrinkles
  • Acne / Oily Skin

Key Ingredients:

  • Glycolic Acid
  • Witch Hazel
  • Green Tea Extract
  • Vitamin A, C, E
  • Coenzyme Q10

Key Features:

  • Ultra Pure Glycolic Acid
  • 60 Treatments
  • Unbeatable Value

Looking for an affordable yet effective chemical peel?

Glycolix Elite is one of the best deals on the market: a 20% glycolic acid peel with 60 peel pads for under $30!

(previously known as Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads)

With over 1,300 reviews on Amazon, Glycolix Elite is a popular product for fading dark spots and acne marks, while helping you fight blackheads, whiteheads, and clogged pores as well (perfect for acne-prone skin).

This chemical peel features 20% crystalline glycolic acid, which is the highest purity and medical grade form, plus witch hazel to refine pores, green tea to soothe skin, and vitamin A, C, E and CoQ10 for antioxidant protection.

Overall, it's an excellent ingredient list that rivals even premium chemical peels like CANE+AUSTIN Miracle Pad+.

Glycolix Elite recommends using this product 1-2x daily, but that's a bit too much for a 20% glycolic peel.

Instead, I recommend starting with 2-3 times a week and working your way up to every day or every other day.

RELATED:

Glycolix Elite Treatment Pads vs Glycolix Elite Glycolic Acid 20% Resurfacing Peel

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).

Regardless, Glycolix Elite provides unbeatable value for under $30 and should last you at least 4-6 months (if you use them 3x a week) which works out to only $0.50 per treatment. 👏

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 for under $30!

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Glytone Rejuvenating Mask
6
BEST MASK

Glytone 
Rejuvenating Mask

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Best For:

✅ Wrinkles
✅ Fine Lines
✅ Blemishes
✅ Clogged Pores
✅ Uneven Skin Tone

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid
⭐ Lactic Acid
⭐ Vitamin C
⭐ Kaolin Clay
⭐ Bentonite Clay
⭐ Collagen
⭐ Glycerin

Key Features:

🧪 3% Free Acid Value
👍 3 oz Size
👍 Non-Comedogenic
🏆 Professional Quality
🏆 Excellent Reviews

Does your skin need a professional rejuvenation?

Let Glytone Rejuvenating Mask boost your skincare routine in just 10 minutes, 3 times a week.

This powerful glycolic acid mask uses 3% free acid value, which is ~7.5% glycolic acid if you assume a pH of 4.

Remember, free acid value is a much better measure of the true concentration of glycolic acid, however, most manufacturers don't disclose this information or even provide the pH level (required to calculate FAV).

That's why I trust Glytone for alpha hydroxy acid products as this brand always provides the free acid value so you know exactly what you're getting.

(Glytone calls it Precision Free Acid Value or PFAV).

This mask works wonders for anti-aging concerns like wrinkles, fine lines, and sun damage, as glycolic acid and lactic acid exfoliate dead skin cells and stimulate the growth of new, healthy skin tissue.

It helps control adult acne and blemishes as well by opening clogged pores and absorbing excess oils.

RELATED:

Glytone Rejuvenating Mask Ad

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.

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Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash
7
BEST BODY WASH

Glytone
Exfoliating Body Wash

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Best For:

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

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Glycolic Acid

Key Features:

🧪 8.8% Free Acid Value
👍 Oil-Free
👍 Rich Lather Cleanse
🏆 Professional Quality
🏆 Excellent Reviews

For many years, I thought I had to live with KP forever.

But then I discovered the power of alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid for dissolving blocked keratin plugs (the root cause of KP), smoothing out rough & bumpy skin, and eliminating all those little red (riding hood) bumps.

If you have KP, body blemishes, or body pigmentation, my top recommendation is Glytone Exfoliating Body Wash with 8.8% free acid value and 800+ reviews.

(Glytone calls it Precision Free Acid Value or PFAV)

Remember, free acid value is the true concentration (a.k.a. bioavailability) so you know what you're getting and don't need to worry about the pH level.

At 8.8% free acid value, Glytone will stimulate a significant increase in cell turnover (i.e. exfoliation) to help remove the dead skin cells and keratin plugs that are blocking your hair follicles (i.e. pores).

RELATED:

And the result?

Softer, smoother, and KP-free skin with fewer blemishes and more even skin tone. 🤗

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

Glytone PFAV System

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.

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Best Glycolic Acid Products
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