If having a glowing, youthful complexion with improved fine lines, reduced discoloration, and a smoother texture is way up there on your priority list, you've come to the right place.
In case you didn't know already, there's a magical skincare ingredient out there that can do all that and then some. Seem too good to be true? According to dermatologists, it's not. This otherworldly ingredient, otherwise known as glycolic acid, is a chemical exfoliant AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) that works almost as well as getting a professional facial. "It's a substance derived from sugar cane and is known for its exfoliating benefits," explains Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist. "It helps to get rid of dead skin cells and therefore brightens the skin."
It also works even better when paired with certain other ingredients. "It can work well with niacinamide, which is soothing on the skin and helps to reduce sensitivity and irritation," Garshick says. "Similarly, it pairs well with hyaluronic acid to help boost moisture and reduce any potential dryness or irritation." Obviously, this all sounds good and dandy, but these ingredient pairings are especially key if you have sensitive skin. Chemical exfoliants can be drying and potentially irritating if you aren't used to them yet, so when selecting the right glycolic acid product for you, you'll want to make sure it has another moisturizing agent in it.
There are so many ways to incorporate this super-effective ingredient into your routine, but we believe wholeheartedly in the power of a good serum. It's the best way to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to skincare products. If you're ready to take the plunge, find the best derm-approved glycolic acid serums below.
1. La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 Dark Spot Corrector
La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 Dark Spot Corrector ($42)
Garshick has many favorites, but La Roche-Posay's serum tops her list. "This dark spot–correcting serum contains a blend of 10% glycolic acid, topical tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and lipo-hydroxy acid to help improve the appearance of discoloration as well as vitamin B5 and La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water to help soothe the skin."
2. SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Clearing Serum
SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Clearing Serum ($125)
This formulation combines glycolic acid with retinoid and lactic acid as well as antioxidants to protect against free radical damage. "This combination helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while also improving skin tone and texture without leaving behind significant irritation. It contains a blend of moisturizing and soothing ingredients such as ceramides, squalane, and hyaluronic acid," says Garshick.
3. Glytone Enhance Brightening Complex
Glytone Enhance Brightening Complex ($74)
This serum fuses glycolic acid with azelaic acid to help reduce dark spots and brighten your skin's natural tone. It's gentle enough to be used once or twice a day and is even considered safe if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.
4. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum ($90)
Drunk Elephant's lightweight serum is a bedtime go-to for Garshick because it blends glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acid. "It combines both benefits of alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids to help brighten the skin and reduce dullness while also reducing oil."
5. MaeLove The Night Renewer
MaeLove The Night Renewer ($30)
According to Garshick, this Night Renewer is a great option for those with sensitive skin. "It contains 10% glycolic acid and is incorporated into a cream formulation. It also has soothing ingredients like vitamin E, squalane, shea butter, arnica flower, and aloe to calm the skin and hyaluronic acid for extra hydration," she says.
6. Sunday Riley Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment
Sunday Riley Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment ($85)
It would almost be a crime to leave this cult-favorite product off the list. This glycolic acid treatment penetrates deeply into pores to remove congestion and contains other exfoliating ingredients like potassium lactate to really boost up your radiance levels.
7. Murad Rapid Dark Spot Correcting Serum
Murad Rapid Dark Spot Correcting Serum ($72)
For a dark-spot corrector that works lightning fast, try this gem from Murad. It contains glycolic acid, resorcinol, and tranexamic acid to help minimize hyperpigmentation and increase the removal of dull surface cells.
8. SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight
SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight ($80)
In addition to glycolic acid, this overnight treatment from SkinCeuticals incorporates 2% phytic acid to further help brighten the skin. It's also a great complement to a chemical peel to pre-condition the skin.
9. Alpha-H Liquid Gold Exfoliating Treatment With Glycolic Acid
Alpha-H Liquid Gold Exfoliating Treatment With Gylcolic Acid ($20)
This serum from Alpha-H is another great option for those with sensitive skin because it contains a lower percentage of glycolic acid (5%). Licorice root and other silk proteins also add extra hydration and antioxidants and help prevent moisture loss.
10. Urban Skin Rx Clear Complexion Acne Serum + Spot Treatment
Urban Skin Rx Clear Complexion Acne Serum + Spot Treatment ($19)
For those with acne-prone skin, try this combo treatment from Urban Skin Rx. It's one of the best glycolic acid serums that features other ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, echinacea, and willow bark to fight acne, unclog pores, and soothe the skin.
11. L'Oréal Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum
L'Oréal Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum ($30)
Featuring 10% glycolic acid to deeply exfoliate and aloe extract to soothe, this serum is an absolute overnight powerhouse. Oh yeah, and it won't cost you a fortune, either.
12. QRxLabs Glycolic Acid Renewal Serum
QRxLabs Glycolic Acid Renewal Serum ($16)
If you're no stranger to chemical exfoliants and are ready to enter the big leagues, try this 15% glycolic acid serum for some serious results.
13. Medik8 Balance Moisturizer & Glycolic Acid Activator
Medik8 Balance Moisturizer & Glycolic Acid Activator ($112)
This unique little set comes with a moisturizer and glycolic acid activator. Using the glycolic acid activator beforehand, you'll create a smooth, freshly exfoliated canvas for the rest of your nightly routine.
14. Doctor Babor AHA Peeling Overnight
Doctor Babor AHA Peeling Overnight ($79)
With glycolic acid and skin-perfecting peptides, this overnight serum stimulates skin rejuvenation while you sleep so you wake up with a brighter, warmer complexion.
15. CeraVe Nightly Exfoliating Treatment
CeraVe Nightly Exfoliating Treatment ($18)
This CeraVe treatment is great for decongesting pores and smoothing fines lines. It contains both glycolic and lactic acid, which are gentle enough for all skin types but still get the job done.
16. Artnaturals Glycolic Acid Serum
Artnaturals Glycolic Acid Serum ($10)
If boosted circulation and smoother, firmer skin sound good to you, then this is one of the best glycolic acid serums to snag ASAP.
This article originally appeared on Who What Wear
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