8 Glycolic Acid Cleansers To Clean, Polish, Brighten, and Exfoliate The Skin

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Best Glycolic Acid Cleansers

Even though glycolic acid is the most beloved alpha-hydroxy acid, it’s a handful. You need to ease your skin into it. And as face washes are gentle, rinse-off products, glycolic acid cleansers can be the easiest and safest way to incorporate exfoliants into your routine. All you need to do is find the right one for your skin type and issues.

Glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant and the most popular one for being the most potent of the bunch. It exfoliates, removes the dead skin cells, and basically renews the skin. And as a result of that, it addresses several of your skin issues.

It can help with texture irregularities, hyperpigmentation, large pores, and even acne. And except for very sensitive skin, all skin types can use glycolic acid cleansers. And to make sure everyone finds their match, we’ve rounded up the best glycolic acid cleansers and face washes. Scroll down!

The Best Glycolic Acid Cleansers

Whether you have oily skin or mature skin, or you’re dealing with acne or hyperpigmentation, find below the best glycolic acid cleansers.

Best Overall: Neostrata Foaming Glycolic Wash

Neostrata Foaming Glycolic Wash - Best Glycolic Acid Cleansers

If you want the most bang for your buck, nobody does acids better than Neostrata. And this glycolic acid face wash is no exception! It’s formulated with 18% glycolic acid to dig deep and really make a difference in your cleansing experience. The foaming cleanser doesn’t just clean your face but also helps with uneven skin texture and tone.

Plus, it infuses the skin with lactobionic acid, an incredibly gentle exfoliant that also works as a humectant and an antioxidant to hydrate and nourish. High-strength actives always have the potential to irritate. To avoid that, the cleanser is formulated with a sustained-release delivery system, which allows the acid to work slowly and gradually.

At a Glance

Acids: Glycolic acid, lactobionic acid
Concentration: 18%, 2%
Good to Know: High concentration, contains alcohol, not great for sensitive skin

Best For Hyperpigmentation: SkinCeuticals Glycolic Renewal Cleanser

SkinCeuticals Glycolic Renewal Cleanser

This glycolic acid cleanser is in gel form, does foam, and contains a concentration of 8%. So it gives you all the benefits of an exfoliating cleanser. It cleans up the skin, removes makeup, helps accelerate skin renewal, and smooths out skin texture all the while.

But the added phytic acid in 1% makes it a great option for people who are dealing with hyperpigmentation. Though phytic acid also prompts exfoliation, it’s known for its skin brightening properties. Overall, the glycolic acid cleanser is great if you’re dealing with dullness, acne spots, hyperpigmentation, and other discolorations.

At a Glance

Acids: Glycolic acid
Concentration: 8%
Other Ingredients: Phytic acid, aloe
Good to Know: Alcohol-free

Best Drugstore: L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives 3.5% Glycolic Acid Cleansing Gel

L'Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives 3.5% Glycolic Acid Cleansing Gel - Best Drugstore Glycolic Acid Cleansers

Formulated without fragrance, this budget-friendly glycolic acid cleanser is perfect for all skin types including blemish-prone skin. 3.5% glycolic acid combined with salicylic acid, the gel cleanser reduces shine, decongests the skin, and brightens it.

Unless you have very sensitive skin, you can use it as your daily cleanser to manage excess oil, and prevent breakouts and clogged pores. And if you’re going to use something twice daily, it doesn’t hurt to have it affordable!

At a Glance

Acids: Glycolic acid, salicylic acid
Concentration: 3.5%
Good to Know: Contains menthol which may cause redness for very sensitive skin

Best For Oily Skin: Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser

Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser

For normal or dry skin types, too much foam simply means too drying for the skin. That’s why foaming cleansers are usually best for people with very oily skin. This glycolic acid face wash sticks to any oil, dirt, and grime on the skin and washes them away. As a result, it mattifies the skin and helps with breakouts on blemish-prone skin.

And it also has a soothing botanical blend to avoid irritation and redness. One thing to note here is that this is not to be used as a daily face wash. It’s not going to replace your daily cleanser. It’s more like a weekly, rinse-off treatment. So keep that in mind if you have sensitive skin or if you’re prone to irritation.

At a Glance

Acids: Glycolic acid
Concentration: Unknown
Other Ingredients: Chamomile, marshmallow extract
Good to Know: Contains SLS and fragrance. Can’t be used daily.

Best For Aging Skin: Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser

Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser

This one is an anti-aging cleanser perfect for mature skin. It is formulated with 4.7% glycolic acid to stimulate skin turnover. The gel cleanser is oil-free, fragrance-free, and alcohol-free to avoid irritation and sensitivity. It purifies the skin, polishes the complexion, and boosts radiance. With every wash, the cleanser helps minimize fine lines and reduce sun damage on aging skin.

On the other hand, if you want to exfoliate with a cleanser but gel-based options are too drying for your skin, this one comes in cream form too. Cream cleansers tend to work better for dry skin. The cream option has 3.4% glycolic acid for a gentler exfoliation.

At a Glance

Acids: Glycolic acid
Concentration: 4.7%
Good to Know: Gel version contains SLS, the cream version doesn’t

Best With Salicylic Acid: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel - Best Glycolic Acid Cleansers

If you have combination skin or you are prone to acne, using a cleanser that contains both glycolic acid and salicylic acid can help you strengthen your hand. While glycolic acid works to exfoliate, and brighten, salicylic acid will be especially helpful in decongesting clogged pores and treating and preventing acne.

This glycolic acid cleanser contains mandelic acid as well as naturally-derived salicylic acid. And if you’re dealing with discolorations from inflammatory acne, the cleanser also contains a derivative of azelaic acid, phytic acid, and anti-inflammatory green tea. The gel formula exfoliates, unclogs pores, reduces blemishes, and fades dark spots, making it a great multi-acid cleanser.

At a Glance

Acids: Glycolic acid, mandelic acid, willow bark (salicylic acid)
Concentration: Unknown
Other Ingredients: Phytic acid, hyaluronic acid, green tea
Good to Know: Alcohol-free, vegan, cruelty-free, comes in mini size too

Best Oil: Hanskin Pore Cleansing Oil – AHA

Hanskin Pore Cleansing Oil - AHA - Best Glycolic Acid Oil Cleansers

If you’re a double cleanser, and you should be if you wear a ton of makeup, then you can try this exfoliating cleansing oil. It’s just like your regular oil cleanser but with skin resurfacing benefits. Besides glycolic acid, it also has lactic acid to remove surface dead skin cells and rejuvenate skin.

The added advantage of this is that you can really massage it and take your time with it while the exfoliants penetrate the skin. Antioxidant-rich oils melt away your makeup so that your second cleanser sweeps everything. Just make sure your second cleanser is not an exfoliating one. Otherwise, it can be too irritating. And it’ll be what we call over-exfoliation.

At a Glance

Acids: Glycolic acid, lactic acid
Concentration: Unknown
Other Ingredients: Amino acids, Centella Asiatica
Good to Know: Works on waterproof makeup too

Best For Dry Skin: Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser

Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser

If you have dry skin and you are intimidated by exfoliants, know that not all glycolic acid cleansers are created equal. And you don’t need to deal with post-cleansing dryness or tightness even if you use exfoliants. This jelly cleanser is as gentle as it gets. It’s packed with hydrating and moisturizing goodies so that your skin isn’t left clean but super tight.

This one exfoliates with two alpha-hydroxy acids, glycolic and lactic. And it hydrates with hyaluronic acid while anti-inflammatory botanicals soothe the skin. The cleanser also contains antioxidant-rich blueberry extract, which is what gives the cleanser its addictive scent. It’s super gentle on the skin, non-drying, incredibly nourishing, and an overall great glycolic acid cleanser for dry skin types.

At a Glance

Acids: Glycolic acid, lactic acid
Concentration: Unknown
Other Ingredients: A blend of berry extracts, licorice root
Good to Know: Cruelty-free, vegan, alcohol-free, contains fragrance

This concludes our round-up of the best glycolic acid cleansers and face washes. If you’re not sure how to choose one or how to use one, keep reading to learn more about how to incorporate a glycolic acid cleanser into your routine.

How to choose a glycolic acid cleanser?

To get the most out of your product, it’s important to know how to choose a glycolic acid cleanser and what to look for in one. First off, concentration is important. For example, if you’re a newbie, you can try a glycolic acid cleanser in low concentrations.

Anything above 10% is usually better for skin that’s already familiar with exfoliants. Additionally, we’ve established that glycolic acid is a multi-tasker. But if you need it for a specific skin issue, you should keep that in mind. For example, look for a glycolic acid cleanser that also contains salicylic acid if you’re dealing with acne or if you have oily skin.

Additionally, if you have very sensitive skin, go for a low-strength glycolic acid cleanser that also contains soothing botanicals. Similarly, if you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation, anything that’s brightening will make your cleanser work better for you.

Can you use a glycolic acid cleanser every day?

Glycolic acid cleansers are generally safe to use daily, and even twice daily. But that doesn’t mean that’s what you should do. You know, better than anyone, if your skin needs exfoliation twice a day. It probably doesn’t.

On the flip side, just to be safe, you can approach a glycolic acid cleanser like a glycolic acid peel. So maybe start using it a few times a week at first and build it up to once daily.

Also, don’t forget to check the instructions on the product. Some cleansers, like Mario Badescu Foaming Cleanser, come with explicit instructions on how to use the product.

Can you use a glycolic acid cleanser around the eyes?

Ideally, you want to use your cleanser all over the face including the eye area. And this is important especially if you want a cleanser to remove your makeup too.

Unless the instructions say otherwise, you can use your glycolic acid cleanser around the eyes to remove makeup and wash your face. But again, make sure you check the instructions on your product. Glow Recipe Blue Berry Bounce Cleanser, for example, is suitable to use everywhere on the face.

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