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As part of our glycolic acid agenda, we’ve been tracking down every single glycolic acid product to help you gradually incorporate this exfoliant into your skincare routine. If you’re new to the ingredient, we suggest you start with a glycolic acid toner. If you’re a regular, then you know that things are always better in a serum form. Below are the best glycolic acid serums for hyperpigmentation, acne, wrinkles, and other skin concerns. But first, a brush-up to help you make a more informed decision to pick your new favorite serum.
What Do Glycolic Acid Serums Do For Your Skin?
Glycolic acid is one of the best-performing alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) among chemical exfoliants (1). It exfoliates the skin by dissolving the glue that keeps dead skin cells together, revealing healthier skin.
So glycolic acid serums give you a smoother, brighter, and healthier complexion with an even skin tone by exfoliating your skin. They’re anti-aging as they also stimulate collagen production and accelerate skin turnover (2).
And because serums are more penetrating than creams, they work faster and more effectively. The high concentration of glycolic acid in a serum form is able to travel deeper into the skin where creams simply can’t.
Think of cosmo without cranberry juice. Sure, the juice makes it taste better. But sometimes, you want to chug the vodka and not be held down by the juice. Similarly, sometimes you just want your glycolic acid.
How to Choose a Glycolic Acid Serum
Below are the most important things to keep in mind when choosing a glycolic acid serum.
Active ingredients such as glycolic acid require a certain ‘adjustment’ period for your skin. Otherwise, you may experience irritation and redness.
Glycolic acid serums come in different strengths and can be anywhere between 5% and 10%. If you’re a beginner, start with a low-concentration glycolic acid serum to help your skin adjust to the ingredient.
Glycolic acid can be irritating for people with sensitive skin, or dry skin. For that reason, it’s always best to look for skin-restoring ingredients in your serum.
So look for hydrating ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid. And look for soothing ingredients like oatmeal and green tea to avoid irritation.
There are pure glycolic acid serums as well as multi-acid serums. A multi-acid serum contains additional alpha-hydroxy acids such as lactic, or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as salicylic acid. This does not reduce the effects of the acids. But it helps you better target your main skin concerns.
For example, if you’re dealing with acne, blackheads, and pores, look for salicylic acid in your glycolic acid serum as salicylic acid works better for those issues.
Similarly, if you have dry, sensitive skin, you can benefit from lactic acid serums topped with glycolic acid. Because lactic acid is more gentle and has hydrating benefits.
The Best Glycolic Acid Serums
1. Ole Henriksen Dewtopia 20% Acid Night Treatment
This one is an amazing AHA serum that’s enriched with natural exfoliants as well. Besides glycolic acid, the serum has lactic acid, which is also a humectant that hydrates the skin, mind you. It also has several extracts like sugar cane, which is a natural source of glycolic acid, and licorice extract, which helps brighten the skin.
Additionally, the night serum also contains gluconolactone, a polyhydroxy acid (PHA), with a concentration of 10%. It helps gently exfoliate and hydrate the skin as well. The glycolic acid night serum is perfect for your evening routine to wake up to transformed skin.
2. Lancer Skincare Younger Pure Youth Serum With MIMIXYL
This is the best anti-aging glycolic acid serum that can give you spa-level results. Because it’s infused with several anti-aging ingredients to delay and treat the signs of aging like wrinkles, lines, and dark spots. In addition to glycolic acid’s skin-transforming benefits, it has plant-derived retinol (bakuchiol) for its age-defying benefits.
Similar to retinol, bakuchiol speeds up skin turnover and stimulates collagen formation. But unlike retinol, it doesn’t cause that much irritation or dryness. To top it off, the serum has Granactive retinoid for maximum wrinkle-reducing effects. It also has purple orchid extract to plump up the skin and soften the look of lines. Additional nourishing antioxidants make this one a super-effective anti-aging glycolic acid serum to exfoliate your skin and smooth out its texture.
3. Loreal Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum
Pure, unadulterated glycolic acid serum to exfoliate the skin inside and out. The drugstore serum strips the skin of the dead skin cells laying on the surface of the skin. In doing so, it increases the skin’s natural radiance for a smoother and more radiant complexion, free of dullness and acne scars.
As glycolic acid can be irritating for some skin types, the serum also packs aloe vera juice to soothe the skin and avoid irritation and redness. No parabens and no fragrance! The pure isolated acid makes it easier for you to observe your skin’s improvement day by day.
4. La Roche-Posay Glycolic B5 Serum Dark Spot Corrector
This one is perfect for those of you who are suffering from hyperpigmentation and dark spots. Let me elaborate. Besides glycolic acid, this serum contains lipo hydroxy acid. It’s a derivative of salicylic acid. The thing you should know about this acid is that it’s a gentle exfoliant with some amazing skin-clearing abilities.
It’s super beneficial in brightening up the skin. Additionally, the serum has kojic acid and tranexamic acid. They’re both known to treat sun-damaged skin, reduce hyperpigmentation, and fade dark spots. Combining exfoliating glycolic acid with these brightening ones makes this serum perfect for targeting hyperpigmentation and discoloration issues. Plus, the formula is oil-free and fragrance-free.
5. Herbivore Prism 12% AHA + 3% BHA Exfoliating Glow Serum
This is an incredibly skin-friendly and natural glycolic acid serum. The acids in this one are not synthetic, but all derived from natural sources. Extracts like sugar cane give you the natural exfoliating benefits of glycolic acid. And willow bark gives you a natural source of salicylic acid to clear out congested skin and refine pores.
As salicylic acid works better for oily skin, the serum helps with excess oil, blemishes, and pores as well. Hydration boosters hyaluronic acid and lactic acid plump up the skin and make exfoliation a breeze. Additional benefits include the amazing rose water to soothe and refresh the skin.
6. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum
This one’s a favorite for all, and for good reason! With a combination of different AHAs and salicylic acid, it tackles several skin issues for several skin types. The combination eliminates flakiness, dullness, and roughness on the skin. With the help of salicylic acid, it keeps the oil in check and balances your complexion.
And it keeps the pores free of dirt that causes congestion and blackheads, which minimizes the appearance of pores as well. The glycolic acid serum is also infused with several nourishing antioxidants derived from green tea and grape juice to prevent and treat free radical damage. It’s clean, fragrance-free, and an overall amazing glycolic acid peel for all skin types, especially for oily, blemish-prone, congested skin.
7. Pixi Overnight Glow Serum
This is another potent glycolic acid serum that means business. It has 10% glycolic acid as well as antioxidants. It packs vitamins C, A, and E to guard the skin against free radicals and minimize lines, wrinkles, and discolorations.
While glycolic acid exfoliates the skin and resurfaces a healthier layer, vitamin C makes sure that the new layer glows like never before. The overnight serum also has aloe and cucumber to calm and soothe skin. The gel serum works for all skin types but the soothing aspect is great for people with dry, dehydrated skin.
8. Neostrata Glycolic Renewal Serum
This is another super potent formula made with 10% glycolic acid. The resurfacing serum targets all signs of aging and renews the skin texture with the added goodies. Besides glycolic acid, it has a polyhydroxy acid, lactobionic acid. It’s a super gentle exfoliant that has antioxidant and hydration benefits for the skin.
Additionally, it contains polyphenols, namely EGCG. It’s an antioxidant that’s abundantly found in green tea extracts that reduces sun damage on the skin. With its exfoliating and renewing formula, the glycolic acid serum is one of the most effective ones out there and is made for beginner glycolic acid users.
9. Bliss Renew & Smooth Glycolic Acid Night Serum
Similarly, this glycolic acid serum also packs a polyhydroxy acid; gluconolactone. Combining glycolic acid with a PHA makes sure your skin is smoother and brighter but still plump and bouncy. The lightweight night serum also has soothing aloe and a blend of fruit acids.
These are natural sources of other exfoliating acids like tartaric, citric, and malic. The rich formula gets rid of dead skin cells and revives lackluster skin while also plumping it up. Whether it’s for acne or wrinkles or congestion, this is one of the best affordable glycolic acid serums to get healthier skin.
10. SkinCeuticals C + AHA Exfoliating Antioxidant Treatment
And for vitamin C lovers, it doesn’t get any better than this. The serum boasts a 15% vitamin C topped with glycolic acid and lactic acid. This multi-tasker is your exfoliating serum as well as your daily antioxidant serum. While AHAs work to exfoliate and retexturize the skin, vitamin C targets signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots.
This powerful antioxidant also protects the skin from further free radical damage. It’s like your skin’s shield against UV and pollution. And it’s perfect for normal, oily, and combination skin. The super-charged formula is literally the recipe for glowing skin if you have dullness, sun damage, or mature, aging skin.
11. Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Acid Essence
If you’re not familiar, facial essences are like ‘diluted’ face serums. And this glycolic acid essence that doubles as a face serum is the best one if you want glowing skin instantly! It’s incredibly hydrating, fast-absorbing, and much gentler than most glycolic acid serums as I can comfortably use it on my rosacea skin.
If you’re new to glycolic acid and want glowing, plump skin no matter your skin type, this essence is the one to reach for. Considering the price and the amount you get from it, it’s super cost-effective. Plus, it packs antioxidant-rich grape water and peony extracts to nourish the skin and visibly illuminate the complexion.
So these are some of the best glycolic acid serums you can use to manage signs of aging, acne, and hyperpigmentation. These exfoliating serums are great additions to any skincare routine. If you need more information on how to make better use of them, keep reading to learn more.
- Kornhauser, A., Coelho, S. G., & Hearing, V. J. (2010). Applications of hydroxy acids: classification, mechanisms, and photoactivity. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 3, 135–142. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S9042
- Vidt, D. G., & Bergfeld, W. F. (1997). Cosmetic use of alpha-hydroxy acids. Cleveland Clinic journal of medicine, 64(6), 327–329. https://doi.org/10.3949/ccjm.64.6.327
- Tang, S. C., & Yang, J. H. (2018). Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 23(4), 863. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23040863
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