Ingredient Spotlight: Glycolic Acid

When I think about exfoliation, the first thing that comes to mind is the years and years of smearing St. Ives Apricot Scrub and any and all other gritty exfoliants I could get my hands on across my cheeks, forehead, and the sides of my nose. If it hurts, that means it’s working, right? This cringe-worthy reality that was my past makes me all the more appreciative that I now know what chemical exfoliation is!

Now, it’s important to note that not all acids are the same, there’s BHAs and AHAs and retinoids, etc. Glycolic acid (an AHA) is a favorite of mine, and I tend to gravitate towards products that have glycolic acid in them. If you have oily, acne-prone skin or struggle with blackheads, glycolic acid should be somewhere in your routine. It’s the smallest molecule of all the acids, allowing it to penetrate the skin deeper than most. Because it’s an AHA, it’s a powerhouse at refining pores, clearing blackheads and excess sebum, and treating acne scars. I have oily skin, and it helps to keep the oil under control without drying it out.

Using glycolic acid also helps other products to work more effectively. Once the dead surface skin cells are dissolved away, further treatments, creams, oils, etc. can work to their full potential--it’s good for both your skin and the efficacy of your other products.

There are tons of products containing glycolic acids, so it might seem overwhelming trying to navigate them all--the different brands, concentrations, serums, toners, etc., so I’ve rounded up a list of my favorites:


First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads

$30 USD

These super easy-to-use pads are great at gently exfoliating and making your skin feel really refreshed. I like to use these at night after cleansing to prepare my skin for the rest of my routine. In the morning, they’re great for preparing the skin for the day’s makeup. I also love that these are vegan, alcohol free, and affordable!


Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

$90 USD

(12% AHA) I turn to this stuff when my skin is acting up--I struggle with breakouts on my forehead, and this stuff packs the punch needed to keep any scarring or excess sebum at bay. When my skin is feeling dull, a few pumps of this helps me wake up with healthy-looking, refreshed skin.


Complex Beauty The Godmother Enzyme Mask

$35 USD

This mask is one of my newest obsessions. It’s the do-everything mask--from helping to clear breakouts and even skin tone to hydrating and protecting. The combination of glycolic acid and pumpkin make it extremely rejuvenating. I use this mask when I feel like I need a fresh start. If only masks could fix more than just our skin!

*When using acids like glycolic acid, it’s important to know there might be some tingling upon the first few uses. If painful tingling or irritation occurs, discontinue using the product.