There’s a before and after you first try a glycolic acid serum. This unique active allows visible changes in your skin, starting with the radiance and going from brightening to smoothing the texture of the skin. How you incorporate it into your routine should depend on the product, the formula and the concentration. Today, we’re suggesting that try it incorporating a glycolic acid serum in your routine! First, learn in detail what a glycolic serum does for your skin, and then we’ll tell you which formulas we consider to be the best glycolic acid serums.
What does glycolic serum do for your skin?
Glycolic acid is a type of AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid), that is known for refining the skin texture and improving radiance. Derived from sugar cane, glycolic acid is a colorless and odorless molecule that is soluble in water and has a low molecular weight. And you know what a serum featuring a small and powerful molecule can do for your skin! This one in particular evens out skin texture, exfoliates and improves radiance, helps to brighten the skin, and fades hyperpigmentation while improving the action of the other skincare prodcuts you apply—as it removes dead skin cells and eliminates a barrear that may compromise absorption. With glycolic acid serums, you should always consider the concentration—high concentrations can come with great results but also some unwanted side effects, like skin dryness, redness, burning or even itching. We have different concentrations for you on this post, and you’ll be able to choose according to your needs.
How to use a glycolic acid serum in a skincare routine?
Applying glycolic acid serums is, in many ways, not that different from other serums. You should apply them after cleansing the skin, and before the moisturizer. While some formulas are recommended for morning and evening application, the most concentrated glycolic acid serums may not be recommended twice a day. In order to decide how to use a glycolic acid serum in your skincare routine, you should consider the concentration, your desired results as well as skin sensitivity. If your skincare routine also features other potentially sensitizing ingredients—such as retinol—you may need to introduce the active slowly to find out how your skin feels about it. Our ultimate advice: read the brand’s recommendation and listen to how your skin responds to decide how often to include it in your routine.
Our top 5 favorite serums with glycolic acid
Sesderma Acglicolic Liposomal Serum
One of the best serums that the skin of this writer has ever tried, this formula highlights the natural beauty of your skin. Featuring 6% free and liposomal glycolic acid, this formula offers the best of glycolic acid while granting optimal tolerance. Day after day, it removes dead cells and visibly smoothes the skin texture—you’ll find yourself owning the softest of skins. The texture feels lightweight on the skin and absorbs quickly for a bare-skin sensation. This glycolic acid serum makes a fabulous first impression for those who are trying this active for the first time!
Collistar Pure Actives Glycolic Acid
Pure glycolic acid
Featuring glycolic acid very high in the ingredient list—meaning a high concentration—this concentrate is a star product on any skincare routine. Collistar researchers found the perfect balance of glycolic acid concentration and pH while adding other AHA (mandelic and gluconic acid) to make sure you find the results in a safe formula with good tolerance. To get the best of your product, you’ll only need one application. Unfortunately, those with sensitive, reactive, irritated, or couperose skin have to skip this one!
Revolution Skincare 15% Glycolic Intense Serum
Vegan, fragrance-free & affordable
Specially developed for the nighttime, this serum is a potent exfoliant that smoothes the skin while boosting radiance. Staring 15% glycolic acid combined with niacinamide, this serum exfoliates, perfects, minimizes pores, and evens out the skin in a short time. At the same time, allantoin works to soothe and nourish the skin, counterbalancing the potential unwanted effects of the high concentration of glycolic acid. Vegan, fragrance-free, and on a budget, this is the glycolic acid serum that fits all preferences and needs—except probably for those with sensitive skin.
Eveline Cosmetics 15% Glycolic Acid Peel Shot
A peeling in a serum
If discolorations and wrinkles and a concern for you, then you should give a go to this serum. Containing 15% glycolic acid, it smoothes wrinkles and reduces discoloration and imperfections, all the while exfoliating and evening out the skin tone. To take the results even further, the formula also contains gluconolactone, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid mandelic acid; you can count on these ingredients to provide a calming action and take the anti-aging results one step further. Get the baby-soft skin effect that you’re looking for!
Neostrata Resurface High Potency R SerumGel
Glycolic acid & retinol, combined
We saved a powerful weapon for last. As the name suggests, this serum offers a highly potent formula that combines glycolic acid with retinol and citric acid. How much does it contain of each ingredient, you ask? An astonishing 23% of glycolic acid and 0.1% of retinol. Numbers don’t lie, and there’s no way you’re not seeing results with those concentrations! This innovative serum-gel texture feels fresh on the skin with each application while making sure to minimize the appearance of lines and improve the skin’s texture. Probably not the best idea for those with sensitive skin, you should always patch test to make sure your skin agrees with it.
If you like to look for formulas that focus in one ingredient, we have more potentially interesting content for you. Let’s start by looking into the one and only retinol, and then take a look at bakuchiol as well. Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide are also trending, and you may like to learn about them. But there’s much more! Navigate our ingredient dictionary to find everything you need to know about the ingredients in your skincare.
Professional Makeup Artist & Beauty Writer