If you’re a skincare connoisseur, you know that glycolic acid is one of the most popular ingredients on the market. Known for its exfoliating and renewing benefits, this AHA is used to brighten the complexion, refine the skin texture, and help fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation. It’s found in cleansers, toners, serums, and everything in between, but did you know there are also plenty of glycolic acid creams out there? Today, we’re going to walk you through some of our favorite glycolic acid moisturizers, and help you figure out if they’re right for you.
What does a glycolic acid cream do?
Glycolic acid is, as we’ve seen, an alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA. When applied to the skin, glycolic acid offers a gentle exfoliation, dislodging dead skin cells from the surface of the skin and creating a smooth, even complexion. It is through this renewing action that glycolic acid combats skin dullness and helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and dark spots. These benefits are common to any product that contains glycolic acid, whether it’s a toner, a serum, or a moisturizer.
What is the advantage of using glycolic acid in a moisturizer, then? From our perspective, a glycolic acid cream can be a good option for people who have dry skin, for example, and want to avoid using two products (a toner or serum with glycolic acid, and then a moisturizer). Along the same lines, a glycolic acid moisturizer can also be ideal for people with more mature skin– which is often drier and, therefore, demands a more nourishing skincare routine.
If you are afraid of the side effects of glycolic acid (some sensitivity and dryness), using this ingredient in a moisturizer can also be a good idea. Indeed, many glycolic acid creams combine this AHA with moisturizing and soothing ingredients, which help balance the skin and keep it hydrated.
How to use a glycolic acid cream
If you want to know how to use a glycolic acid cream, our first tip is always the same: check the instructions of your specific product! Usually, products with glycolic acid come with recommendations to be used in the evening, but there are exceptions (we’ll show you some in a second).
Other general recommendations apply: if you aren’t used to glycolic acid, start by using your product 2-3 times a week, and increase the frequency as your skin gets used to it.
Our favorite glycolic acid moisturizers
Now that we’ve talked about the benefits of using a glycolic acid cream, we’ll show you some of our favorites. We chose products that adapt to different skin types and needs, so you can find the one that perfectly suits your situation:
Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Night Cream
The natural cream for dark spots
What it is: an anti-dark spot night cream that offers a gentle peeling effect. The oil-free formula combines glycolic acid, which provides a chemical exfoliation, and papaya enzymes, which provide an enzymatic exfoliation. Viniferine, a patented Caudalie ingredient, rounds out the formula with its exceptional anti-dark spot benefits.
Why we like it: those looking for a natural and vegan skincare routine often struggle to find products that are both effective and pleasurable to use. With this cream, you get both! The velvety formula, which is 95% natural and contains zero ingredients of animal origin, is a joy to apply; indeed, it melts down on your skin, preparing it for a restful night of sleep.
The peeling effect develops gently overnight, allowing you to wake up with a radiant complexion. After 56 days (or, well, nights) of use, 90% of women find that this cream helps correct their dark spots–and that’s without even mentioning other improvements in skin texture and luminosity!
Filorga Sleep & Peel Micro-Peeling 4.5 Night Cream
The AHA/BHA cocktail against uneven texture
What it is: a night cream that stimulates cell renewal in order to refine the texture of the skin and increase the luminosity of the complexion. With a smooth and creamy formula, this cream provides a gentle micropeeling effect through the combined benefits of AHAs and BHAs, including the popular glycolic, lactic, malic, and salicylic acids. To ensure that the exfoliation is not too aggressive, the formula also contains a brown algae extract, which offers a soothing effect even to the most sensitive skin.
Why we like it: glycolic acid is known for its ability to refine the skin texture. In this product, this star ingredient is accompanied by a series of other exfoliating acids that, together, stimulate cell renewal in order to give your skin a real boost of luminosity.
If uneven texture is one of your main skin concerns, this cream is an ideal choice for you. 86% of women who use it report that their skin feels revitalized after the first night of use; after seven days, 94% report improved texture, and 91% report smoother, more luminous skin. Prepare to say goodbye to dullness!
Revolution Skincare Glycolic Overnight Cream
The most affordable glycolic acid moisturizer
What it is: a night cream that promotes more hydrated and luminous skin. Formulated with glycolic acid to exfoliate the skin, squalane to hydrate the skin (without leaving it greasy), and allantoin to provide a calming effect, this cream has everything you need to start unveiling more glowing skin, night after night. The formula is also vegan-friendly, as it doesn’t contain any ingredients of natural origin.
Why we like it: if you don’t know if a cream with glycolic acid is right for you, this Revolution Skincare moisturizer might be the ideal option for you. Even though it’s extremely affordable, the formula leaves nothing to be desired; indeed, it offers you a cocktail of exfoliating, moisturizing and soothing actives that will allow you to increase your skin’s luminosity without compromising its balance and hydration. What more could you ask for?
Ducray Keracnyl Glycolic+ Unclogging Cream
The glycolic acid cream for acne-prone skin
What it is: an anti-imperfection cream that uses glycolic acid to meet the needs of acne-prone skin. In addition to glycolic acid, which offers an exfoliating and refining effect, this formula also contains Myrtacine®, an exclusive ingredient that helps combat the development of bacteria that cause acne, and Celastrol, a calming active that helps to reduce the inflammation associated with acne breakouts.
Why we like it: it’s not every day that we find glycolic acid at the service of acne-prone skin, but here it is. In this product, glycolic acid is welcome for its ability to exfoliate the surface of the skin, which not only helps reduce the accumulation of dead skin cells, but also corrects minor imperfections and corrects sports of uneven skin texture. The combination of this acid with anti-acne, mattifying and sebum-regulating ingredients results in a global anti-blemish effect, which helps keep acne-prone skin looking clear and smooth.
Sesderma Acglicolic Classic Forte Moisturizing Gel Cream
The glycolic acid for professionals
What it is: an anti-aging gel-cream that harnesses the refining and radiant-boosting properties of glycolic acid. With a fluid cream-gel texture, this product is suitable for all skin types and can be used daily as part of a comprehensive anti-aging routine. The formula features two forms of glycolic acid: a “free” form, and a form enclosed in liposomes, microscopic “capsules” that deliver the benefits of the ingredient where the skin needs them most. In addition to this star ingredient, the formula also includes antioxidant actives (such as ergothioneine and vitamin E), calming actives (allantoin, aloe vera, and bisabolol), and a few more AHAs (citric, lactic, malic, and tartaric acids) to promote a serious refining effect.
Why we like it: in the world of glycolic acid creams, this product is a cut above the rest. It’s not recommended for beginners (who can and should use AcGlicolic Classic alternatives from the same range), nor is it the highest glycolic acid concentration offered by the Sesderma brand; in short, it’s a product for confident users who know their way around glycolic acid and want a product that shows results. At this concentration, you’ll see improvements in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, and enlarged pores–just make sure to use it responsibly and keep an eye out for how your skin reacts!
Clarins Multi-Active Antioxidant Day Lotion SPF15
The day cream with glycolic acid
What it is: a day cream with a fluid texture, ideal for those who are just starting to notice the first signs of stress and aging in their skin. The botanical formula uses extracts of Myrothamnus flabellifolia (“Resurrection Plant”) and Dipsacus sylvestris (wild teasel) to keep the skin hydrated and plump, with a youthful appearance. This botanical pairing is also joined by antioxidant vitamin E, plumping hyaluronic acid, and a skin-perfecting blend of lactic and glycolic acids.
Why we like it: if you want to add glycolic acid to your routine, but don’t want to risk large concentrations or use a lot of products, this moisturizing lotion is perfect. The combination of moisturizing, antioxidant, and exfoliating ingredients (like AHAs) gives your skin everything it needs to ward off the first signs of aging, such as fine lines or dullness. As the formula contains SPF15, you can use this cream during the day, but we still recommend wearing your favorite sunscreen over it–you know, for optimal protection!
Now that you’ve read up on glycolic acid moisturizers, you have one more option at your disposal: next time you find yourself shopping for glycolic acid, why not reach for one of these products? Discover our favorite products with glycolic acid in the shop, and get that glow on!
Beauty Writer & Editor