There are so many acids floating around the skin care world — like salicylic, lactic, and hyaluronic, to name a few — but glycolic is undoubtedly one of the all-time best. Naturally derived from sugarcane, glycolic acid is made up of super-small molecules that easily penetrate skin for deep exfoliation. The best glycolic acid serums all have lightweight, fast-absorbing formulas (like any good serum should) and are balanced out by soothing and moisturizing ingredients to counteract any dryness or irritation. That said, finding the right one for you will largely depend on your skin type. To find out more about this powerhouse ingredient, I spoke with Dr. Loretta Ciraldo M.D. F.A.A.D., a Miami-based, board-certified dermatologist.
“Glycolic has two major effects on the skin,” Dr. Loretta tells Bustle. “First, it unglues cells from each other, so it helps to unclog pores, minimize acne, and lessen excess pigment stored in dead [skin] cells. The second benefit is that it seems to increase collagen production."
Although you might be tempted to overdo it on this miracle ingredient, ignore that impulse. Glycolic acid can be irritating, but particularly to people with sensitive skin. Dr. Loretta recommends gradually building up your tolerance by applying your serum every other night for the first week, following it up with something soothing and rehydrating, then regrouping from there. Glycolic acid can also make your skin more photosensitive, so apply it only at night and slather on sunscreen the morning after. It should also be abundantly clear that you shouldn’t layer it on with other potentially irritating products at first, like retinol and high concentrations of vitamin C.
With that in mind, scroll on for four of the best glycolic acid serums you can get on Amazon, plus a tub of glycolic facial pads (Dr. Loretta’s vehicle of choice) for your smoothest, most radiant skin ever.