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Five Best for glycolic and AHAs

August 27, 2011 Reviewed by Marta 18 Comments

For skin that is sun damaged and wrinkled, exfoliation is indispensable and glycolic and alpha hydroxy acids are extremely effective and (relatively speaking) gentle, as well as being natural (glycolic comes from sugar cane and AHAs from fruit or lactic acids). Products with these ingredients can be used fairly intensively at first (as much as every other day), but it is a good idea to gradually pull back once you start to see results and then use a glycolic/AHA about once a week for a pick-me-up.

One of the tricky things about glycolic potions and lotions is that pH level does matter. The lower it is, the more likely the glycolic acid product is going to sting and damage cells. The higher the pH level, the more likely the acid will be compromised (at least that seems to be the consensus). Few manufacturers reveal the pH balance of their glycolic products – La Vie Celeste being an honorable exception.  So with the rest of these Five Best glycolics, I’m going with feel – they are good exfoliators without too much of a sting in the tail. Based on my subjective experience, they are listed from strongest to gentlest.

Luximyl GlycoPeel 20 Rapid Exfoliation Lotion ($60). GlycoPeel is designed to be used with Lumixyl’s Topical Brightening Crème. However, it is a very good exfoliant even used solo. Based on glycolic, malic, lactic and citric acids, GlycoPeel 20 is reinforced with useful antioxidants including green tea, wheat, algae, yeast, comfrey root (which can speed up the replacement of skin cells as well as providing some protection against the sun) and plantain, a very good source of vitamins A and C and with a reputation for soothing irritated skin. There are several other good things, ultimately far outweighing the bad (propylene glycol, and phenoxyethanol). I’ve been using it on my knees, which (trust me) need the help and results are fantastic. Read the full review of GlycoPeel.

Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel The full strength version is a bit too strong for my face, but it is a great exfoliator for the sun-damaged skin on my neck and I appreciate the refreshing apple scent and the mostly organic ingredients (with nothing to dislike apart from phenoxyethanol and sodium hydroxide). There is also a “sensitive” version. The glycolic comes from organic cane sugar and the other hydroxy acids are from apple, lemon, grape and milk.

Somme Institute Transport Pads ($58). These glycolic soaked pads are useful for wiping over the skin or rubbing into a specific area. They also have Somme’s signature combo of vitamins A, B3, B5, C and E, plus antioxidant green tea, grapeseed, chamomile and aloe. Unfortunately, there are some of the usual suspects in the preservative department. Read the full review.

La Vie Celeste’s Restorative Exfoliating Gel Mask ($60 in the TIA shop). With a 5% concentration of glycolic in a soothing base of organic aloe, this lovely mask is given a helping hand by exfoliating bamboo grains, licorice and bearberry extract (this is loaded with alpha arbutin a natural – and safer – hydroquinone). Organically sourced antioxidants include white tea (supposedly better than green tea) and melon. Gentle, but more effective than other 5% glycolic formulations that I have tried. Read the full review.

Reviva Labs Glycolic Acid 5% ($25). When I first saw the list of ingredients in this gentle glycolic acid cream, I refused to believe it was complete – no fillers or nasty chemicals and preservatives. There is a 5% concentration of glycolic acid that has been obtained from sugar and rhubarb. According to Renova, they use actual strands of glycolic that enter the skin’s own natural polymer structure, supposedly to penetrate more effectively to induce better exfoliation. There is also extract of vitamin-packed pumpkin and peach. I found this to be the gentlest of all the formulations. While it doesn’t pack all that much punch, its great for someone taking a cautious approach to getting to know glycolic. And you can’t complain about the price.

Ingredients in Lumixyl GlyoPeel

Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycolic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer, Propylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Algae Extract, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia Oil, Symphytum Officinale Rhizome/Root Extract, Plantago Ovata Seed Extract, Olea Europaea Leaf Extract, Crithmum Maritimum Extract, Polyacrylamide, Glycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ammonium Hydroxide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Glucosamine HCL, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Acetate, Glutamine, Proline, Colloidal Silver, Urea, Leucine, Serine, Cellulose, Laureth-7.

Ingredients in Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel

Organic Hydroxy-Acid Juice Solution Of Pyrus Malus (Apple) Juice (Malic), Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Juice (Citric) & Vitis Vinifera (White Grape) Juice (Tartaric), Organic Raw Cane Sugar (Glycolic), Salix Alba (Willow Bark) Extract (Salicylic), Organic Milk Peptides (Lactic), Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Sodium Hydroxide, Organic Algae Extract, Sclerotium Gum, Tocopheryl Acetate & Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Phospholipids, Magnesium Aspartate, Zinc Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Phenoxyethanol, Benzyl Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Tetrasodium Edta, Xanthan Gum, Azulene, Citrus Reticulata (Mandarin), Litsea Cubeba (May Chang) & Cinnamomum Camphora (Ho Wood) Pure Essential Oils

Ingredients in Somme

Water, Glycolic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Green Tea Extract, Ethoxydiglycol, Ammonium Glycolate, Molecular Dispersion Technology (MDT5), Panthenol, Chamomile Extract, Aloe Powder, Menthol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Grapeseed Extract, Palma Rosa Extract, Ylang Ylang Extract, Jasmine Extract, Geranium Extract, Lavender Extract, Marigold Extract, Galbanum Extract

Ingredients in La Vie Celeste

Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Gel*, Aqua (Purified Water), Sclerotium Gum, Bamboo Grains (Bambusa Vulgaris) Extract, Kaolinite (Pink Clay), Glycolic (Hydroxyacetic) Acid, White Tea (Camellia Sinesis) Extract*, Bearberry (Acrtostaphylos Uva Ursi) Extract*, Licorice (Glycyrrhiza Glabral Licorice) Extract*, Melon (Cucumis Melo) Extract*, Chamomile (Anthemis Nobillis) Flower Extract*, Cosmocil CQ (Polyaminopropyl Biguanide), Grapefruit Seed Extract (Citrus Paradis) Extract*, Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic) Acid.

Ingredients in Reviva

Purified water, 5% glycolic acid polymer (extracts of sugar and rhubarb), extracts of pumpkin, peach, sage, comfrey, chamomile, witch hazel, vitamins A, D, E, safflower oil, sunflower oil.

  • June 21, 2014

    by fanta

    What gives the Reviva its texture, texture of a cream? from ingredients list it doesn't make sense

  • September 6, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Kim,

    I did respond on the glycerin question, but here it is again: Hi Kim, we’ve written a longish post on glycerin. Whenever you want to look into an ingredient, its worth going to the ingredients tab in the nav bar to see if we have covered it:

    But, if you are OK with glycerin (and I would be) the rest of the ingredients look great and this could be well worth trying. Let us know if you do!

  • September 6, 2011

    by Kim

    Thanks Dennis, I'll check those out! Also, thank you Marta for your answer. Although, I didn't see that you made any comment on the IOMySkin glycolic acid cleanser - I posted those ingredients, too. Very few ingreds, looks pretty great to me, but would like your opinion. The only possible concern I can see, myself, is the vegetable glycerin. But, not sure if that really is a concern. What do you think of the IOMySkin cleanser ingreds? Thanks!

  • August 20, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Kim, there's the usual suspects in the preservative department, but they are the last three ingredients. My main concern would be the sodium hydroxide, which is high up the list and which is classified as a toxin - you can read more here: But otherwise it looks pretty nice. And, as we said on our original Lumixyl review, it isn't going to win any natural formula awards.

  • August 20, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Kim, we've written a longish post on glycerin. Whenever you want to look into an ingredient, its worth going to the ingredients tab in the nav bar to see if we have covered it:

  • August 20, 2011

    by Dennis

    Kim, I've tried a few, Paula's choice is good. I prefer Derma E AHA Beauty Fluid right now, but once I am out, I am going to try the lactobionic acid serums which are said to be superior.

  • August 20, 2011

    by Kim

    Lastly, there is one more recommendation I've seen/hear of and would like your insight on the ingreds - if any are bad. I've heard, for example, glycerin is to be avoided, but don't know if it is only from certain sources. I do like that this ingred list is very simple and short.

    IOMySkin Corrective Exfoliating Facial Cleanser

    IOMySkin Corrective Exfoliating Facial Cleanser contains 10% glycolic acid

    Directions: Apply a small amount to wet face. Gently massage with fingertips into lather. Rinse with tepid water. Avoid direct eye contact.

    Ingredients: Distilled Water, Oliver Oil Castiles, Glycolic Acid, Vegetable Glycerin, Rose Hip Seed Oil, Essential Oils, Seaweed Extracts.

    4 OZ (120ml)
    Price: $23.95

  • August 20, 2011

    by Kim


    A few people mentioned Paula's Choice - Resist Weekly Resurfacing Treatment. My question to you, as I don't want to spend so much for something like Lumixyl on your list, is, do you see any toxic type ingredients in the ingredients for this Paula's Choice product? I have cut/pasted the ingred. list for you here. It seems to me that there are a FEW ingreds in this product that are to be avoided. I would appreciate your answer. Here they are: Water, Methylpropanediol (slip agent/penetration enhancer), Glycolic Acid (alpha hydroxy acid/exfoliant), Butylene Glycol (slip agent), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (water-binding agent), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract (antioxidant), Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (anti-irritants), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract (antioxidant),Arctium Lappa (Burdock) Root Extract, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract (anti-irritants), Borago Officinalis (Borage) Extract, Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract (antioxidants), Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower
    Extract (anti-irritant), Lamium Album (White Nettle) Flower Extract (antioxidant), Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Ulmus Fulva (Slippery Elm) Bark Extract (anti-irritants), Glycerin (skin-identical ingredient), Allantoin (anti-irritant) Propylene Glycol (solvent), Tetrasodium EDTA (chelating agent), Phenoxyethanol (preservative).

    Thank you!

  • May 24, 2011

    by Junko

    I tried a 14 pad sample pak of Somme's Transport Pads and I'm addicted to them now! Maybe I'll try the Topix Glycolix Pads as there's been some comments saying that Topix are as good, but cheaper. I love the Somme Pads!!! Great Best 5 Pick Marta !!!

  • April 28, 2011

    by Marta

    Hi Randi,
    The Denis Gross Glycolic pads have lots of good things going for them. I'd be a bit concerned about the high level of alcohol - could irritate/be drying for some. Also the <a href="" rel="nofollow">potassium hydroxide</a>, which can be toxic depending on the concentration used, is high up on the ingredients list.

    Step 1: Purified Water (Aqua Purificata), Alcohol Denat., Glycolic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Salicylic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Malic Acid, Citric Acid, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Menthyl Lactate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Soy Isoflavones, Copper PCA, Zinc PCA, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance (Parfum), Sodium Benzoate.
    Step 2: Purified Water (Aqua Purificata), Sodium Bicarbonate, Resveratrol, Retinol, Ascorbic Acid, Ubiquinone, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Phospholipids, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Soy Isoflavones, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Copper Pca, Sodium Pca, Zinc Pca, Octoxynol-9, Simethicone, Tetrasodium Edta, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol.

  • April 28, 2011

    by Ozana

    Yes, me too I use the AHA and BHA from Paula's Choice. Her line has several versions: for oily or dry skin, the ph is always revealed and above all the price is great (4oz for 19$). I do see a diference with these, but never forget that because of the low ph needed for exfoliants to work you must wait 30 min after the AHA or BHA and before you put anything else on your face (unless what you put next has the same low ph). If you do not wait and use a product with a higher ph, it brings the ph on your skin up and the AHA / BHA are no longer effective.

  • April 27, 2011

    by Randi Schneweiss

    Marta , what do you think of Dennis Gross's extra strength peel pads and how do you think they hold up to the above 5???

  • April 27, 2011

    by Gauhar

    I love Paula's chocie RESIST Weekly Resurfacing Treatment with 10% Alpha Hydroxy Acid, ph 3.5-3.8. You can use it every other day and it works great on sun damaged skin and acne marks. Her 8% gel didn't make any difference for me but this AHA is so great. By the way, this is the last week that she is selling exfoliants for 20% off plus if you go to her, there's a link for Paulas' choce site and you can get free shipping + 3 free samples.

  • April 27, 2011

    by Dennis

    I also wanted to mention what a bargain it is at $11.36 on vitacost

  • April 27, 2011

    by Dennis

    I'm currently in love with Derma e's AHA beauty Fluid... it's 5% AHA and they disclose the pH at 3.

  • April 27, 2011

    by Sunday

    Great Fun Marta! How about the size of your standard back-pack and where ever you are going, you'll be there for 1 month. Alot can happen in a month, so what would you definitely want to bring skin, hair, body care wise.

  • April 27, 2011

    by Marta

    Sunday, the deserted island idea is a really good one. I can pack fast, but how big is the satchel?

  • April 27, 2011

    by Sunday

    Marta! I love it when you do a Five Best Post of anything. Since starting Lumixyl I have indeed noticed smoother brighter skin...and not just from the Lightening Lotion. The GlycoPeel 20 IS really nice to use and I think even after I run out of the whole system, I'll continue to purchase this product. What I really like about it is on the nights that I apply it over the Lightening Lotion, when I wake up my skin isn't tight, just really refreshed.

    So Marta will you be doing a 'Deserted Island' post anytime soon? I think they are fun! and perhaps some of your other contributors would chime in, I'm definitely interested in knowing what others would want in their satchel if they were stranded or just had to pack really, really fast.

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