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Five Best glycolic creams

October 5, 2012 Reviewed by Marta 16 Comments

Whilst visiting Avon's research center last week, I met Janice Teal, chief scientific officer and an Avon veteran of more than 20 years. I asked what she considered to be the biggest breakthrough in skincare during those decades. After a moment's thought, she replied, "glycolic".

A member of the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family, glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane) reacts with the upper layer of the epidermis, weakening the binding properties of the lipids that hold the dead skin cells together. This allows the outer skin to “dissolve” revealing the underlying skin. I find that after a couple of years of using (mostly IMAGE Skincare's Ageless) four or five times a week on my face, twice a week is now enough. I am using a glycolic - a new find from Lexli - daily on my neck and assume that at some point I'll be able to rein that back. Looking for cheaper alternatives to IMAGE, I have found Reviva's 5% Glycolic and a slightly stronger one by Kiss My Face. For really stubborn areas, such a heels and elbows, reach for Glytone with nearly 30% glycolic.

Ingredients in IMAGE Skincare Ageless Serum:

Water, aloe barbendensis leaf extract, lactic acid, glycolic acid, sodium hyaluronate, algae extract, artemesia vulgaris, polysorbate 20, hydroxyethylcellulose, phospholipids, cucumber, arnica montana, yeast (faex) extract, chamomile, grape seed, spearmint oil, eucalyptus leaf oil, disodium EDTA, malic acid

Ingredients in Reviva Glycolic Acid Renaissance Cream:

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

Ingredients in Lexli glycolic exfolliant with aloe vera:

Aloe Barbadensis, Purified Water, Jojoba Esters, Vitamin C, Tridecyl Stearate, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Glycolic Acid,Cetearyl Alcohol, Polysorbate, Butylene Glycol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Ceteareth-20, Vitamin E, Salicylic Acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Jojoba Oil, Glycerin, Allantoin, Panthenol, Cetyl Alcohol, Octyl Palmitate, Glycereth, Dimethicone, Urea, Xanthan Gum, BHT, Sodium Metabisulfite, Tetrasodium EDTA, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben

Ingredients in Glytone Ultra Heel and Elbow Cream:

Water, Glycolic Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Mineral Oil, Glycerin, Peg-40 Stearate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Potassium Hydroxide, BHT, Methylparaben, Propylparaben

Ingredients in Kiss My Face Peaches & Creme Moisturizer:

Water Purified, Mixed Fruit Extracts of Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Isopropyl Palmitate (Coconut Derived Emollient), Emulsifying Wax (Coconut Derived Emulsifier), Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate (Vegetable Derived Emulsifier), Coco Caprylate/Caprate (Coconut Derived Emollient), Glycerin (Vegetable Emollient), Safflower Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Jojoba Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Olive Oil, Soy Bean Oil, Shea Butter, Squalane (Olive Oil Derived Moisturizer), Aloe Vera Gel, Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Allantoin, Lecithin, Peach Leaf Extract, Lemongrass Extract, Orange Blossom Extract, Sugar Cane Extract, Citrus Pectin Extract, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate (Vegetable Derived Preservative)

  • January 8, 2010

    by marta

    Hi Laura,

    IMAGE is a very good product and is better than Reviva. But it is a lot more expensive. IMAGE is not easy to get either. My esthetician Ildi Pekar carries it and will ship I have looked for Reviva but have only found it online:

    I would be careful about using a glycolic and Clarisonic together. I tend to use one or the other. However, when I started out I used both. Once my skin started to look a lot fresher - about six months, I alternated each day and then eventually took the glycolic back to a couple of times a week and I use the Clarisonic on all the other days.

  • January 7, 2010

    by Laura

    Hi Marta, I check out your website daily and have enjoyed many of your recommended products. I am 48, with dry skin (ocassional hormonal breakouts)and have been using a 10% AHA with no irritation. I would like to try a new glycolic product. How do you think the Reviva compares to the Image skincare product? Can't find a retailer of Image in my city, and I think the Kiss My Face might not be strong enough. Would love your opinion. Can the Reviva only be found online? I also have not tried the Clarisonic, but am thinking of trying it. Can you use both without over exfoliating? Thanks so much for your your website and fellow readers insights!

  • January 5, 2010

    by marta

    Hi Lori,

    I am going to post an article on glycolics, AHAs etc tomorrow (Weds 6th). Hopefully, I'll answer your questions.

  • January 4, 2010

    by Lori

    Marta, after reading your explanation of the differences between beta hydroxy and alpha hydroxy, I am wondering what I should be using. I am 53 and have combination skin(which tends to be very oily in summer and rather dry in winter) and STILL prone to break-outs.I love all the information on this web site but sometimes I feel overwhelmed and confused! Thanks for all you do to help us age graciously.

  • October 14, 2009

    by Louise

    Thankyou Marta!! You really know your stuff : - )

  • October 13, 2009

    by marta

    Louise, the Enhanced Lotion 10% doesn't have much going for it apart from glycolic and some vitamin E. I would say it is comparable to Glytone, but not as strong. And the others in the Five Best have other skin building ingredients. These are the ingredients in Enhanced:
    Water, Glycolic Acid, Ammonium Hydroxide, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG 100 Stearate, Propylene Glycol, PEG 40 Stearate, Sorbitan Stearate, Cetyl Alcohol, Isopropyl Laurate, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Petrolatum, Dimethicone, Myristyl Myristate, Stearic Acid, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Cellulose Gum, Sorbic Acid, BHT, Imidazolidinyl Urea

  • October 13, 2009

    by Louise

    PPS! it is MOST helpful that you actually provide links to buy the products, thankyou!

  • October 13, 2009

    by Louise

    What do you think of Enhanced Lotion 10% Glycolic AHA Anti-Wrinkle by (alpha hydrox)? Phew! What a mouthful!!
    That is one of my anti-aging super secrets,(that's not really a secret :)
    ps Marta, I am MOST impressed with your research!! Fantasic, you actually visited the Avon Labs! I think Avon has been pretty forefront in using A.H.As when the ingredient first came on the scene.

  • October 12, 2009

    by Leslie Wayne

    Hi Marta,
    I use the 20% at night on my face only. I tried it on my neck but it was too strong and it got irritated after a few applications. Maybe the 10% or 15% might work better but I haven't tried it. So what is polyacrylamide anyway?

  • October 12, 2009

    by marta

    Hi Leslie
    For $20 Glycolix looks very good value. It has the usual parabens, silicones and I don't much like polyacrylamide, which can be toxic. There are some good things though:
    antioxidant tea, ubiquinone and vitamins and phospholipids. Which concentration do you use (and where)?

  • October 12, 2009

    by marta

    Jaysie, Lexli said the vitamin C is L-Ascobic acid and the E is tocopheryl acetate.

  • October 11, 2009

    by Leslie Wayne

    I've been using a product for several years which I'm very happy with, and for which my dermatologist gave a two thumbs up. I'd be curious to know how you think it compares to the above best five. It's called Glycolix Elite Facial Cream 20% (there is also a 10% and a 15%), and costs about $20 for a 1.6 oz jar. The ingredient list is as follows: Purified water, Glycolic Acid, C12-15 Alkyl-Benzoate, Cyclomethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Ammonium Hydroxide, Stearyl Alcohol, Polyacylamide, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Dimethicone, Squaline, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camelia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Ubiquinone (Co-Q10), Glyceryl Stearate, Hydrolized Glycosaminoglycans, Phospholipids, Retinyl Palmatate, Ascorbyl Palmatate, Cetearyl Glycoside, PEG-100 Stearate, Laureth-7, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, and Imidazolidinyl Urea!

  • October 9, 2009

    by marta

    Jaysie, I've emailed Leli for clarification. Let's see if they fess up.

  • October 9, 2009

    by Jaysie

    It looks like Lexli is intentionally obscuring the forms of vitamins C & A in their ingredient list.

  • October 6, 2009

    by marta

    Zoe, Salicylic is a beta hydroxy acid. Glycolic is an alpha hydroxy acid. They both exfoliate. The main difference is their lipid (oil) solubility. Alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble only, while beta hydroxy acid is lipid (oil) soluble. This means that beta hydroxy acid is able to penetrate into the pore which contains sebum and exfoliate the dead skin cells that are built up inside the pore. Because of this difference in properties, beta hydroxy acid is better used on oily skin with blackheads and whiteheads. Alpha hydroxy acids are better used on thickened, sun-damaged skin where breakouts are not a problem.

  • October 6, 2009

    by Zoe

    What about salicylic? Do these two basically do the same thing and is glycolic better? Or is salicylic better for persistent acne and could you do both peels within the same week or is that risking overkill?

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