Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) naturally found in sugar cane. As the AHA with the smallest molecule and the greatest penetration, glycolic acid deeply exfoliates to remove skin that is dry, coarse, or dead. Generally gentle, but effective, glycolic boosts lotions and masks to skin brighteners. It’s been a couple of years since I did a Five Best round up of glycolic products, so here’s my latest (which includes some tried-and-true as well as new finds).
Arcona The Solution Pads
Arcona The Solution Pads ($42 in the shop). After testing Arcona’s Solution Pads, I immediately bought myself a stack. The Solution Pads are simple but effective. They are pre-soaked with a powerful concentration of glycolic acid, plus my favorite free-radical scavenger spin trap, glucosamine and some antioxidant grape seed extract. And that’s more or less it. Each ingredient is well chosen with a good balance between exfoliation and anti-aging. If you’ve been looking for a good glycolic-based exfoliator for smoothing wrinkled and sun-damaged skin, then Arcona’s The Solution Pads could well be the solution.
Lather 10-minute Brightening Mask
Lather 10-minute Brightening Mask ($28 in the shop). This does do a good job of what it says on the can: brightening. It also smoothes out fine lines and rough, sun-damaged skin. I was astonished (in a good way) to note that niacinamide is the first ingredient to be listed. Niacinamide is a derivative of vitamin B3 that suppresses melanin from reaching the surface of the skin and protects the skin from further UV damage. Lactic and kojic acids are both brighteners that are rounded out by mulberry, which studies have shown to inhibit tyrosinase activity and bearberry, a natural source of alpha arbutin. The value 4oz pot makes it economical enough to use on those rough body parts such as knees, elbows and dry winter calves.
BRAD Biophotonic Ultra Elastin Lift
BRAD Biophotonic Ultra Elastin Lift ($210 in the shop). If you want glycolic as part of a comprehensive anti-aging serum, then look no further than this high-quality multitasker. BRAD believes in keeping beauty routines simple and this complex formula does it all. Ultra Elastin Lift firms the skin while improving skin tone. Glycolic acid is high up on the list of a cast of thousands and is given a boost by lactic acid and retinyl palmitate. Borage and flax will tone down redness and a ton of hydrating ingredients counteract dryness, such as avocado, sodium hyaluronate, cocoa butter and tamanu.
La Vie Celeste Restorative Exfoliating Gel Mask
La Vie Celeste Restorative Exfoliating Gel Mask ($60 in the shop). This is a long-time favorite of mine and I still use it with enjoyment. 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.
Luximyl GlycoPeel 20 Rapid Exfoliation Lotion
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 provide 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.