Our Fave Glycolic Cleansers At Every Price Point

Glycolic acid is one of those skincare ingredients that is known to change skin overnight. In fact, it can often make you feel so glowy and fresh you’re likely to end up overusing it.

However, it is still one of the most potent and effective ways to chemically exfoliate the skin and in turn produce a more hydrated and vibrant looking complexion (and who wouldn’t want that!) which is why we need to discuss.

What Is Glycolic Acid & How Can It Benefit Our Skin?

You see, acids in skincare tend to be divided into two main categories: Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA’s) and Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) and glycolic acid falls into the latter category. But what makes glycolic acid work so efficiently? Well, it’s molecular structure is quite small, which means that it can penetrate the skin better than other acids can and in turn work more effectively into the follicle to help dissolve the 'glue' that traps dead skin.

Plus, it can increase skin cell turnover which is one of the main reasons for dull, uneven skin tone and allow for better absorption of other active skincare ingredients. Which is essentially the reason I tend to fall head over heels for it every time I use it - because it can often deliver a glow like nothing else!

Today though, you’re likely to see it as an ingredient in everything from serums, moisturisers and even sheet masks - hence why it pays to be cautious with how often you include it in your routine.  

Why Would You Use Glycolic Acid In A Cleanser?

Speaking to Zoe Devine, skincare expert for Skinstitut, she tells me glycolic acid cleansers seem to be increasing in popularity and having an AHA face wash on hand would be useful for the following skin conditions:

Acne or congested skin: to help clear excess dead skin cells from follicles/pores that would ultimately likely lead to congestion.

Dull, lackluster or uneven skin tone: by speeding up cell turnover, glycolic acid can help bring those juicy/hydrated plump skin cells to the surface of the skin faster, resulting in a more even and hydrated appearance.

Pigmented or sun damaged: acting as exfoliant to shed away superficial uneven skin cells, and also allowing for better absorption of active, pigment-correcting ingredients. 

Can Glycolic Acid Be Used On Your Body?

Additionally, in the same way glycolic acid can be used on the face for congestion, acne and even sun damaged skin, exfoliating cleansers can be used on the body too. In fact, I often wonder why I didn’t glycolic my body a lot sooner, it’s that good – especially if you’re a fan of fake tan. I use it both to help slough off dead skin cells and remove old fake tan as well as to prep the skin for a new coat of fake tan (and highly recommend.)

Zoe agrees and tells me Skinstitut’s Glycolic Cleanser 12% is a very popular body cleanser that a lot of people buy for that reason but can also be used as a treatment mask for problematic areas.

“This cleanser contains tea tree oil which lends itself well to acne prone skin due to its antibacterial properties. For acne or congestion on the décolletage I’d use in the same manner as your face (pea sized amount for 30 seconds with water) as the décolletage can be easily irritated)," Zoe explains.

"However, for acne and blackheads on the shoulders or back, try using the Glycolic Cleanser 12% sans water and wear it as a mask for up to five minutes before rinsing off.”

If Your Sensitive Skin Can't Handle Glycolic Acid:

If your skin does tend to err on the sensitive side though, or is quite dry or irritated then I’d tread with caution around glycolic acid and instead opt for an AHA alternative such as mandelic or lactic acid, which has a slightly larger molecular size. This means it’s less likely to irritate the skin and comes with additional hydration properties as well.

Anyway, glycolic cleansers can come with so many different benefits so if you’re keen to give one a try either on your face – or your body don’t forget to check out some of my favourites below. Just remember to keep your primary skin concerns in mind!

My Recommendations:

A soft foaming gel that doesn’t feel stripping on the skin at all. It’s one of Skinceuticals’ newest releases and the formula incorporates glycerin which is incredibly hydrating as well as aloe barbadensis leaf extract to soothe – making it a good option for daily use if that’s what you’re after. The addition of 1% Phytic Acid enhances skin clarity and brightness for a more even, youthful appearance to the skin.

A really good, affordable cosmeceutical option you can use on both your face and body. Even though the percentage of glycolic acid is quite high in this cleanser, it honestly doesn’t feel like you’re using a harsh glycolic at all. I personally love this on my body!

A glycolic cleanser better suited to oily/combo skin types as it uses a strong combination of AHA’s (including lactic and malic) to help clean the skin, prevent breakouts and help fight pigmentation. It’s quite a concentrated cleanser so I would only use a few times a week to reduce the likelihood of sensitised skin.

One of our most popular glycolic cleansers on the site. Use it first thing in the morning if you wake up with skin that’s feeling dull OR as your second cleanse at night to help take all your makeup off (sans irritation). You won’t be disappointed.

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