The Best Drugstore Glycolic Acids Available Now

Finding the right skincare products to add to your skincare routine without breaking the bank can be extremely challenging. It could start with simply trying the different cheaper options at the drugstore, only to now have an entire cabinet filled with a million different types of face wash, various bottles of serum, and plenty else. If this is the route you're on, you're probably finding that it's not saving you much money.

Before reaching for your debit card, learn a few of the best drugstore glycolic acids available now but also learn what to look for when purchasing glycolic acid. Understanding the ingredients is one of the most important aspects of creating a successful skincare routine. Without an in-depth understanding of the ingredients and how they affect the skin, you may end up wasting more money and risking serious irritation to the skin barrier.

Don't find yourself rummaging through a cabinet filled with unused skincare products. Take the time to study and understand the ingredients you're using on the most sensitive skin throughout your body.

Glycolic acid is one of the best ways to introduce your skin to exfoliating acids. Glycolic acids are special and unique because it's one of the only exfoliators that work directly on the surface of the skin, rather than going deep within and affecting the production of excess sebum.

So, sit back, take a minute and familiarize yourself with everything you need to know about one of the top skincare products: glycolic acid.

What is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is quite a skincare product. It is considered to be an AHA. AHA simply stands for alpha-hydroxy acid (don't worry we'll cover that more in-depth later).

What makes glycolic acid stand out among other skincare products is that it's essentially one of the simplest and smallest AHAs in structure. This makes it overall much lighter than any other AHA. With a predominately lighter demeanor, it's much easier for them to penetrate the skin and in general, be much more effective and reach even the smallest crevices throughout the skin's surface.

Glycolic acid can easily penetrate the skin. Once the acid has penetrated the skin it starts to encourage the skin to establish a foundation for new skin regeneration. When the skin is constantly provoked to continue to generate new skin cells, the overall skin texture is improved, making your skin brighter and more toned throughout.

photo illustration demonstrating woman's fine lines

Understanding Alpha Hydroxy Acid

Now that you have a pretty basic understanding of what glycolic acid is and how it affects the skin, let's take a deeper look at its derivative — AHA.

Alpha hydroxy acids are structural groups of natural acids that are found in foods. Many different forms of AHAs come from a variety of different foods. These acids come from citrus fruits, sugar cane, sour milk, tomato juice, apples, grapes, and plenty more. Each AHA extract has a different effect acting as the active ingredient in various skin care products. Pretty cool, huh?

As for the physical exfoliant of glycolic acid, the AHA comes directly from sugar cane. Giving it that special exfoliant quality that is craved by the top layer of skin. Glycolic acid is actually one of the most popular AHA "used in skin care". With those tiny little exfoliants that come from the AHAs, glycolic acid is able to do a variety of different things for your overall skin tone. Including but not limited to the following:

  1. Smoothing fine lines and wrinkles

  2. Improving skin texture, calling for smooth and brighter skin

  3. Reducing the appearance of dark spots

These are just a few of the amazing qualities that come along with integrating glycolic acid into your skincare routine. The physical exfoliant is packed with AHA's that will (if used correctly) positively enhance the look and feel of your skin.

Glycolic Acid and Sensitive Skin Type

When working with sensitive skin one of the first steps is to really understand why your skin is so sensitive. When working with skincare products, knowing and understanding how your skin reacts to certain ingredients is important.

In essence, the main cause of sensitive skin is that the skin isn't able to produce the protection it needs. Therefore, protecting it through knowledge and research is vital to keeping it strong. If the skin has become overly dry the end result is that it can no longer protect itself from outside forces, because it focuses solely on being dry. Which in turn, can lead to very severe skin reactions.

Picture yourself being extremely parched after a long day at an amusement park. Are you feeling upbeat, energetic, and ready to go surfing for three hours? Or are you feeling run down and in need of a three hour nap? In most cases, it's probably the nap, if not kudos to you! The skin reacts the same way, once it's dull and dried out, it doesn't have the oomph to keep fighting, leading to breakouts and other negative skin reactions.

One must take understand the first step to getting the skin into a healthy step before, introducing a new physical exfoliant like glycolic acid.

If your skin is overly dry and not coming back to life on its own, introducing a hydrating glycolic acid could be the first step. Before going directly into an AHA, it might be beneficial to get into a nightly skincare routine using high-moisturizing face wash and moisturizer. Cerave products are some of the most moisturizing and safe for sensitive skin products. Getting yourself into an overall, consistent skincare routine is crucial to seeing success when integrating something like glycolic acid.

The next step to introducing glycolic acid into your skincare routine is to find products that not only have glycolic acid but are also mixed with other, more hydrating ingredients. Finding a product with both glycolic acid and hyaluronic acid is essential in improving the overall skin texture.

Drops of Glycolic acid

Introducing Glycolic Acid for the First Time

Once you feel your skin is up to par and ready to be introduced to a glycolic acid product, it's important to choose one with a concentration of 10 percent or less. Using products such as a toner or serum is usually the best start-out point, as anything else may be a bit too harsh for first-time users. When first starting, it's important to limit use to two to three times a week, depending on how your skin reacts.

The steps to applying any of the serums listed below are quite simple!

  1. Wash your face: Use your already favorite face wash and wash away all of the dirt and debris, leaving your face with a fresh, strong base feeling hydrated and ready.

  2. Use vaseline: Vaseline or an off-brand petroleum jelly is great for sensitive, dry skin, but it also creates a barrier on more sensitive skin parts. If you apply a small amount of vaseline to the areas around your eyes, nose, and any other sensitive areas on the face, the acids will not be able to penetrate those areas of the skin. Leaving them both extra hydrated and protected.

  3. Apply the serum: At this point, you can apply the serum all over your face and neck. Rub it in until it's completely absorbed.

  4. Use a moisturizer: Applying a moisturizer after the serum is vital to ensuring the acid doesn't dry out the skin. If over time, you find that the serum isn't affecting your skin, this can be altered, but for the first few uses, it's imperative to apply the moisturizer directly after the glycolic acid.

Perfect-Glycolic acid peel

Photo Source: Amazon

Essential Ingredient in Reaching Peak Skin Texture

There's no doubt that glycolic acid has an extremely positive effect on various aspects of skin texture. So what exactly does it affect, and which properties make it so special?

According to Healthline, the benefits of glycolic acid include anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant properties, reduction of acne-prone skin and acne scars, prevention of ingrown hairs, depletion of dead skin cells, and much more.


Glycolic acid silences the expression of key genes. Glycolic acid directly affects how genes are created within the skin. Inflammatory response properties have been noticed in various studies of patients treated with anti-inflammatory serums and creams.

Splendora Glycolic acid peel

Photo Source: Amazon

Antioxidant Properties

One study found that when glycolic acid is applied to irritated skin, it accelerates the resolution of erythema. Erythema is a skin condition that reddens the skin around an injury or other form of irritation. The main way to treat erythema is with different anti-inflammatories and antihistamines. The fact that glycolic acid was seen to have a positive effect on reducing this skin condition shows that it has significant antioxidant properties.

Acne and Acne Scars

With the ability to infiltrate the outermost layers of skin, glycolic acid has the power to weaken and eventually break the damaged skin cells that are considered to be dead due to both acne and acne scars.

When glycolic acid attacks these cells, the skin now has the power to make newer, healthier skin cells. These skin cells then have the pleasure of taking over the old skin. Which, over time, has the potential to get rid of acne and even reduce the look of acne scars.

Ingrown Hairs

Pesky ingrown hairs are the absolute worst. Anyone who shaves any part of their body understands how irritating it can be to find an ingrown on their freshly shaved legs, arms, or face. Glycolic acid has the potential to get rid of these unwanted bumps on the skin quickly. Glycolic acid helps resolve current bumps by speedily shedding off the inflamed cells surrounding the ingrown hair. 

Next time you have an ingrown hair, open up your skincare cabinet and take out your glycolic acid.

QRx Labs Glycolic acid peel

Photo Source: Amazon

Glycolic Acids Extra Tips and Tricks

Serums vs. Cleansers

Serums are typically the best way to go. That may be true, but it's important to note some differences between glycolic acid cleaners and glycolic acid serums. It would be best if you only used both serums and cleansers with glycolic acid at night because your skin tends to absorb the AHA better, and the skin becomes much more sensitive to the skin when glycolic acid is applied.

Glycolic acid cleansers are more gentle on the skin, but they are much less effective than serums. Putting serums much higher on the list for seeing results. Depending on your end goal, this is an important thing to consider before purchasing a serum or cleanser.

It's Okay If It Feels Uncomfortable

In some cases, glycolic acid may cause your skin to become tingly or burn a little bit after application. It is fine, and it's just how your skin may react to the acid, but it doesn't mean it's working any better or worse. It just means you've applied a foreign acid onto your skin. If it's a bit uncomfortable, it will be okay and should go back to normal within a few minutes. Well, it might be wise to rinse it off if it doesn't. You know your skin best. If it's too much, there's no harm in washing it off and trying one with a lower glycolic acid percentage base.

Botanic Tree Glycolic acid face wash

Photo Source: Amazon

Consistency Is Key

Last but not least, consistency is key! Consistency is everything in any skincare routine. Nothing will be different in your skin after the first couple of applications. That goes for pretty much every product. Keep watching and waiting. Patience is everything when it comes to your skin. More isn't better; time is better.

Add This Skincare Product to Your Skincare Routine

At this point, you should have a much better overall understanding of how glycolic acid affects your skin. You're also probably burning to get into the top four drugstore glycolic acids reviewed and tested by the experts. Check them out below!

1. Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel

Price: $29.95

Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel

by Perfect Image

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
09/26/2023 05:56 am GMT

2. Glycolic Acid 50% Gel Peel with Chamomile and Green Tea Extracts

Price: $19.95

Glycolic Acid 50% Gel Peel with Chamomile and Green Tea Extracts
$19.95 ($19.95 / Fl Oz)

by QRxLabs 

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We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
09/26/2023 11:41 am GMT

3. Glycolic Acid Peel 70%

Price: $16.36

Glycolic Acid Peel 70% - Pro Skin Peel

by Splendora

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09/26/2023 06:19 am GMT

4. Glycolic Acid Face Wash

Price: $21.95

Glycolic Acid Face Wash, Exfoliating Facial Cleanser
$24.90 ($4.15 / Fl Oz)

by Botanic Tree

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
09/26/2023 06:19 am GMT

Treat Your Skin

Glycolic acid is an AHA that derives from sugar cane. This special sugar cane AHA acts as an exfoliant that has the unique ability to penetrate deep into the surface of the skin. Because of the minor AHA structure, there's not much glycolic acid can't do.

It's not only packed with anti-aging properties but also can fight acne and reduce acne scars, making it quite the product. Coming to you in both serums and cleansers, there's no doubt you'll find something that can fit directly into your skincare routine.

The best part about glycolic acid is that you don't need to break the bank to get a good, effective skincare product. The drugstore products typically work just as well. The most important aspect of knowing if you're purchasing a good product is understanding the label's ingredients and how those ingredients affect your skin.

Stay radiant and glowing with all things on Age Defying!

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