Yes, You Need Glycolic Acid in Your Face Wash

Laniqua Mcmillian
Yes, You Need Glycolic Acid in Your Face Wash
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Photo: Getty Images

We can invest in all the foundation, highlighters and contouring products that we want—but the truth is, if we don’t have a solid base to start from, our favorite makeup can’t do its thing. When it comes to getting glowy (but not oily), flake-free, youthful skin, glycolic acid is where it is at—and incorporating it into your routine is a easy as washing your face.

Here’s everything you need to know about this skin essential—as well as our guide to finding the right GA product for you.

What is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is the smallest molecule in the alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) family—and due to its small size, it penetrates the skin cells easier. As an AHA, glycolic acid naturally exfoliates the skin by removing dead skin cells and allows new, radiant skin cells to grow in place. It’s also an important anti-aging ingredient, as it’s been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also great for those prone to excess oil, as it cleanses and exfoliates without stripping the skin.

MORE: The 9 Best Korean Skin Care Products to Buy at Target Right Now

How does it work?

Though it can be found in facial cleansers, peels, and creams, a glycolic facial cleanser is the best way to sneak this ingredient into your daily beauty routine—you wash your face every day, after all, so it’s more likely you’ll get reliable results from this ingredient. Plus, since you don’t leave cleanser on your skin for a long period of time, you won’t experience any of the major side-effects of glycolic acid—redness, soreness, peeling—that a GA-rich serum or peel would potentially leave you with. The quick and easy application of a glycolic acid face wash will leave your skin feeling brand new.

MORE: The 6 Best Charcoal Face Washes for Every Skin Type

Okay, so which face wash is right for me?

We’re glad you asked! Click through for five of our favorite products at every price point.

Originally published November 2015. Updated July 2017.

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Maderma Aqua Glycolic Facial Cleanser

This affordable cleanser is truly mighty. Great for acne-prone skin, this face wash goes on gently and leaves your skin feeling smooth. And bonus: if you get razor bumps, this cleanser will help reduce those, too.

Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser

Formulated with herbal extract for soothing benefits, this foaming cleanser will leave your skin feeling radiant. This is amazing for dry skin, as it cleanses and hydrates without stripping skin of the natural oils it needs.

Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser

Perfect for oily skin, this cleanser removes make up, dirt, and oil residue from the skin while helping restore it's natural pH. We especially love the oh-so-clean scent of this cleanser; it makes it a pleasure to use!

SkinCeuticals Purifying Cleanser

SkinCeuticals Purifying Cleanser will leave your skin feeling fresh and conditioned. We use this in conjunction with a prescription retinoid to keep our complexions healthy and flake-free—which is just what we want!

Peter Thomas Roth 3% Glycolic Solutions Cleanser

Packed with pro vitamin B5 and arginine, this face wash is amazing for anyone looking to combat fine lines and wrinkles.

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