Glycolic Acid Cleansers

Glycolic acid cleansers come in wide array of formulations and strengths. What’s important when choosing one is that you choose one you have time for and that works for you skin.

What is a glycolic acid cleanser?

A glycolic acid cleanser is a facial cleanser that contains some percentage of glycolic acid. Most will have concentrations of glycolic acid between 8 and 10 percent but many have much less or much more.

Glycolic acid is a natural substance that is derived from sugar cane and works to naturally exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells and stimulating the growth of new ones in their place. What makes glycolic acid interesting is that anyone with any type of skin can use it, so cleaners for people with very dry or very oily skin might all have some glycolic acid in them.

You generally won’t find glycolic acid in a soap cleanser or one that isn’t liquid. But some manufacturers have made glycolic cleansing facial wipes that contain a good dose fo glycolic acid.

Most people who use a glycolic acid cleanser also have a host of other glycolic acid products, such as toners, moisturizers and nighttime serums, but some people find that their skin responds well to just one product, a cleanser.

What to look for in a cleanser

Although all glycolic cleansers will have the glycolic acid component in common, beyond that there are many differences you might find.

Some glycolic cleansers will be just that – they will provide a healthy dose of glycolic acid and basic cleansing ingredients. Others might also have salicylic acid, which is also good for the skin for anti aging and anti acne properties, while still others might have solid moisturizers in them, for those with dry skin.

When you go shopping for a glycolic acid cleanser, it’s important to think about your skin and what you need in a cleanser. If you have oily skin or acne-prone skin, look for a cleanser that also has benzoyl peroxide in it, though the combination can be a little too rough for some people.

If you are looking for a cleanser for your aging skin, consider one that has retinol or collagen in its list of ingredients.

Pay attention to how you are supposed to use the cleanser. Many will recommend you simply apply the cleanser, massage in and then rinse off. Some cleansers, however, will have more complicate instructions. You might need to apply the cleanser to your face and let it sit for several minutes before washing off. Others will instruct you to massage the cleanser in for a minute or two before rinsing off. Be sure to consider these directions and your time constraints before choosing a cleanser.


As with any glycolic acid product, there are some precautions to keep in mind when using a glycolic acid cleanser.

First, glycolic acid makes your skin much more sensitive to the sun. If you use a glycolic acid product during the day, make sure you also apply appropriate sunscreen.

Second, if you have a serious irritation, discontinue use and find a product that doesn’t irritate your skin so much (likely a product with a lower concentration of glycolic acid). Some irritation is normal – some light redness or itching are common – but anything more than that and you might be allergic, or simply need a lesser does of the glycolic acid.

The best beneficial aspect of glycolic acid is that is works for nearly every skin type. No matter your skin condition or problem, you can likely find a glycolic acid cleanser that will work to rectify it and make your skin look better.