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5 of the best glycolic acid peels

Target acne, ageing, and hyperpigmentation in one fell swoop with these glycolic acid peels

A gold standard exfoliant loved by aesthetics practitioners the world over, glycolic acid is an acne, pigmentation, line and wrinkle busting skincare powerhouse.

One of seven acids known as AHAs, glycolic acid boasts the smallest molecular weight of them all, making skin penetration a breeze, offering noticeable results in lightning speed.

It works to revive lacklustre skin, by dissolving the bonds that hold tightly packed layers of rough, dull looking dead skin cells together on the outermost layer of our skin. In so doing, dead cells are able to slough away more easily, to reveal a newer, brighter layer of skin beneath. Not content with simply speeding up cell turnover making it a reliable pigmentation and acne scarring busting ingredient, this AHA also cuts through oil to help reduce breakouts, and boosts collagen production and hydration to boot. Thus, minimising fine lines and wrinkles and creating a clearer, firmer, and smoother complexion.

Those with dry sensitive skin may find they react to this potent AHA and should proceed with caution, but all skin tones with normal, combination, and oily skin types should find they tolerate glycolic acid well. But thankfully, due to its ability to be immediately neutralised upon contact with water, there are very few risks connected with glycolic use.

Many of our aesthetics practitioners and skin experts recommend monthly in clinic medical grade glycolic peels as these can offer better and quicker results than their at-home alternatives. However, for now at home peels will have to do, and the following five are our favourites.

Alpha-H Sleep Power Peel

Bursting with a whopping 15% glycolic acid and 0.5% retinol, this peel kick-starts cells while you sleep boosting the production of collagen, elastin and moisture-retaining sugars. Refining, firming, plumping and radiance boosting, virtually all complexions will benefit from this peel – whether you’re looking for a youth boost or want to quell blemishes and breakouts.

Dr. Dennis Gross Professional Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel

With a clinic standard 3.5 pH, this professional grade peel contains glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid and has been formulated with pore refinement, wrinkle reduction and increased radiance in mind. Step 1 dissolves the bonds that hold dead skin cells to your skin's surface, accelerating renewal for a porcelain-smooth finish. While step 2 is packed full antioxidants to improve skin health.  

Medik 8 Balance Moisturiser and Glycolic Acid Activator

This skincare tag team has been specifically created for blemish-prone skin. The Glycolic Acid Activator, should be used two to three times a week to get the most out of this actives exfoliating and regenerating prowess. While the Balance Moisturiser, which should be used daily, contains both probiotics and prebiotics, working to rebalance the skin’s microbiome aka bacteria levels, to further encourage a clear complexion.

ZO Skin Health Enzymatic Peel

Revive dull looking skin, improve visible signs of sun damage, and smooth uneven, rough textured skin with this multifaceted peel that uses both chemical and enzymatic exfoliators. Glycolic is the chemical component, while papaya fruit derived papain and pineapple derived bromelain enzymes make up the enzymatic element of this peel that should be used once or twice a week for one to three hours at a time.

Lancer Caviar Lime Acid Peel

Formulated by Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Lancer, this peel has set its sights on your pigmentation - thanks to a 10 per cent dose of glycolic acid and phytic acid respectively. While improving the look of hyperpigmentation, you'll find it helps soften and smooth the skin too. And because it contains such a potent blend of AHAs that may increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, it’s best to limit sun exposure while using this product and to wear an SPF daily if you’re not already doing so. P.s. you should be.