Best Glycolic Acid Products – Over The Counter Choices

Published Categorized as Beauty Tips

If you feel like you’re constantly fighting acne breakouts, are looking to even out your complexion, want smoother skin, or want to reduce scarring or discoloration, you may be considering trying glycolic acid.

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Glycolic acid can help with all of these issues, so you’re making a good decision to give it a try. However, with so many different glycolic acid products out there, including many that are available without a prescription, it can be a bit challenging to know what to try. What are the best glycolic acid products over counter? Continue reading, and let’s find out!

Table of Contents

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum - Skin Care Brightening Night Serum, 1 Ounce…

Can You Get Glycolic Acid Over the Counter?

With so many skin treatments requiring a prescription, many wonder whether glycolic acid is even available over the counter.  Fortunately, there are quite a few glycolic acid products that are available over the counter.

As for where to buy glycolic acid over the counter, you can have a lot of luck searching online (or using our recommendations below).  You should also be able to find some skincare products with glycolic acid at your local pharmacy.

What Is the Strongest Glycolic Acid Over the Counter?

The strength of glycolic acid can vary from one product to the next.  If you are looking for something with a higher concentration of glycolic acid, look for a peel or a mask.  These may have a concentration around 30% or so.

What Is the Best Glycolic Acid Product?

Ready to learn more about our favorite glycolic acid products?  Below, you’ll find our favorite glycolic acid toner, cleanser, exfoliator, serum, and peel.

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Best Glycolic Acid Toner – Simplified Skin Glycolic Acid Toner

Glycolic Acid Toner 8% for Face (8 oz). Exfoliating Facial Peel for Anti-Aging & Acne. Alcohol-Free Daily Makeup Removing Toning Solution with AHA & Rosemary Extract by Simplified Skin
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  • 8% glycolic acid
  • Gentle exfoliant
  • Leaves skin smoother and brighter
  • Balances skin’s pH
  • Removes makeup
  • Reduces wrinkles and fine lines

This glycolic acid toner from Simplified Skin works as a gentle exfoliant to remove the top layer of dead skin cells from your face.  As a result, your skin will be smoother and brighter.  Additionally, the 8% glycolic acid toner also works well to reduce hyperpigmentation and dark spots, along with minimizing fine lines and wrinkles.  The formula does not contain any parabens, sulfate, alcohol, or gluten.

What Users are Saying

If you ask users what they have to say about this product, many will tell you that it is the best glycolic acid toner they have tried.  Individuals have shared how much smoother and brighter their skin looks after adding the toner to their routine.  Other happy customers have noted that some people even stop them to compliment them on their skin and don’t believe them when they say they aren’t wearing any makeup.  However, some users with sensitive skin said that the toner was too strong for them and caused them to itch or break out.

Best Glycolic Acid Cleanser – Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Face Wash

Glycolic Acid Face Wash, Exfoliating Facial Cleanser For Facial Skin Care, Acne Treatment Face Scrub, 10% Glycolic and Salicylic Acid 6 fl. oz - Botanic Tree
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  • 10% glycolic acid
  • Clears up acne
  • Minimizes pores
  • Reduces dark spots
  • Doubles as a toner
  • Suitable for use two to five times per week

If you are looking for a glycolic acid cleanser, we’d recommend the Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser.  This cleanser, which is also formulated with salicylic acid, includes 10% glycolic acid, helping it to clear acne, reduce pores, and even the tone and texture of the skin.  With the concentration of glycolic acid and salicylic acid, the cleanser can even double as a toner.  Some of the other beneficial ingredients in this toner include shea butter, tea tree extract, peppermint, and lavender.

What Users are Saying

The vast majority of users have a lot of positive things to say about this glycolic acid cleanser.  They have found that adding it to their routine has helped make their skin smoother and more even toned.  Users with acne have also noted that the cleanser has helped to clear up their acne and decrease the size of their pores.  However, some users with dry skin found that the cleanser was too drying for them.

Best Glycolic Acid Exfoliator – Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula's Choice SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant with Glycolic Acid Chamomile & Green Tea, 3.3 Ounce Pump Leave-On Gentle Exfoliator
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  • 8% glycolic acid
  • Leave-on exfoliant
  • Removes dead skin cells
  • Minimizes age spots and discoloration
  • Soothes skin
  • Fragrance- and paraben-free

We also like Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant.  This is a leave-on exfoliant that works to gently remove dead skin cells.  It leaves skin much smoother, while also reducing discoloration.  As with all Paula’s Choice products, this glycolic acid exfoliator is free of fragrances and parabens.

What Users are Saying

Many users swear by this product and state that they will continue to use it after the positive impact it has had on their skin.  Some of the things that users love most about it include how it has helped to fade their dark spots, clear their acne, and that it doesn’t irritate their sensitive skin.  Unfortunately, not everyone had the same results.  Some users with sensitive skin shared that the exfoliant was too strong for their skin and caused it to break out.

Best Glycolic Acid Serum – Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Glycolic Night Serum

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum - Skin Care Brightening Night Serum, 1 Ounce…
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  • 12% AHA/BHA
  • Resurfaces skin
  • Evens complexion
  • Enhances skin’s ability to absorb other products
  • Not overly drying
  • Cruelty-free

If you’re searching for the best glycolic acid serum, we think you’ll like the T.L.C. Glycolic Night Serum from Drunk Elephant.  The serum features a 12% AHA/BHA mix, including glycolic acid, that works to resurface the skin and even out its tone.  By removing the dead skin cells, the skin will be ready to absorb and gain the maximum benefit from all your other skin care products.

What Users are Saying

Overall, users are very happy with how well this glycolic acid serum works on their skin.  They have shared that their oil production has decreased, that their pores are shrinking, and that the overall appearance of the face is much improved.  However, some users don’t think the serum is that effective, especially considering its higher price tag.

Best Glycolic Acid Peel – Perfect Image Glycolic 30% Gel Peel

Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel - Enhanced with Retinol and Green Tea Extract (Professional Chemical Peel)- 1 fl oz 30mL
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  • 30% glycolic acid peel
  • Evens skin tone
  • Reduces wrinkles and fine lines
  • Stimulates cellular turnover
  • Moisturizes skin

This 30% glycolic gel peel from Perfect Image features a high concentration of glycolic acid to deeply exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells and oil.  The higher concentration also helps to increase cellular turnover by stimulating your cells.  You’ll notice that your skin is more even-toned with fewer fine lines and wrinkles after trying this glycolic acid peel.  Additionally, the formula also includes moisturizing botanical extracts.

What Users are Saying

This is a highly rated product with a lot of very positive reviews.  Some of the things that happy customers love about the peel include how much it has helped even out their skin tone and reduce dark spots and that their fine lines and wrinkles appear to be fading.  Some users, however, found that the 30% concentration was too harsh for their skin.

What is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is an AHA, or alpha hydroxy acid.  AHAs come from sugary fruits.  They are a type of water-soluble acid, compared to BHAs that are oil-soluble.  AHAs help to exfoliate the skin and remove the surface layer of the skin.  This can help address a number of concerns, including dark spots, discoloration, acne breakouts, wrinkles and fine lines, and more.

Glycolic acid is made from sugar cane.  It is a powerful exfoliant that even offers antimicrobial properties.  This characteristic means that glycolic acid can be effective at clearing up and even preventing future acne breakouts.  Consistently adding glycolic acid to your skincare regimen can help even your skin tone, reduce dark spots or acne scarring, leave your skin feeling smoother, and help control acne breakouts.

Because of all of these benefits, it can be found in a number of skin care products.

Why Should You Use Glycolic Acid?

We began to touch on some of the benefits of glycolic acid above, but let’s take just a moment to lay them all out clearly here.  As an AHA, glycolic acid has a lot to offer your skin.  Below are some of the benefits associated with glycolic acid:

  • Fades dark spots and hyperpigmentation
  • Smooths the complexion
  • Brightens skin
  • Reduces wrinkles and fine lines
  • Hydrates skin
  • Reduces acne and prevents future breakouts
Glycolic Acid 30% Gel Peel - Enhanced with Retinol and Green Tea Extract (Professional Chemical Peel)- 1 fl oz 30mL


What is the best percentage of glycolic acid?

The right percentage of glycolic acid can vary depending on the type of product you’re looking for.  For example, the percentage for a peel or face mask will likely be much higher than that of a face wash (up to 30 percent for peels vs around 8 or 10 percent for face washes.

Is it OK to use glycolic acid everyday?

Some glycolic acid products can be used everyday.  Products with a low concentration of glycolic acid may be suitable for daily use, while those with higher concentrations should only be used a few times a week.  If you are not sure what to use or how frequently to use it, check with your dermatologist or physician for some dermatologist recommended glycolic acid products.

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Over-the-Counter Glycolic Acid Products: Closing Words

To choose the best glycolic acid product for you, consider what your skin needs most.  We think all of the products we shared above are top-quality, so you really can’t go wrong choosing any of them.  What do you think?  Which over-the-counter glycolic acid product are you ready to try?

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