Finding the best glycolic acid for sensitive skin is not an easy job, as so many formulas can cause irritations. But we did the research and found seven products with glycolic acid that work wonders on sensitive skin. These include cleansers, toners, serums, masks, and creams, all being gentle enough not to trouble your complexion. This article also discusses how to use glycolic acid on sensitive skin, so keep reading.
Sensitive skin is vulnerable, and you might give it a second thought before slathering on glycolic acid-infused products. Glycolic acid is a potent alpha-hydroxy acid that dissolves dead cells buildup and renews skin — no surprise people with reactive complexions try to dodge it. So, is glycolic acid safe for sensitive skin? Experts confirm glycolic acid is safe for sensitive skin, as long as you add it low and slow into your routine.
In fact, glycolic acid speeds up cell turnover, so dead cells are shed more rapidly and reveal healthier, stronger cells. Additionally, glycolic acid encourages collagen production, which in turn strengthens the skin, so there are fewer chances of sensitivities. The key is to add glycolic acid low and slow into your routine. You can do this by using the best glycolic acid products for sensitive skin we’ve whittled down for you.
How to use glycolic acid on sensitive skin?
When your skin is easily reactive, the secret is to start with low-concentrated products, like a glycolic acid cleanser or toner. If you’re using glycolic acid in serum, apply it at night as glycolic acid makes the skin sensitive to UV rays. And use sunscreen daily.
Equally important is to use an occlusive moisturizer after you have applied your glycolic acid serum. As a humectant, glycolic acid binds water to the skin from the environment, and occlusives help by creating a protective barrier that locks hydration and prevents water evaporation.
The best glycolic acid for sensitive skin
Youth To The People Kombucha Exfoliation Power Toner
- We like: Made without fragrances and alcohol, contains a potent yet gentle concentration of exfoliating acids
- What else: Use only at night, vegan, cruelty-free, and recyclable packaging
This is a great glycolic acid toner for sensitive skin because it’s made with just 3% glycolic acid and is rich in L-arginine, an amino acid that hydrates and restores moisture. The toner aids in exfoliating the skin to reveal a smoother complexion, and the 8% lactic acid gradually supports the process. The “kombucha” in its name comes from a black tea ferment that works as a probiotic to reinforce the skin’s microbiome, which is essential for sensitive skin.
Dermalogica Daily Glycolic Cleanser
- We like: Free of sulfates SLS and SLES, doesn’t feel dry or stripped, great for brightening
- What else: Lightweight gel texture
As an ideal glycolic acid face wash for sensitive skin, Dermalogica Daily Glycolic Cleanser is boosted with a blend of botanical extracts and oils to maintain the lipid barrier while dissolving makeup and debris. It is suitable for sensitive skin because it’s not a leave-on product, so the chances of irritation are almost zero. We also like it because it packs a lot of skin moisturizers, such as trehalose, urea, allantoin, and sodium hyaluronate, which are perfect for sensitive skin.
Sesderma Acglicolic Liposomal Serum
- We like: Uses nanotechnology to increase tolerance, best for anti-aging, ideal for all skin types
- What else: Contains perfume
This glycolic acid serum is a game-changer for sensitive skin, using 6% free and liposomal glycolic acid for increased tolerance. This means the active is inside fatty-acids particles, so there are fewer chances to disturb the skin. The blend of ceramides, ascorbyl glucoside, and cholesterol make it ideal for reinforcing a weakened barrier, a common cause of skin reactions. Despite the gentle formula, use this serum once weekly to observe how your skin reacts and increase frequency as tolerated.
Alpyn Beauty Bearberry and Vitamin C Glow Serum
- We like: Excellent for dark spots and uneven tone
- What else: Clean, sustainable, vegan, fragrance-free
In case dark spots bother you, this is the right glycolic acid product to use, gentle enough for sensitive skin. The serum packs bearberry extract, a natural skin brightener, and 3-O-ethyl-ascorbic acid, a gentle form of vitamin C that works incredibly well for sensitive skin as it can be formulated at higher pH. The plant-derived glycolic acid and bakuchiol (retinol alternative) resurface delicately, revealing more luminous skin. We also love the aloe leaf juice base, which makes this product mild and suitable even for reactive skins.
Cocokind Illuminating Solution
- We like: Affordable, clean
- What else: Use at night after cleansing and before serum
This exfoliating leave-on solution is the right choice for sensitive skin that struggles with uneven tone and texture and dullness. Cocokind Illuminating Solution is made with 3% glycolic acid, 2% mandelic acid, and 2% gluconolactone, which work synergistically to reduce the look of dark patches, fine lines, and sun damage. Ideally, use this exfoliating solution thrice a week in your nighttime skincare regimen.
Peach & Lily Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask
- We like: K-beauty, alcohol- and fragrance-free
- What else: Mild tingling is normal; use 15 mins once weekly
This mask fights on multiple fronts to reveal your best skin and was created to suit even the most delicate complexions. The 10% glycolic acid in this mask might frighten you, but people with sensitive skin adore this product, the reviews attest to it. Moreover, this AHA-infused resurfacing mask boasts a slew of humectants, including aloe extract, cica, hyaluronic acid, panthenol, and sodium hyaluronate, to leave skin hydrated, soothed, and offset possible dryness caused by glycolic acid.
Caudalie Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Overnight Cream
- We like: Fades dark spots, refines texture
- What else: Might clog pores, for PM use
This is one of the best glycolic acid products for sensitive skin because, as a cream, it sits on the skin’s surface, so less likely to cause dryness. Also, the moisturizer contains shea butter, squalane, bisabolol, and vitamin E to soften and soothe, leaving skin moist and calm. Thanks to glycolic acid and papaya enzymes, the cream gives mild exfoliation to reveal an even tone and luminous skin.
How we found the best glycolic acid products for sensitive skin
There’s an endless number of glycolic acid products with different formulations, yet just a few are suitable for sensitive skin. During our research, we checked more than 300 products and hand-picked only seven that work perfectly on any problematic skin. To find the best glycolic acid for sensitive skin, we have looked through products that:
- Contain low concentrations of glycolic acid
- Have formulas optimized for sensitive skin
- Are filled with soothing ingredients
- Receive positive reviews from people with sensitive skin
- Don’t contain harsh ingredients
All products featured here meet all our editorial policies and guidelines mentioned on this page. We shut our eyes to marketing claims and made our decisions based on the product’s formula, customer reviews, and dermatologists’ insights. We also made sure that all products are easily accessible across the globe and fit all budgets.
Read next: 12 Best Organic Exfoliators for Sensitive Skin