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Ingredient Decoder: Glycolic Acid

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There was a time when I scrubbed my face every day with a drugstore exfoliator filled with bright blue beads. I thought that the more I exfoliated, the better my skin would look, so I attacked my T-zone with the same vigor shown by my mother when she fought the mildew between the bathroom tiles. The result? Instead of clearing up my teenage blackheads, my overzealous scrubbing stressed out my sensitive skin. Cue a massive breakout. 

Boy, have times changed. These days, I limit my exfoliation to once or twice a week and rely on products with glycolic acid. It sounds counterintuitive, but these chemical exfoliators can actually be gentler on your skin than physical scrubs. Why? Since there’s nary a bead to be found, you skip the step where you try to strip off a whole layer of skin. Naturally found in sugar cane, glycolic acid dissolves dead skin cells and also improves skin hydration by enhancing moisture intake. Product picks after the jump!

For Foolproof Exfoliation

I use DDF Glycolic 5% Exfoliating Wash. It’s strong yet pH-balanced, so it won’t irritate your skin. Lather it on to make your face more even-toned and refined.  

For Sensitive Skin 

Don’t let the extra-strength label fool you: Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Alpha Beta Peel pads are infused with a gentle dose of glycolic acid to shrink pores and reveal smooth skin.

For Anti-Aging

Clark’s Botanicals Smoothing Marine Cream has built-in glycolic acid to soften fine lines. 


Another great exfoliator? DDF’s Advanced Micro-Exfoliation Cleanser

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