Move over physical exfoliants and irritating scrubs! Chemical exfoliants are all the rage thanks to their power to smooth irregularities, fade dark spots, and deep-clean your skin without being abrasive.
While mostly used for the face, they’re a great treatment for “chicken skin” (keratosis pilaris) and body acne. Along with salicylic and lactic acid, glycolic acid has become one of the most popular exfoliants out there thanks to its small molecule size which allows it to penetrate deep into the skin.
So today, we’ll run down some of our favorite glycolic acid products to help you find the best glycolic acid body wash for you.
The 10 Best Glycolic Acid Body Washes
1. Murad Acne Body Wash with Salicylic Acid
If you’re suffering from painful cystic acne that just won’t go away, you need a powerhouse product, and Murad has just that. This wash combines glycolic acid with 1% salicylic acid to bulldoze through impurities and work wonders.
If you want to get serious about acne and acne scarring without causing further damage or dryness, reach for this expert formula. Just remember to moisturize well after so you don’t cancel out those benefits with a dry moisture barrier!
Thanks to the inclusion of urea (a great water-loving humectant) as well as widely used hydrators like glycerin, this product will strip dirt and dead skin but also replace lost moisture, allowing your skin to heal.
If you want to splurge on something that’s decently sized and worth every penny, definitely check this out.
2. Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser
This lighter option is great if you want a cleanser to gently treat keratosis pilaris or mild acne, or sort out post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (dark spots). And you can use it on your face or body!
The cooling gel formula foams up for a nice sensorial experience and a clean feel. To achieve this it does use Sodium Laurel Sulfate, which some consumers like to avoid, but pairs this with Cocamidopropyl betaine to lower potential irritation.
On top of that, it’s got some chamomile extract too, known for its natural inflammatory and healing benefits. Overall, this is a fairly gentle formula that should bring long term results in the overall appearance of your skin.
We should mention that (true to the Mario Badescu way) it also contains a fair amount of natural fragrance. And natural or not, fragrance can be irritating. But if you usually use scented skincare without any issues, it won’t be a problem.
3. Jan Marini Bioglycolic Oily Skin Cleansing Gel
While not quite as big as the Murad body wash, this bottle holds a lot of product. Which is honestly great to see when it comes to acne treatments – which can come in really skimpybottles… And the formula inside packs a punch too.
The ingredient list is simple and to the point, with glycolic acid really being the star of the show. And cleverly, Jan Marini has paired this acid with sodium hydroxide to help balance out any potential dryness.
Sodium hydroxide is great for hydrating and supporting your skin barrier throughout the day. Together with sorbitol and cetyl alcohol, it gives this gel a really soothing effect.
If you suffer from super oily skin, this will clear all dirt and debris with no remorse. In fact, you should see results from this formula after only a few days! Just make sure to start with using it just once every couple of days if you have dry or sensitive skin.
After washing this off, you’ll be left feeling squeaky clean. So follow up with a good moisturizer (which you should be doing anyway!) to seal in all the benefits.
Also, remember that the skin on your body can take more than your face. So even if this dries your face out, it might be perfect for acne on your shoulders or back.
4. Peter Thomas Roth 3% Glycolic Solutions Cleanser
We love to see a brand being transparent about exact percentages. And some elegant packaging to boot!
You’ll get some skin-healing benefits from B5 in the form of Panthenol here so this is a great product to soothe post-breakout skin. And the glycolic acid sits at a nice and gentle 3%, making it suitable for all skin types but especially chemical exfoliant newbies.
That being said, there’s enough acid in here to make your face more radiant straight away and smooth out keratosis pilaris over time. It also has two great humectants to stop your skin from drying out and stay youthful in the long run.
You can use this every day on your face and your body, and you get a lot of it too, making this a great value for money at an upper mid-range price point.
As always with skincare, it’s best to look for products that’ll have long term effects with no side effects. If you’re tackling keratosis pilaris, the process will be slow anyway, so why not minimize irritation and go for something gentle like this?
5. Touch Keratosis Pilaris Exfoliating Wash
This body wash with glycolic acid (15%) and salicylic acid (2%) is great for the evening the tone and texture of keratosis pilaris while nourishing the skin. And although it doesn’t say so in the name, it can also be used on acne!
Thanks to the real focus on the acids in the formula, you should see results pretty quickly. This is impressive, as KP can stubbornly stay put for months or years!
Not only is this product effective in treating KP, but it’s great for fans of soothing natural ingredients. Among some of the powerhouse plant extracts here, this wash treats your skin to some Centella Asiatica, a plant well-loved in Korean beauty and skin care for its soothing, healing properties.
No acid, sulfates, or irritating alcohols in sight. Lovely! There is a little fragrance, but it’s right at the bottom of the ingredient list so it’s still incredibly non-irritating for an exfoliant.
6. Alpha Skin Care Moisturizing Body Wash
The focus on hydration and soothing in this formula makes this perhaps the best exfoliating body wash with glycolic acid for those with damaged or sensitive skin.
Not many companies include the pH of their products on the packaging, so we love that Alpha lets you know this sits at a pH of 4.5 (probably thanks to the inclusion of acidifying ammonium hydroxide).
But what does this mean? Well, 4.5 is slightly more acidic than your skin’s average pH – around the acidity of a tomato! – making it harder for bacteria to grow without disrupting your skin’s natural equilibrium too much.
Ingredient-wise, there’s some soothing aloe vera gel here, as well as nutrient-rich pea protein and vitamin E. Nothing super fancy, and no sodium hyaluronate in sight, but at such an affordable price, it’s on the money.
While the percentage of glycolic acid isn’t disclosed, we’d hazard a guess at it being a low to medium dose as the product name describes this as an overall hydrator rather than an exfoliator.
So if you’re new to exfoliating acids and want to work up to the stronger treatments while your skin adjusts, definitely try this out.
7. AHA 12% Relax-Day AHA Exfoliating Body Lotion
Okay, so this is a lotion and not a wash. But we’re including it because it’s a rare find in that it’s a good all-round exfoliator/hydrator that’s also fragrance-free.
Coming in a handy bottle with a pump applicator, this is a really convenient and easy to use a product that’s also strong enough to just use once every few days. It also absorbs quickly into the skin, so you can slather yourself in it and get dressed right after!
You get a lot of bang for your buck here. Not only is the percentage of glycolic acid very generous, but it also contains hyaluronic acid and a powerful antioxidant in the form of green tea extract.
If you haven’t started incorporating green tea into your skincare, where have you been?! It’s great for soothing inflamed acne and is actually a natural source of the powerful antioxidant vitamin C.
With over 10oz of product, you’ll have this cute bottle on your shelf for a good long while. But it won’t be long before you can see and feel the skin-smoothing, acne-soothing benefits of this formula.
8. ReTone Exfoliating Cleanser
Packaged almost like a medical-grade treatment, this is a strong contender for best glycolic acid body wash ever for people wanting to take their acne or keratosis pilaris seriously without upsetting their skin.
At 7.5% glycolic acid, this product is perfect if you’re looking for a medium-strength exfoliation. Use this every other day, and you should start seeing results pretty quickly. Be careful using it on your face though as it does contain a mild physical exfoliant.
Overall, the experience is pretty luxurious despite the sensible packaging. The formula smells nice (though not too strong), feels nice, and leaves your skin feeling supple and smooth after the first wash.
The one downside is the fragrance and artificial colorant, which could put off “clean beauty” fans. However, the benefits really outweigh the drawbacks, and “nasties” on your skin won’t cause many problems in a wash-off treatment like this.
9. Donell AHA 20 Body Tingle
Another great moisturizer option, this is like the AHA 12% but much stronger at 20% – almost at the strength of a chemical peel! Impressive.
In fact, out of all the products we’ve talked about today, it’s the closest to a spa treatment from the comfort of your home! It’s even great for lessening darkness caused by tricky-to-treat melasma or acne scarring.
If you want something to really bulldoze excess skin cells from your follicles and dirt from your pores, this will do the job and do it fast. Be careful if you’re new to exfoliants though, and definitely don’t use it on your face!
In particular, this might cause irritation around the chest and neck. But if you start by using it once a week and build up to more frequent use, you shouldn’t have any problems and you’ll be enjoying fresher, brighter skin in no time.
Remember that AHAs like glycolic acid can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. So use this product at night if you can, and if you use it in the morning follow it up with a nice strong SPF.
10. 5 Elements Coconut Derived 2% Glycolic Acid Cleanser
This is a great option for both the face and the body. At 2% glycolic acid, it’s incredibly gentle so can be used every day even on sensitive skin but will lead to a smoother happier glow in the long run.
Another thing we love about this product is the low pH noted on the bottle. And (fun fact), lower pH cleansers are recommended to anyone suffering from acne or excess oil. But don’t worry, this isn’t one of those drying alcoholic formulas. It’s as gentle as can be.
The unique selling point of this product is the fact that it’s formulated with just 5 key ingredients. This is a fantastic strategy from the brand as it means there are no unnecessary ingredients that could cause irritation.
Rather than using Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or harsh surfactants, the “soapy” cleansing element of this formula is Decyl Glucoside, a gentle organic cleansing ingredient that’s kind to your skin barrier.
Overall, a brilliant product for people wanting to renew their skin with exfoliating acids but keep it simple at the same time and avoid harsh ingredients.
Joan S. Wilson is a lifelong makeup and skincare enthusiast. She used to work as a makeup artist for 5 years. Joan is always curious and wants to learn more when it comes to makeup and skincare. She tries her best to make other people’s skin health better. This is why Joan is so passionate about writing articles on beauty topics. She always looks for products that are high-quality, dermatologist-tested, and does that it says on the label. In every article, she shares her knowledge to make your life healthier and happier!