Best AHA exfoliant

Skin Treatments

Glycolic acid is usually the most potent AHA because it penetrates the skin so easily. If you have sensitive skin, choose an exfoliant that uses mandelic acid, which is less irritating.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which AHA exfoliant is best?

Caring for your skin requires more than just cleansing and moisturizing. Exfoliation is another crucial step in your skincare routine because it removes dead cells from the surface to reveal the smoother, brighter, clearer skin underneath.

And when it comes to exfoliation, an AHA exfoliant is your best bet. It can help smooth fine lines and wrinkles, lighten dark spots and prevent pore clogs that lead to acne. AHAs also stimulate collagen production to firm sagging skin. 

Are you looking for a high-quality exfoliator to improve your skin? These are some of the best AHA exfoliants on the market.

What is AHA?

AHA, or AHAs, are actually a group of naturally occurring plant and animal-derived alpha-hydroxy acids. They’re able to dissolve the bonds that hold dead skin cells on the surface of your face to reveal the fresh, healthy skin beneath. AHAs can also stimulate blood flow and collagen production, fade dark spots, brighten the skin, smooth textures like fine lines and wrinkles, clear clogged pores and improve product absorption.

Glycolic acid is the most common AHA used in skincare products and comes from sugar cane. Lactic acid from lactose, citric acid from citrus fruits and malic acid from fruits are other widely used AHAs in exfoliants. 

Best AHA exfoliants of 2021

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

This non-abrasive, leave-on exfoliant contains 8% glycolic acid to remove dead cells without irritating your skin. The included chamomile and green tea help soothe and strengthen the skin. The gel is fragrance-free and suitable for all skin types too.

Sold by Amazon and Sephora

DAMDAM Nomad’s Cream Purifying Exfoliating Cleanser

DAMDAM Nomad’s Cream Purifying Exfoliating Cleanser

This non-foaming cream cleanser contains phytic acid, an AHA derived from Japanese rice that naturally exfoliates the skin. It’s effective for brightening and firming the skin and contains tea tree oil to help reduce breakouts. The formula is also vegan, gluten and cruelty-free.

Sold by Sephora

REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic

REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic

This liquid AHA exfoliant is gentle enough for daily use and highly effective for brightening the skin and fighting environmental damage. It contains lactic acid for non-irritating exfoliation and salicin from willow bark to deep clean the pores. It comes in a 100% recycled plastic bottle too.

Sold by Amazon, SkinStore and Space NK

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

Mizon AHA 8% Peeling Serum

This AHA exfoliant contains glycolic acid and other soothing and nourishing ingredients that make it safe for daily use. The serum formula also absorbs quickly into the skin for gentle, effective exfoliation. Best of all, it’s dermatologically tested, so you don’t need to worry about possible irritation.

Sold by Amazon

Summer Fridays Soft Reset AHA Exfoliating Solution

Summer Fridays Soft Reset AHA Exfoliating Solution

With 16% AHAs, this exfoliant is highly effective for removing dead skin cells, brightening the skin and reducing the look of pores. It contains lactic and glycolic acids to boost its exfoliating power and has niacinamide to improve skin texture. The formula is vegan, gluten-free and cruelty-free too.

Sold by Revolve, Sephora and Space NK

Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

This lightweight night serum contains a blend of AHAs, including glycolic and citric acids, that can diminish fine lines, wrinkles and the look of pores. It’s suitable for all skin types and can even help other skincare products absorb more easily. The serum doesn’t contain any silicones, essential oils or fragrances either.

Sold by Sephora and Space NK

Glytone Rejuvenating Lotion 20

Glytone Rejuvenating Lotion 20

This oil-free, fragrance-free lotion contains 20% glycolic acid, making it one of the most potent exfoliants on the list. It can help diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles but works best for normal to oily skin. It’s incredibly effective for reversing photodamage too.

Sold by Amazon and LovelySkin

Lancome Clarifique Exfoliating & Hydrating Face Essence

Lancome Clarifique Exfoliating & Hydrating Face Essence

With a combination of glycolic acid, grapeseed oil and beech bud extract, this toner effectively exfoliates the skin and nourishes for a smooth, glowing complexion. It works well for all skin types and helps lock in moisture to keep your skin as healthy as possible. It doesn’t contain any parabens, mineral oil or sulfates either.

Sold by Macy’s, Sephora and Ulta

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

This intense resurfacing treatment helps exfoliate the skin with 30% AHAs, including glycolic and lactic acids. It also features salicylic acid to deep clean the pores, so it’s an ideal option for oily and acne-prone skin. It only requires a 10-minute treatment one to two times a week to see results too.

Sold by LovelySkin, Sephora and Ulta

Dermalogica Clear Start Flashfoliant Foaming Exfoliator

Dermalogica Clear Start Flashfoliant Foaming Exfoliator

A leave-on exfoliant, this formula contains grape extract to provide powerful AHAs that help remove dead skin cells. It can help brighten and improve your skin tone and contains salicylic acid to fight breakouts. The formula is also vegan and cruelty-free.

Sold by Amazon, Dermalogica and Ulta

Alpha-H Liquid Gold Exfoliating Treatment

Alpha-H Liquid Gold Exfoliating Treatment

This liquid exfoliant contains 5% clinical-grade glycolic acid to speed up your skin’s natural renewal process. It’s formulated at the ideal pH, too, improving its effectiveness. It also contains botanical antioxidants to help fight environmental damage and protect your skin.

Sold by LovelySkin and Sephora 

NUDESTIX Lemon-Aid Detox & Glow Micro-Peel

NUDESTIX Lemon-Aid Detox & Glow Micro-Peel

With natural malic acid from pomegranates, this tri-weekly treatment helps exfoliate and brighten your skin. It also contains potent antioxidants to help combat free radical damage and vitamin C to stimulate collagen production. It also features niacinamide, which helps reduce the look of pores, improves skin tone and softens fine lines.

Sold by Macy’s and Ulta

Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

This cleanser contains lactic and glycolic acids to help loosen dead skin cells and brighten your complexion. It also features smooth jojoba beads to aid in the exfoliation process. The formula contains sodium PCA, which helps draw water to the skin to keep it hydrated and healthy.

Sold by Amazon, Sephora and Ulta

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment

This dual-action exfoliator works as a cleanser, scrub, peel and mask, all in a single product. It contains papaya, pineapple and pumpkin enzymes, and lactic acid to help exfoliate without drying out the skin. The formula also features aloe vera, honey and vitamin E to help soothe and nourish the skin.

Sold by Sephora and Ulta

Neostrata Gel Plus AHA 15

Neostrata Gel Plus AHA 15

This lightweight, oil-free exfoliant gel is an ideal option for oily and acne-prone skin. It contains 15% glycolic acid to help exfoliate for smooth, even skin but is gentle enough for new AHA users. It’s fragrance-free too.

Sold by SkinStore

Good Molecules Glycolic Exfoliating Toner

Good Molecules Glycolic Exfoliating Toner

A cruelty-free, vegan formula, this toner features glycolic acid for effective exfoliation that reveals smoother, brighter skin. It also includes hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and prevent irritation and dryness. That means the formula is gentle enough for daily use.

Sold by Ulta

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.

Trending Stories