11 Best Alpha Hydroxy Products in 2024 for Smoother, Softer Skin, According to Dermatologists

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Editor Tip: If your skin requires a more intensive acne treatment, we suggest La Roche Posay’s Allure Best of Beauty Award-winning Effaclar Acne Treatment System, a three-step system consisting of a gel cleanser, this toner, and a spot treatment—all of which employ potent concentrations of benzoyl peroxide, glycolic, and salicylic acid.

Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid (2%), salicylic acid (0.5%), thermal spring water | Fragrance-Free: Yes

Best for Dark Spots: Ole Henriksen Dewtopia 20% Acid Night Treatment

Ole Henriksen

Ole Henriksen Dewtopia 20% Acid Night Treatment

Why It’s Worth It: If dark spots are your concern, allow us to introduce you to this potent overnight serum from Ole Henriksen. The Dewtopia 20% Acid Night Treatment is an Allure favorite for its creamy texture and a skin-firming blend of alpha hydroxy and polyhydroxy acids. This custardy treatment also features licorice root extract, which helps fade hyperpigmentation. Irritation is minimized with its soothing, comforting mix of aloe juice, nordic birch sap, and cotton water, but this formulation might be too potent for sensitive skin.

Editor Tip: Allure commerce writer Jennifer Hussein has been a fan of this potent formula since 2021. “Don’t expect your dark spots to be erased overnight, because no skin-care product can do that, but I will say that my problem areas definitely looked slightly smaller and lighter, and my overall complexion was noticeably brighter,” she said in her review of the product, two weeks into testing.

Key Ingredients: Alpha hydroxy acid complex (10% glycolic and lactic acids), polyhydroxy acids (10%), licorice root extract, aloe vera juice, cotton water, nordic birch sap | Fragrance-Free: No

Frequently Asked Questions

What are alpha hydroxy acids?

According to Orit Markowitz, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, alpha hydroxy acids are derived from sugarcane or other plant sources (for example, malic, tartaric, and citric acid). What makes them different from their oily-skin-conducive counterparts, beta hydroxy acids (BHA), and gentler, sensitive-skin-friendly polyhydroxy acids (PHA) is that they’re water-soluble and work on the skin’s surface. Oil-soluble BHAs like salicylic acid penetrate pores more deeply, which makes them more efficient for treating deep-rooted acne, while PHAs are molecularly larger and therefore the gentlest exfoliating option. The most common AHA found in skin-care products are glycolic acid and lactic acid; as the smallest in molecular size under the AHA umbrella, they penetrate skin most deeply.

What are the skin-care benefits of alpha hydroxy acids?

Dr. Markowitz says that AHAs can target the superficial layer of skin, therefore creating a smoother complexion with a more even skin tone. Board-certified, NYC-based dermatologist Morgan Rabach, MD, also notes that AHAs remove the outer layer of dead, damaged skin, revealing softer and brighter skin. “AHAs help even out skin pigmentation irregularities from melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation,” Dr. Rabach previously told Allure. Alpha hydroxy acids can also stimulate the production of skin-firming collagen, which diminishes the look of fine lines over time.

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