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Here's Why You Need Glycolic Acid in Your Skin Care Routine

The superstar ingredient has the power to treat any and all of your complexion concerns... enough said. Find it in these seven skin-saving products
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If you haven't yet jumped on the glycolic acid bandwagon, it's time to do so. The alpha-hydroxy acid is a tried-and-true favorite ingredient among skin docs for its multi-tasking abilities. "Not only is it a great exfoliator, but it also stimulates the production of both collagen and hyaluronic acid," explains Deirdre Hooper, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at LSU. Translation: There's really not much that it can't do. Improve texture? You bet. Fade spots? Yep. Help with breakouts? Check. Keep skin smooth and wrinkle-free? Obvi. (We could keep going, but you get the picture.)

Since there's no shortage of glycolic acid-based products out there -- you'll find it in pretty much every category, from peels to cleansers to lotions, -- we've narrowed down the options. Ahead, seven glycolic acid products that are most definitely worth trying.

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Glycolic Acid Cleanser
Try: SkinCeuticals Purifying Cleanser, $34

For those with especially sensitive skin, a face wash with glycolic acid is a great place to start, says Hooper. (As much as we love it, it is still an acid and can potentially cause some irritation as your skin gets used to it.) Cleansers typically contain a lower concentration of glycolic acid, plus, it's getting washed off fairly quickly, Hooper adds. Glycolic acid cleansers dissolve dirt, gently exfoliate and help improve skin's radiance and texture. This product from SkinCeuticals has added glycerin to keep your complexion hydrated.

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Glycolic Acid Peel
Try: Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, $88 for a 30-day supply

There's a reason this at-home peel is a cult classic. Formulated with a combo of glycolic acid plus other alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (not to mention a whole slew of additional anti-agers like retinol and resveratrol), these are gentle enough for daily use. At-home peel pads are the ideal way to reap the benefits of glycolic acid and can easily be worked into your routine, notes Hooper. Use this glycolic acid peel to minimize pores, fine lines and dullness.

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Glycolic Acid Toner
Try: Peter Thomas Roth Glycolic 10% Toning Complex, $40

"Glycolic-acid based toners are great for anyone with oily skin," says Hooper. "They feel weightless and can help reduce shine." Not to mention that the ingredient also helps eliminate blackheads and whiteheads by keeping pores clear and clog-free. This formula scores major points for the addition of witch hazel (to tighten pores), along with chamomile and aloe vera, so that skin feels soothed, not stripped.

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Glycolic Acid Mask
Try: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari BabyFacial, $80

With a whopping 25 percent glycolic acid, this at-home mask is a close substitute for an in-office peel. And while yes, 25 percent is a high concentration to find in an OTC product, this formula also includes a whole batch of calming and soothing ingredients -- think antioxidant-rich matcha and redness-reducing niacinamide -- so that even the sensitive set can use it. Use weekly and leave on for 20 minutes before rinsing and following up with the (included) marula oil. Snag one while you can; since launching in Sephora on January 10, this newbie has already sold out three times.

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