What is Glycolic Acid Cleanser?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Glycolic acid cleanser is a product that is utilized to clear the pores of the skin. Normally employed as a facial cleanser, the product is helpful for people who have oily skin. In addition, people who work in commercial kitchens and frequently fry foods using various types of cooking oil make use of these products to cleanse the skin at the end of the workday.

Glycolic acid can be derived from sugar cane.
Glycolic acid can be derived from sugar cane.

The main ingredient in facial cleansers of this type is glycolic acid. Found in sugar cane and grapes that have not yet ripened, this type of acid is water-soluble. In addition to use in various facial and acne cleansers, glycolic acid is also utilized in some cosmetic products.

Glycolic acid cleansers are often relatively thin.
Glycolic acid cleansers are often relatively thin.

While the main function of a glycolic acid cleanser is to remove buildup from the skin, products of this type are also excellent for general cleansing of the face and neck. The ingredients of the cleanser make them ideal for use after makeup is removed and the face has been lightly washed with soap. Using a cream cleanser made with glycolic acid will remove dirt and oil deposits that soap sometimes leaves behind. The result is skin that feels fresher and has a healthy glow.

It is important to note that a glycolic acid cleanser product is generally not recommended for the removal of makeup. This is because the product tends to be somewhat thin. A better solution is to use products especially formulated to remove makeup, then follow up with a careful application of the glycolic acid cleanser. Since the cleanser is water-soluble, it can be washed off easily by using tap water.

The first time that an individual uses a glycolic acid cleanser, he or she is likely to note that the skin seems to tingle. This is because the product is getting deep into the pores and dislodging dead skin cells and other elements that have been in place for some time. As the pores are emptied of the buildup, the tingling sensation continues to subside, especially after the product is washed off using water. What is left behind is a sensation of extremely clean skin.

Purchasing a glycolic acid cleanser is not difficult. Supermarkets, drugstores, and many discount retail stores carry a number of cleansing products containing this alpha-hydroxy acid. While a number of expensive skin products also include glycolic acid in the formulas of their products, it is not unusual for budget-priced acne and general skin care creams and lotions to include this effective cleaning agent.

Glycolic acid is often used in acne cleansers.
Glycolic acid is often used in acne cleansers.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@Oceana - I use the same type of product in the shower. I find it helps me avoid breakouts on my back, and it keeps the backs of my arms from developing so many tiny bumps. The product is gentle enough not to cause irritation, yet it is powerful enough to prevent acne, at least on my skin.

I prefer products with glycolic acid over those containing salicylic acid. To me, they just get rid of dead skin and rough patches so much better. Even if I someday grow out of this bumpy phase, I will probably continue using glycolic acid to keep my skin looking as youthful as it possibly can.


I don’t like to use more than one cleanser on my face, because my skin can be somewhat sensitive. Since I need to remove makeup daily, I use a cleanser for that, but then I use a different type of glycolic acid product to exfoliate.

I found a scrub in a drugstore that contains glycolic acid. It can be used all over the body, not just on the face. The scrub feels like a paste made of tiny particles that are not too rough, but they definitely smooth out my skin. It is purple with a pleasing grape scent, and it leaves my skin smelling as good as it looks.


My skin once was acne-prone, but these days, it’s looking pretty good. I only wear a light powder that I brush on to add a soft glow, so I don’t have to go to very much trouble to remove my makeup. I think that the reason my skin looks good is because I use a glycolic acid facial cleanser every other night.

I start by removing my powder with Cetaphil facial cleanser, because it is so gentle that it doesn’t even feel like soap, but it gets the job done. Once I have rinsed and patted my face dry with a towel, I apply the glycolic acid cleanser. I let it remain for about a minute before washing it off to get the maximum benefit from it.


I work in a restaurant kitchen that makes a lot of deep-fried foods. We start early in the morning with donuts, and we make a lot of greasy fries and onion rings later in the day. To keep my pores from remaining clogged from this grease, I use a glycolic acid cleanser every night.

First, I use Noxzema original cleansing cream and a damp cloth to remove my makeup. After I rinse it off, I apply the glycolic acid cleanser and rinse again. I can feel a nice tingle as the de-clogging action sets in, and that lets me know it's working.

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