The AHA moment: 13 exfoliant for baby smooth skin

Written by Jenny Wu
Jenny Wu

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  1. We would love to send you DermaNew Microdermabrasion for your review!
    Amby Longhofer

  2. Becki says:

    This post has been so useful, I really had no idea where to start with AHAs and BHAs. Thank you for all the recommendations, I have texture on my skin so I’m keeping my fingers crossed this will help it improve!

    I’ve just found your blog too, and I’m so glad I did! :)

  3. Jasmine says:

    This is such a helpful post :) I find BHA products amazing when I’m more spot-prone and the Cosrx sounds amazing! I like using the Pixi Glow Tonic when my skin is a bit dull and lifeless

    Jasmine xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

  4. Shivangi says:

    This is such a great and informative post out there!! I would love to try the Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads!! :) Have a great day!

  5. I love AHA as I find that glycolic acid and sometimes lactic acid works great for my skin though I always try to be careful because of my sensitive skin. I’m a big fan of Pixi Glow Tonic and have tried a sample of Good Genes and like it a lot too. Such a great informative post! Thanks for sharing this info! xx

    Ann-Marie |

    • Jenny says:

      Glad you found the post helpful! I have to be careful with AHAs as well since sometimes I can get a little to enthusiastic with exfoliating!

  6. I had way better luck than you did with Good Genes, it did not sting at all and left my skin baby soft and bright! It is among my most repurchased exfoliants, mainly because it is so gentle on my skin. It always amazes me how different people can react.
    The pixi Glow Tonic is one that I like as well and just like you I use the Instytutum Triple Peel about once a week for some extra oomph. And I just remembered that I have a Verso sample in my stash, I need to dig it out once I return home from my trip!

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    • Jenny says:

      That’s great that you got such great results! It really goes to show how unique our skins are, and that there’s really no objectively perfect product out there. Hope the Verso serum works well for you, would love to hear your thoughts on it when you try it out!

  7. Ambi says:

    This is such a great post!!! …. girl you nailed it :) you went so in depth to explain the product. I don’t know much about skincare… but your post have taught me a lot :) xx

  8. We’re using the Nip + Fab Pads at the moment, but we’re not sure how we feel about them yet! Loved all the recommendations, we added a few to our ‘to try’ list!

  9. Lucy Jane says:

    This is really interesting! Definitely a post I’ll refer back to when I’m looking for exfoliators – acid and scrub wise! Great post x

    Lucy Jane

  10. Naya says:

    What a fab post Jenny! I love exfoliating my skin and this guide is a godsent. No joke. Have you tried some of the Ordinary products? Many say that their AHA serum is a better alternative to Good Genes; same goes for Drunk Elephant.

    I think you might really like Institut Esthederm AHA Peel Gentle Serum; it is a mix of Glycolic, Salicylic and Lactic Acids. Whenever I use it, I feel like I don’t even have to exfoliate. It’s very gentle too, I have sensitive skin and thank goodness – no irritation.

    Naya //

    • Jenny says:

      Aww thank you for the sweet comment Naya! I actually haven’t tried The Ordinary products but now I feel like I really should give their AHA serum a try, especially since it’s so cheap! I did hear good things about Drunk Elephant’s Babyfacial and a part of me wants it purely for the pink packaging, haha

      The Institut Esthederm AHA Peel Gentle Serum sounds lovely and really potent! Will definitely need to check it out once I finish some of these products!

  11. Cat L. says:

    This post was so informative and helpful! I do love a good exfoliating acid but have to be careful as I struggle with super sensitive skin. I have used some of the products you mention (Pixi Glow Tonic, Good Genes, Verso Retinol Serum) in the past and really liked how they left my skin. I do want to try the Mandelic though. Collen Rothchild has one that I’ve had my eyes on for quite some time now, but the one you suggest also sounds interesting.
    I’ve tremendously enjoyed reading this post, well done Jenny!

    ~ Cat L.

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you so much Cat, always appreciate your support here on the blog and on IG! <3 I've definitely gotten carried away with exfoliating in the past and left my skin red and angry, and it's something I'm very mindful of as well now. I wasn't aware of any Western brands that had mandelic acid based products (other than Makeup Artist Choice), so thank you for mentioning Collen Rothchild! Will have to check out their product! :D

  12. Emily says:

    I use the Pixi Glow Tonic pretty religiously. I need to bookmark this post, as I’ve been wanting to get more out of my comfort zone with AHAs. Btw, the title of this post is genius! I see what you did there ;)… Some of these brands have definitely been on my radar, so it’s nice to hear good things about them! Hope you have a lovely weekend lady.


    • Jenny says:

      Haha, thank you, glad you enjoyed the pun :P Pixi Glow was one of my first exfoliating products, but honestly there are so many great options out there it’s hard to just commit to one! Hopefully you’ll find something that works really well for your skin. Hope you have a great weekend too!

  13. Lorna says:

    Wow, that really lightens and smooths on your hand! I’m not overly familiar with acid, but I do use an exfoliater with a small amount of it in.

    Raindrops of Sapphire

  14. Violette says:

    Great post and so interesting, I have to try these products! Thanks you for sharing!

  15. Girl, I am in love with this post!! My skin has been so dull and dry looking this past 2 weeks – I’m desperate to try anything that’ll make my skin baby smooth. Thanks for sharing hun.

    Amy ❤️

    • Jenny says:

      Aw thanks so much Amy! Exfoliants are definitely a must have when my skin is rough and dull. Especially if you layer a sheet mask on afterwards, the results are amazing!

  16. I really want to try the Pixi Glow Tonic as I’ve heard so much about it! I’ve used and enjoyed the Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Pads. Such a helpful post!

  17. Nailderella says:

    What a great article! It’s so informative. I love especially BHA and started using a PHA cream not so long ago and I also like it a lot. My holy grail BHA is by cosrx (the pad version).
    and I’m so excited because I have the Wish Formula and Common labs in the mail!!

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you so much lovely! Which PHA cream are you using? I’ve been trying to look for more products with PHA but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of them on the market yet. That’s so exciting that you’ll be trying the Wish Formula & Common Labs products soon, hopefully you’ll love them as much as I do!

      • Iveta Babiakova says:

        Cosrx PHA moisture renewal cream came out in May, Swanicoco has PHA 10% coco peeling cream and Make P:rem has PHA line with toner, serum and sleeping pack. You can get it at Glow recipe but I found the whole line from eBay seller from Korea for less than half (under 60 USD while GR sells it for about 120). Hope this helps. I haven’t tried the Swanicoco yet but love the others.

  18. Hannah says:

    Thank you for this post! I’ve heard about AHAs everywhere but I was so confused about what they did, but you explained this perfectly! Now, I’ve always struggled with a red nose, and some redness in general. But I’ve noticed that I have a little dark spots on my nose and really flaky dry skin. What would your recommendations be for me?


    • Jenny says:

      So glad to hear that Hannah!! Hmm, your skin actually sounds a bit like mine (minus the really dry part), so I think the mandelic acid water might work well for you, just because it’s the most gentle one and it has some soothing ingredients which should help with the redness. For my nose I also like to use the Cosrx Blackhead Power Liquid as that seems to work the best at clearing out the little dark spots (sebaceous filaments). If you do try them I hope they’ll work as well for you as they did for me!

  19. Alyssa says:

    I like to consider myself an acid veteran because I actually have a bi-annual chemical peel treatment from my go-to dermatologist :) and oh boy! The down time is really a drag that’s why sometimes I just prefer acid toners. I both used Pixi and Wishtrend, and honestly, I prefer Wishtrend because it’s more hydrating and cheaper for me :D But I think I may try your recommendations for those who travel and for those who are lazy, it sounds like they will suit my lifestyle haha!

    xx Alyssa // STYLE VANITY

    • Jenny says:

      Oh wow you really are an acid veteran! :D One of these days I’d like to try out a chemical peel from a professional as well, but I am a little worried about the downtime, so I can see why you might prefer acid toners. Peeling pads are great too, and I like that they come in different strengths and acid types! Hope you’ll find one that works well for you!

  20. Madame X says:

    Saving your post for guide! I am not really an expert on makeup and skin care, but I am learning all about other products! Great list!

    Madame X
    The Flower Duet

  21. Yanrula says:

    I love how you detailed all the available choices out there! I’m personally using the COSRX Blackhead Power Liquid and it has saved me from so many awkward breakouts on my chin! And you got the By Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water! I’m gonna give it a try once I’m done with my COSRX :D

    • Jenny says:

      Aw thank you hun! The COSRX blackhead power liquid was a staple in my routine back when I kept breaking out, it’s really amazing at keeping my pores clean! Excited to hear your thoughts on the By Wishtrend Mandelic Acid, hope you’ll love it too!

  22. This is a fantastic roundup! I generally prefer chemical exfoliation to physical exfoliation when it comes to my face. I see some products here that I’ve tried like the Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads and Sunday Riley Good Genes. Good Genes is pricey but it actually works well for me. I just can’t stand the smell of it. And those glycolic pads are just so reliable. I actually have my husband on the Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid and it does a really job of keeping his skin smooth and clear. I feel like I’m the only one who hasn’t tried the Pixi Glow Tonic. I swear I will get to it one of these days. A product that I currently swear by is the Drunk Elephant Babyfacial. It’s a little $ but it gives me such baby soft skin.

    • Jenny says:

      Thanks so much Rowena! I really should give my husband the Cosrx Blackhead Power Liquid to try as well, goodness knows his nose could use this, lol! The Pixi Glow Tonic is such a classic product, but I feel like with all these other exfoliating products I own I rarely reach for it now (it’s still a good product though!). I’ve heard good things about the Drunk Elephant Babyfacial, it’s on my list of products to try after I finish one of these!

  23. Samantha says:

    I love how informative your posts are!! I know Shireen talked about the mandelic acid recently, so that’s definitely on my list, even more so that you said it’s good for beginners (as that’s exactly what I am!) I’ve always leaned toward physical exfoliation, mostly because chemical ones can get very confusing, but I’m slowly sorting my way through them, haha. Have you tried the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling pads? I’ve heard they’re great so I wanted to try them out, but if you’ve tried them, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts!

    Sam / My Beauty Cloud

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you so much Sam! I was overwhelmed at first when I started using chemical exfoliants, and unfortunately one of the first products I tried was the Sunday Riley Good Genes, which was definitely too strong. Luckily I switched to mandelic acid soon after (the Dr. Wu serum specifically) and my skin adjusted much better!

      I haven’t tried the Neogen peeling pads yet, but they’ve been on my wishlist for a while now! When I finish one of my current products I’ll probably add that to my rotation :D

  24. Billie says:

    This post is so informative! Loved reading it. I’ve been using the Glow Tonic lately and I think I will move on to something a little stronger by the end of the year.

    Billie |

  25. Sian says:

    This is fantastic post – so many great product suggestions! I love Pixi Glow Tonic and my favourite ever exfoliator is MAC Volcanic Ash, not ideal for sensitive skin but great if yours is tough like mine! xxxxx

  26. Tsukiakari says:

    Great post!
    Can you follow me? I follow you :)

    Have a nice day!

  27. Amy says:

    Ahh I loved this post! I think acid toning has made one of the biggest improvements to my skin I’ve seen. I can’t get enough! Lots to try from your post, especially from the veterans section. I love Pixi glow tonic for every day and also Sunday Riley Good Genes. I have been using Alpha H liquid gold too and loving that.

    Amy –

    • Jenny says:

      Thanks so much Amy! I agree with you, adding acids in my routine has made a huge difference, but I’ve definitely had my share of times where I got a little too enthusiastic and overexfoliated. The Alpha H liquid gold has been on my radar for a while now, do you find it stronger than Good Genes?

  28. Marina Rosie says:

    Yes Jenny – yet another amazing post here! You never fail to produce informative content that I love to read (and, admittedly, reread a lot) My skin can sometimes be quite dull, however, it is sensitive, so I’ve noted down some of the less aggressive products for purchase. You’re absolutely right about the Sunday Riley – my skin flared up MAJORLY after use! Never buying it again! However, I’m absolutely blown away by the effects of the Wish formula product – there is genuinely a visible difference! I’ll have to get it, too tempted! xx
    Lots of love,
    Marina Rosie xx

    • Jenny says:

      Aww you’re always so sweet Marina, thank you so much!! It’s crazy how divided people’s opinions are of Good Genes, they either love it or hate it! I’m secretly glad I’m on the side that hates it because it means one less expensive product I need to purchase, hehe. Definitely check out the Wish Formula pads, they’re amazing for brightening!

  29. Kiran says:

    Great, comprehensive post. I am an AHA fanatic so this is very relevant to me. I haven’t tried any of the products suggested though so must look into that! Thank you for sharing x

    ALittleKiran | Bloglovin

  30. Hannah says:

    There are some really great picks here! I really want to try the Pixi Glow Tonic, as everybody seems to love it xx

    Hannah | luxuryblush

  31. Kathy says:

    Great post! Would love to try COSRX products. As for Sunday Riley’s Good genes, I don’t really have the guts to gamble because of the reviews of people saying that it was not worth the price or them having breakouts!
    xx, Kathy

    • Jenny says:

      Thanks so much Kathy! Cosrx is one of my favorite brands for affordable but effective skincare products, they also have a great AHA essence that I’ve sampled in the past and enjoyed. With Sunday Riley’s Good Genes definitely see if you can get a sample to test out first, I know so many people that swear by it, but there seems to be just as many (including myself) who don’t think it’s worth the price.

  32. Demilade says:

    Ooh nice list, I’m a proud supporter of AHAs and BHAs haha. I currently use The Ordinary’s 30% AHA + 2% BHA (I think that’s what it’s called) once a week and I think it works well. Never tried any of the ones you mentioned but would love to try Pixi’s Glow Tonic as everyone raves about it. xx
    Coco Bella Blog

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you Demilade! Oh wow that’s a strong combo but glad to hear it’s working well for you! The Ordinary’s products are on my list to try, especially since they’re so affordable too. Glow Tonic is a classic and was a favorite of mine for several years!

  33. Nathalie says:

    What a great post featuring products that I haven’t heard before. I absolutely love acids they have made my skin looking less dull and have helped a lot with the texture of my skin. Thanks for sharing your collection and thoughts on these different acid.


  34. Sofia says:

    I really want to try the Glow Tonic!!!!!

    xx Sofia | SOFIAADOT

  35. Keri says:

    Omg this is one of the most informative posts! Thanks so much for giving this breakdown of exfoliants

    Enclothed Cognition

  36. Camilla says:

    Awesome post! Great to see some products I’m familiar with as well as introduction to new products! I totally agree, the Wishtrend Mandelic Acid water is better than Pixi Glow Tonic in pretty much every way…I love it! I’ll have to check out that Dr. Wu serum sometime, it sounds amazing.

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you Camilla! If you like the Wishtrend Mandelic Acid I think you’ll really like the Dr. Wu serum as well! They also have a 6% serum, though that’s not as exciting anymore since we already have the 5% skin prep water :P

  37. Noelle says:

    This was great! your crash course on acids was so interesting to read and I love how you broke each exfoliant down into different categories based on experience. :)

  38. I love how you break everything down, Jenny. Your posting schedule may be more rare these days but your writing is amazing and I actually get really excited whenever I see a new post from you because I know I will learn something new.

    I am not familiar with PHAs so thank you for the introduction and I’ll need to learn more about it.

    • Jenny says:

      Thanks so much for the sweet comment Shireen, really appreciate your support here on the blog and on IG <3 PHAs are pretty new for me as well, and I'm hoping to try more products with them in the future too!

  39. Velvet Blush says:

    This is such a good post! I use a few too, but my maximum is once a day too or my skin dries out too much. I’ve never heard of the by wishtrend acid but now I’m intrigued since you said it’s better than the Pixi Glow (which is the main one I use) x

    Velvet Blush

    • Jenny says:

      Thanks so much for the sweet comment! Pixi Glow used to be my main acid toner as well, but it’s pretty much been left in the dust since I started using the Mandelic Acid Prep Water – I notice better results and it’s gentler on my skin too!

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