If you're reading this article, you probably already know about the benefits of AHAs, or alpha-hydroxy acids. But did you know that you certain, budget-friendly AHA products perform just as well as their more expensive counterparts? That brings us to the
best drugstore AHA products featured here: Everything on this list contains either glycolic or lactic acid (or in some cases both) — the two most popular forms of AHAs — and costs less than $20. But because AHA products come in many different forms, the best one for you will depend on what's currently missing from your routine. For example, if you already have a cleanser and moisturize you love, pick up an AHA serum; or, if you're already all set on the serum front, consider a toner, cleanser, or face cream instead.
AHAs are typically considered safe for most skin types, depending on the concentration and the formula itself, though glycolic acid,
the most active member of the AHA family, may not be gentle enough for people with delicate, reactive skin. If you fall into that category, consider a product with lactic or mandelic acid instead.
Frequency of use may vary (and if you're not sure, ask your dermatologist), but if you're new to exfoliating, start out slow — like,
once a week slow — and you can work your way up to more frequently depending on how your skin reacts. Don't overdo it though, even if you think your skin can handle it: Over-exfoliating can impair your skin barrier, which could eventually lead to dryness and irritation.
Another tip: To keep skin from experiencing irritation, don't add more than one new active ingredient to your routine at a time. Finally, using an AHA
can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, so be sure to apply sunscreen year round, even on cloudy days.
With those tips in mind, scroll on to shop seven of the
best AHA products you can buy for less than $25 right now. We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.
You can't go wrong with
this classic serum from L'Oreal's Revitalift line. The light-as-water formula contains 10% glycolic acid to resurface and exfoliate your skin, while a hearty dose of aloe vera offers soothing and hydrating benefits. With consistent use, you should notice a clearer, more even-looking complexion over time.
Some other highlights: This serum sinks into skin instantly and layers beautifully underneath other products. (If you use it in the morning, be sure to slather a generous amount of sunscreen on top.) And though serums tend to be the priciest skin care products out there, this one costs less than $25 on Amazon.
The Best AHA Face Cream
Pond's Rejuveness face cream contains the AHA lactic acid, which is not only a gentle exfoliant, but also a humectant, meaning it helps hydrate your skin by drawing water to the skin's surface. This bargain cream (you get a 14-ounce jar for around $10) also contains glycerin and collagen for more moisturizing and skin-plumping benefits. RoC's gel cleanser takes brightening vitamin C and pairs it with the AHA glycolic acid to promote a smoother, more even skin texture and tone. Since rinse-off cleansers don't stay on your skin like leave-on products do, they offer a safe way to introduce a new ingredient. Just be sure to follow this up with a nice moisturizer, since gel-to-foam cleansers tend not to be the most hydrating.
With that in mind, this is a great choice for skin that's on the oily side — people with dry skin are usually better off with a creamy, hydrating cleanser (and
here's a great option with glycolic and lactic acids, if you fall into that category). 05
The Best AHA Body Lotion
AmLactin's entire line of skin care products is made with lactic acid, like their cult-classic
Rapid Relief body lotion. This fragrance-free moisturizer is made with glycerin, ceramides, and 15% lactic acid to leave your skin smooth, nourished, and strong. Body lotions that contain chemical exfoliants, like this one, are especially ideal for people who are dealing with body acne, keratosis pilaris, or skin that's just generally flaky or rough. If you're not experiencing noticeable flaking, dryness, or bumpiness, check out their Daily Moisturizing Lotion, which is a bit milder. La Roche-Posay's Effaclar Clarifying Solution is designed for people with acne-prone skin. It combines two highly effective ingredients: a low concentration of the BHA salicylic acid (0.5%) to unclog pores, and the AHA glycolic acid for surface-level exfoliation. Rounding out the toner is the brand's signature thermal spring water from their namesake town in France.
This toner is pretty heavy duty, so while the brand suggests using it twice daily, you should start off by using it only a few times a week. If your skin seems to tolerate it well, you can experiment with using it more frequently.
Another vitamin C and AHA duo, this two-step,
at-home peel from Olay aims to promote smoother, softer, glowier skin. You start by massaging the citrusy vitamin C mask onto your clean, dry skin, then layer on the AHA-based peel activator. You'll notice a warm, foamy sensation as they're combined, and you can then massage the duo into your skin for another minute before rinsing it all off.
This is a fun choice for at-home spa days, but you'll probably only want to use this a couple of times a month. Likewise, due to the combination of actives, this may not be the best choice for sensitive skin. Also, be aware that your skin will be more sensitive than usual after any peel, whether done at the doctor's office or at home, so
only use a super gentle moisturizer after, and skip any additional exfoliating products.