One of the biggest perks of being a skin-care editor is testing a lot of products. Like, a lot. And even better than that is when I come across something I haven’t tried before and immediately add it to my skin-care routine. Which is exactly what happened with Alpha-H Liquid Gold.
I should probably back up a bit. Last month, Alpha-H Liquid Gold, a liquid chemical exfoliator, landed on my desk — all the way from Australia, I might add — for testing. After a quick Google search and some Instagram sleuthing, I discovered that what was now in my hands was the skin-care brand’s best-seller — to the tune of two 100-milliliter bottles sold every minute of every day, all over the world. Knowing this, I couldn’t wait to try it.
But before I did, I had to investigate the ingredient list. The aptly named Liquid Gold is chock-full of glycolic acid — 5 percent glycolic acid, to be exact. For the unfamiliar, glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that can “effectively exfoliate skin to promote cell turnover, leading to smooth skin,” says cosmetic chemist Ginger King.
When applied to the skin, glycolic acid chemically exfoliates dead skin cells on the skin’s top layer to smooth and brighten skin over time. What makes it so powerful, though, is its size. Of all the AHAs, it has the smallest molecules, meaning it penetrates skin easier and faster, leading to the most dramatic results.
“There’s a reason glycolic is the acid used the most in products and doctor’s-office peels,” Ranella Hirsch, a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based dermatologist, previously told Allure. “It does the job.”
All of this is to say: Glycolic acid is serious business. I thought maybe it would be a little too serious for my sensitive skin — until I started using Liquid Gold, which (bear with me, I’m about to get skin-care nerdy over here) has a relatively low pH of 2.8. (Quick refresher on skin’s pH balance: Your skin typically falls at 5.5 on the pH scale. “Anything below 7 is acidic; above 7 is alkaline, and 7 is neutral, like water,” King previously told Allure.)
That being said, finding a product with a low pH would theoretically work more effectively, according to King. Which is probably why my sensitive skin was able to easily tolerate all of the glycolic acid in Liquid Gold. According to Alpha-H, their formula’s low pH means your skin has to work harder to reset itself — your skin feels firmer in the morning because it’s literally had a “workout.”