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."
But Alpha-H's Liquid Gold is more than just glycolic acid. In fact, the rest of the ingredient list is pretty short (that's a good thing!), with a few notable call-outs. For example, along with glycolic acid, Liquid Gold is also formulated with other powerhouse skin-care ingredients, such as licorice root, which is known as a "very effective skin-brightening ingredient," says King. "It can also calm skin." There are also moisture-binding silk proteins to lock in hydration.
Together, this cocktail of ingredients make Alpha-H Liquid Gold a pretty potent treatment. A treatment free of silicones and parabens that does more than just chemically exfoliate, I might add. Thanks to the mix of multitasking ingredients, Liquid Gold works quadruple duty as a toner, exfoliator, serum, and moisturizer.
A product that works in four different ways sounds like a lofty claim, but after testing — and loving — Alpha-H Liquid Gold for about a month now, I can say with certainty that this stuff actually works. For one, it's a great match for my overly sensitive skin, which often breaks out into hives when I add most alpha hydroxy acids to my routine.