Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) exfoliants are fantastic for giving you glowing smooth skin, fading hyperpigmentation and smoothing away fine lines (you can read more about chemical exfoliation here). AHA exfoliants usually come in gel or serum form, but if you’re lazy, you can also get them as presoaked pads in a jar. Here are some AHA pads that I’ve tested out recently, from Pixi, Nip+Fab, Arcona and philosophy.
Pixi Glow Tonic To-Go
Aqua, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Glycolic Acid, Ammonium Glycolate, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Hexylene Glycol (and) Fructose (and) Glucose (and) Sucrose (and) Urea (and) Dextrin (and) Alanine (and) Glutamic Acid (and) Aspartic Acid (and) Hexyl Nicotinate, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Biotin, Polysorbate 20, Fragrance.
Pixi Glow Tonic is a gentle glycolic acid exfoliant with 5% glycolic acid at a relatively high but still effective pH (4-5), which means it penetrates into the skin slower. I’ve reviewed the liquid version of Glow Tonic before, and this is the convenient, pre-dispensed version. The ingredients also include aloe vera juice (emollient moisturiser that softens skin), witch hazel extract (astringent), horse chestnut and ginseng extracts (antioxidants to prevent free radical damage), and a whole host of humectant moisturisers (glycerin, glucose, fructose etc.)
I found the floral/cucumber scent a bit stronger when I used the pads than when I applied it from the bottle using my fingers, but it fades quickly. The pads are softly textured and come in a white plastic jar.
Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme
Aqua (Water/Eau), Glycolic Acid, Triethanolamine, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Niacinamide, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hydroxide, Benzyl Alcohol, Disodium EDTA, Mandelic Acid, Panthenol, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Limonene, Parfum (Fragrance), Benzyl Benzoate, Dehydroacetic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Geraniol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citral, Linalool.
Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme aren’t actually very extreme – they contain 5% glycolic acid, with small amounts of two other AHAs (lactic and mandelic acids) and salicylic acid as well, to increase exfoliation, at a pH of 4-5. It’s comparable to Glow Tonic in strength, if we’re looking at glycolic acid alone. There’s also hyaluronic acid (humectant moisturiser) and niacinamide (does a whole bunch of things, including quenching free radicals, reducing irritation, building up the skin barrier, and reducing hyperpigmentation).
The pads have a light citrus scent, and are softly textured on one side. They come in a translucent plastic jar.
These will be in Priceline soon at $34.95 AUD for 60 pads ($0.58 AUD per pad). On Amazon, they’re $14.95 USD ($0.25 USD per pad). There isn’t a version of this product without the pads.
Arcona The Solution Pads
Aqua (Distilled Water), Glycerin, Glycolic Acid Polymer, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Beta-Glucosamine HCI, Beta-Fructan, Spin Trap (Phenyl Butyl Nitrone), Fructooligosaccarides (D-beta), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil
Arcona The Solution Pads contain glycolic acid polymer, which means that the glycolic acid molecules are chemically bonded into a long string. I couldn’t find any peer-reviewed studies on it, but it supposedly breaks down and releases glycolic acid slowly, so it’s gradually absorbed. The advantage of this approach is that irritation is reduced. These pads contain 4% glycolic acid polymer which equates to 4% glycolic acid, if it all breaks down. The pH is quite low, at a bit below 3.
Other notable ingredients in the pads are glycerin (humectant moisturiser that grabs onto water to hydrate skin), witch hazel (astringent), beta-glucosamine (possibly reduces hyperpigmentation, also humectant), beta-fructan (humectant) and phenyl butyl nitrone (antioxidant which traps free radicals).
The pads have a light lavender scent, and are softly textured on one side. They come in a pretty frosted plastic jar with a metallic lid.
At Sephora Australia they’re $70 AUD for 30 pads ($2.33 AUD per pad), but on Amazon the jar is only $33 USD ($1.10 USD per pad). The Solution also comes in pump form, and is pretty much the same price for 35 mL in both places.
philosophy The Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel
Water/Aqua/Eau, Alcohol Denat., Glycereth-7 Trimethyl Ether, Niacinamide, Mandelic Acid, PEG-8/SMDI Copolymer, Triethanolamine, Glycolic Acid, Phytic Acid, Arginine, Bisabolol
philosophy The Microdelivery Triple-Acid Brightening Peel uses mostly mandelic acid, an AHA that’s larger in size than glycolic acid, so it penetrates more slowly and is less irritating, making it great for pigmentation-prone or sensitive skin. The other two acids in the “triple acid” trio are glycolic acid and phytic acid, which also act as exfoliating and pigmentation-lightening agents.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find the percentages of the exfoliating acids anywhere – it’s marketed as a peel which means it should be high, but there are a lot of peel products out there that don’t really deserve the name, so it would be good to know. The pads have a pH of 4.
The second ingredient is alcohol, which usually means that there’s a risk of dehydration, but I found that this wasn’t a problem even though I’m quite dehydration-prone. Niacinamide is also included for all the benefits mentioned above (reducing free radical damage, lightening hyperpigmentation, barrier repair etc.).
The pads are fragrance-free which is great for people who are allergic. They’re individually packaged, which is great if you’re a stickler for hygiene, but not so good if you’re trying to cut down on your environmental impact. Since they’re quite thick, there’s actually enough for 2 uses if you cut the pad in half and reseal the foil packet, though you’ll want to use it within a few days to avoid contamination and having it dry out.
I think the individual packaging is factored partially into the price (along with the unusual acid combination). The cost is the highest per pad out of the four products at $90 AUD for 12 pads from Sephora, David Jones or Mecca ($7.5 AUD per pad), even if you use each pad twice ($3.75 AUD per use). On Amazon, it’s currently on sale at $59.18 USD for 12 ($4.93 USD per pad or $2.47 USD per use if you use each pad twice).
Do you like the convenience of exfoliating pads, or do you prefer traditional serums? Let me know what you think!
For more information on smooth glowing skin, make sure you download my free guide to exfoliation!
These products were provided for editorial consideration, which did not affect my opinion. This post also contains affiliate links – if you decide to click through and support Lab Muffin financially (at no extra cost to you), thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.