I’ve recently tried out two skincare ranges with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) as their star ingredients: Alpha-H’s A-List Kit and Elucent’s Anti-Ageing range. Today I’m concentrating on the leave-on liquid exfoliants in the ranges.
A refresher: alpha hydroxy acids are fantastic exfoliants, which means they help the layers of your skin detach and shed. This makes your skin look brighter and smoother, and can fade hyperpigmentation (acne marks, freckles) as well as reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Alpha-H Liquid Gold review
Let’s start with Liquid Gold, the hero product of the Alpha-H range. Liquid Gold has tons of rave reviews online, from make-up artists, magazine top lists, big-name bloggers like Caroline Hirons and product review sites, so I had high expectations. It’s a clear watery liquid in a brown bottle with a flip-top lid hidden inside the outer lid. Here’s the ingredient list:
Aqua, Alcohol Denat, Glycolic Acid, Glycerin, Hydrolysed Silk, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Glycyrrhiza Glabra Extract.
Liquid Gold’s active ingredients are:
- Glycolic acid – an AHA exfoliant and humectant moisturiser
- Glycyrrhiza glabra extract – better known as liquorice extract, it contains antioxidants and anti-irritants, and can act as a lightening agent (though there’s less than 1%, and studies which found lightening effects used 10-40% of the pure active ingredients in licorice extract)
- Glycerin and hydrolysed silk – humectants that increase the amount of water binding to the skin
I was surprised to find out that, despite all the reviews saying what dramatic results it gives, Liquid Gold only has 5% glycolic acid. It’s at a pH of 3-4, which in combination with 5% glycolic acid means that it’s an effective chemical exfoliant, but there are many AHA exfoliants that are stronger (for example, the standard AHA from Paula’s Choice is 8% glycolic acid). There are a few possible explanations for this effect I could think of:
- The reviews are from people who have never tried AHAs before, so the effects of 5% glycolic acid seems great already
- Since alcohol is the second ingredient, there’s a fair bit of it and it might be causing stinging which, in addition to the tingling from the low pH, makes people think it’s more effective than it is (I felt some serious tingling with this, even though I’m used to AHAs)
- Since alcohol is a penetration enhancer, it’s helping the glycolic acid penetrate skin faster to give an exfoliating effect like that of a stronger product
It’s unlikely that the high alcohol content will cause any serious damage to your skin, but it can dehydrate your skin – on the other hand, the humectants (glycerin, hydrolysed silk, glycolic acid) should counteract this a bit. The bottle says that you can use this alone for an intensive treatment, and while this could let the glycolic acid penetrate more, I’d be hesitant to do this in case of dehydration.
Overall, this is an effective product, but it’s pricier ($64 for 100 mL) than a lot of other low-strength glycolic acid exfoliants, and the high alcohol content could make this a no-go for some people. You can purchase it from lots of different places (Amazon, Sephora, Adore Beauty, Skincare Store, Beauty Bay).
Elucent Anti-Ageing Serum review
Elucent’s Anti-Ageing range is quite interesting because it centres around AHAs – but most of the products contain lactic acid as well as as the usual glycolic acid. Lactic acid has similar effects as glycolic acid but a few studies have found that it produces less side effects when used in peels, so if you’re hyperpigmentation-prone and worried about rebound hyperpigmentation from your acid exfoliants, lactic acid might be a good alternative to glycolic acid. It’s difficult to find lactic acid AHA products though, so I was excited to try out Elucent’s Anti-Ageing range.
The star of the range is the Anti-Ageing Serum, which contains 16% AHAs (12% lactic + 6% glycolic). The pH is in the optimal range (3.5-4.5). The ingredients are:
Aqua (Water), Glycerin, 12% Lactic Acid, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclotetrasiloxane, 4% Glycolic Acid, Niacinamide, Sodium Chloride, Panthenol, Ammonium Hydroxide, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, PEG/PPG-18/18 Dimethicone, Phenyl Trimethicone, C12-C15 Alkyl Benzoate, Dimethiconol.
There’s no alcohol in this product. The noteworthy active ingredients here are:
- Lactic and glycolic acids – AHAs which exfoliate and act as humectants
- Glycerin – a humectant moisturiser that binds water to the skin
- Cyclopentasiloxane and cyclotetrasiloxane – silicones which act as occlusive moisturisers, as well as slide nicely on skin
- Niacinamide – vitamin B3, which evens out skin tone
- Avena sativa (oat) kernel extract – anti-irritant
- Tocopherol and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate – vitamin E and a vitamin C derivative respectively, can act as antioxidants but are in very low amounts here so I don’t think they’ll do much
There’s a nice cocktail of science-backed beneficial ingredients in this serum. The product is a runny light brown liquid that worryingly separates into oil droplets on a watery base, a lot like salad dressing (the water and silicones do not play together well!), but sinks into skin nicely after you rub it in. I don’t think it’s actually problematic, but it’s a bit disconcerting. It comes in a squeezy tube, which in my opinion is a weird packaging decision – the first time I used it I accidentally squirted out way too much, expecting the sort of thicker serum you usually get in these tubes. It also doesn’t help if you try to shake it to mix up the oil and water – it’ll squirt into your eyes when you open the lid, which is not what you want from a low pH product (ouch!).
There’s some talk of niacinamide in low pH formulations turning into niacin which causes skin flushing, but this hasn’t really been an issue for me, and is unlikely to be a significant issue in general. I don’t think the niacinamide content is particularly high in this serum regardless.
Packaging and formulation issues aside, I really like this serum. I’m seeing decent “glowiness” on my skin, it doesn’t sting (there’s the slightest tingle), and I’m a bit more willing to forgive the price because it’s high in lactic acid, a rare Pokemon in Australian stores (30 mL is $50, but since it’s exclusive to My Chemist and Chemist Warehouse it’s actually always $42.39).
As with all chemical exfoliants, make sure you use a sunscreen if you’re using these, even when they’re not on your skin (your skin will remain more photosensitive for a few weeks after you last use them).
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, thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.