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The Exfoliator That'll Take Your Old Face Right Off

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Alpha Skin Care Enhanced Renewal Cream 12% Glycolic AHA
Alpha Skin Care Enhanced Renewal Cream 12% Glycolic AHA ($15)

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When anyone suggests that “burning it down” is the way to repair something I fundamentally value — our democratic institutions, for example — my reaction is suspicion and rage. That’s dangerous, I think. No! The exception is when I hear myself talking about how to exfoliate my face. “Start over,” urges a terrifying inner voice. Yes, I nod as I clutch harsh products that could do more harm than good.

Alpha Skin Care Enhanced Renewal Cream 12% Glycolic AHA is a powerful exfoliating face lotion I bought because it gets five stars in Beautypedia and costs less than $20 at Ulta. Beautypedia praises its ability to “help reduce the appearance of fine lines” and lists its cons as “none.”

Thanks to the lotion’s high alpha hydroxy acid concentration, it does sting a little, especially around my eyes after I slather it on at night. But once the tingling dies down, the serum I add next disappears as I rub it in. (Meaning the serum's vitamins are sinking in deeper. I think.)

After three months of use, my smile lines look smoother. My sun spots are fading. And tinted moisturizer evenly glides into place, like I applied it with a blending sponge instead of my fingers and some toilet paper. All without noticeable patchiness or flaking.

Alpha promises “real results” and delivers. Slowly. It did not singe all my old skin off to reveal a shiny new layer, like I might have hoped, so I tried wearing it twice a day instead of the recommended once. My sunburned forehead was a sign I had gone too far. I needed patience, and to rein in my dosage of face-resurfacing chemicals. I’ll keep using Alpha each night and will remind myself: You can’t torch the house when someone is inside.