Back in middle school, the exfoliator everyone wanted smelled like apricots and practically ripped off the surface of your face every time you applied it. Now that I know just how terrible it is to over-exfoliate your skin, I can’t imagine subjecting it to such torture, which is why I’ve moved on to far gentler chemically exfoliating options to melt away dead skin cells. And while there are plenty of products on the market that go above and beyond the apricot scrubs of yesteryear, none do it quite as well for all skin types as Alpha H Liquid Gold with 5% Glycolic Acid ($48).

Ask any dermatologist and they’ll tell you that regular exfoliation is critical for keeping your skin healthy. “The benefit of exfoliating your body is to break down and remove dead skin cells from the top layers of the skin and unblock pores to reveal healthy skin cells beneath for a smoother appearance,” Shel Pink,  founder of SpaRitual, previously told Well+Good. To get the job done, you can either physically slough off the dead skin cells with a scrub, or chemically melt them away with an exfoliating acid.

This “liquid gold” serum falls into the latter category, boasting glycolic acid as its hero ingredient. Glycolic is the most well-known—and most intense—alpha-hydroxy acid. It works by breaking the bonds that hold the dead skin cells to the surface of your skin. Generally, the ingredient is used to improve skin’s appearance and texture through exfoliation, but it also helps to stimulate collagen and reduce fine lines, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and uneven skin tone.

With a 5 percent concentration of glycolic acid, Alpha H Liquid Gold isn’t necessarily the most highly concentrated exfoliant you’ll find on the market, but don’t let that number fool you. The serum is formulated at a pH between 2.3 and 3, which means it packs a serious exfoliating punch. The reason? When acids are formulated at lower pH levels, they don’t neutralize, and can therefore resurface your skin more efficiently than higher acid concentrations formulated at higher pH levels. Plus, the low pH temporarily compromises your skin barrier (which, in this case, is a good thing), allowing for the active ingredients to penetrate more deeply.

When introducing a product this intense into your routine, dermatologists suggest starting off slowly (i.e., once a week) and working your way up to using it as frequently as your skin can handle (but no more than three times a week). In a clinical trial conducted by the brand, 93 percent of people saw an improvement in their skin elasticity after using the serum for eight weeks, and another 88 percent saw an improvement in skin tone, texture, and luminosity. Reviews call it “amazing,” noting a visible difference in their skin after only a week of use. Despite its extreme exfoliating properties, Alpha H Liquid Gold is gentle and hydrating enough to use on sensitive and dry skin types without causing irritation. With that in mind, it’s no wonder a bottle of the stuff sells every two minutes.

How to exfoliate your face, according to a dermatologist:

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