Glycolic acid offers gentle, controlled exfoliation
Helps to clear breakouts and uneven skin tone
Works on both face and body
Accessible price point
Fragrance and sulfates may be irritating for some
Can leave skin a little tight
Not Byrdie Clean
Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser
We put the Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.
Generally speaking, the skin on my face doesn’t respond well to high-strength glycolic acid. Some can use it and wake up looking like a glow worm, whereas I usually end up with redness, irritation, and spots. Thanks to this, I usually opt for milder formulas instead so my skin remains calm.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve written off the ingredient entirely. For example, I like it when used in conjunction with salicylic acid or when added to a gentle cleanser, which is the case in Mario Badescu's Glycolic Foaming Cleanser. So in the spirit of trying new things, I thought I’d give the iconic face wash a go and gauge exactly how my skin fares. Keep scrolling for my detailed review.
Best for: Normal, oily, combination, congested, or dull skin types.
Uses: A treatment cleanse that will gently exfoliate the skin. You can also use it on the body (shoulders, chest, and back) as needed.
Active ingredients: Glycolic acid, marshmallow extract, chamomile.
Byrdie Clean? No; contains parabens.
About the brand: Mario Badescu is an American skincare brand known for its innovative approach to acne and skincare products. Established by the facialist himself in 1967, the line was initially designed to complement his renowned NYC services, and now is a widely popular and accessible brand available at most beauty retailers.
About My Skin: Balanced, but can break out
My complexion is generally pretty balanced, but it can have diva-like tendencies when I’m not looking after it. Things like shine, breakouts, and uneven tone are what I’m usually trying to correct via skincare—those and the occasional bout of dehydration.
I’ve always leaned on chemical exfoliants to keep my skin as clear and even as possible, but I always err on the side of caution (no one wants a red, itchy, sensitive face). That’s why an exfoliating cleanser is a nice middle ground—they’re not as intense as a leave-on formula.
The Ingredients: Smoothing and calming agents
It won’t come as a surprise that the heavy-hitting ingredient here is glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is part of the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family, which is known to slough off surface cells, leaving the complexion smooth and even. AHAs don't dissolve oil, so they won't clear out clogged pores—try something with a BHA if that's what you are looking for. But they will remove the dead skin that contributes to congestion.
In terms of other ingredients, there’s sage leaf and chamomile to mitigate potential irritation. The only real gripe I have is the fragrance. Where possible, I try to avoid heavily scented products as they can be sensitizing for me. This cleanser does have a strong smell I could probably do without, but so far, I have no issues to report.
How to Apply: Take your time
The most important thing with Mario Badescu's Glycolic Foaming Cleanser is to massage it into your skin for at least 45 seconds, or you’re essentially just washing precious acids down the drain before they have a chance to work. I like to use it as a second cleanse two to three times a week, and really focus on flaky spots like the nose and around the eyebrows.
An added bonus of this cleanser is it's also great on the body. I’ve been using it on the back of my arms to nix keratosis pilaris. Just work it in thoroughly, rinse, and you’re done. It's so quick and easy, it almost feels like cheating.
The Results: Smooth, radiant skin
After two weeks of consistent use, I'm pleasantly surprised with just how much of a difference this product made. My face definitely feels smoother and a tiny bit more radiant and even, likely due to the gentle exfoliation. While I wouldn't say it's overly stripping, it did leave my skin a little tight, so I was sure to follow up with a hydrating serum each time.
As for the back of my arms, the results have been pretty magical. While I don't have too much congestion, I do get whiteheads and a bumpy texture, but as of now my arms are as smooth as a baby's bottom. I know using a cleanser on your body isn't super economical, but Mario Badescu is reasonably priced and because of the foaming action, a little goes a long way.
The Value: Not too bad
Value-wise, Mario Badescu is always pretty reasonable. This cleanser is $16 for 6 oz., and if you use it properly, even a small amount of product is effective. And if you want to rely on it as your sole means of exfoliation (which you absolutely can), I think the cost per use is great. Compared to other exfoliating cleansers on the market, it's definitely on the more accessible end of the spectrum as well.
Similar Products: You've got options
Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash: If you still want to gently exfoliate the skin but prefer a BHA to dissolve oil and unclog pores, this Dermalogica cleanser ($39) uses salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and zinc to reduce the incidence of breakouts.
Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser: This cleanser from Murad ($42) is excellent when it comes to both polishing the skin and dissolving clogged pores. It's a blend of AHAs and BHAs to brighten, clarify and refine. Plus, it's buffered with nourishing jojoba and sodium PCA to maintain moisture levels.
Dr. Dennis Gross AlphaBeta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel: If you've got acne-prone skin, you'll love this deeply cleansing gel from Dr. Dennis Gross ($38). It's light and only emulsifies slightly, so it won't strip the skin. There’s also farnesol, an ingredient that helps to prevent the growth of acne-causing bacteria in the first place.
Mario Badescu's Glycolic Foaming Cleanser probably isn’t a product I would have picked up normally (the brand's Drying Lotion is my go-to breakout solution for life), but I won’t deny the fact that I really liked it. In fact, it's one of the few glycolic products I’ve used that doesn’t irritate my complexion. If you’re looking for a simple, low-stakes, gentle way to achieve smooth and clear skin, I think it’s well worth the $16 price tag.
- Product Name Glycolic Foaming Cleanser
- Product Brand Mario Badescu
- Price $16
- Weight 6 oz.
- Full Ingredient List Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Cocamide MEA, Glycolic Acid, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Hypericum Perforatum Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Althaea Officinalis Leaf/Root Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance, Propylene Glycol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea.