Glycolic acid works as an exfoliating agent because of its high acidity but easy solubility. When placed on the skin as part of an exfoliating cream or gel, glycolic acid goes under the damaged upper layers of skin and destroys the 'glue', which holds dead skin to the surface. As this dead skin is chemically burned off, the other ingredients carry the individual flakes away and a water rinse neutralizes the remaining acid. The result is a much-smoother skin surface and a more youthful appearance. A secondary benefit is glycolic acid's ability to draw moisturizers into the newly exfoliated skin surface.