You may have heard about acids in skincare… Salicylic acid, Glycolic acid and Hyaluronic acid among others. If these names take you back to high school chemistry class (or to a general state of confusion) – you are not alone. They may not sound like ingredients you want on your skin, but they can be very beneficial when used correctly. Fear not, we are here to demystify acids in skincare for you!
All acids used in skincare offer individual advantages, however to really benefit you have to carefully choose one that is suited to your skin type and concerns. Some acids which are exfoliating are particularly useful for helping your skin look fresh and radiant, and can treat and even prevent acne, wrinkles, and blemishes.
If you are worried about fine lines and wrinkles, then Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs are a good choice. In fact, many of the most popular skincare acids fall into the category of AHAs including lactic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid and more. AHAs are derived from various plants and work by gently removing dead skin cells by breaking down the bonds between them to reveal the fresh new skin underneath. AHAs are humectant which means that they attract moisture to the skin and will exfoliate without drying, and can even improve how well the skin holds onto moisture.
Because AHAs reveal the delicate new skin to the surface, sensitivity to sun exposure is substantially increased so sun protection should always be applied when using any product with AHAs and for at least a week after the last application.
Breakout prone skin
If you have oily or blemish-prone skin, Salicylic acid, also known as Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), has wonderful oil-attracting properties which make it very effective when it comes to clearing blocked pores. Salicylic acid cuts through and effectively clears out oils and excess sebum. It is perfect for breakout-prone skin as it also has anti-inflammatory properties which help calm the skin. Similar to AHAs, Salicylic acid does help to minimize wrinkles and also to brighten the skin. Another reason it is also recommended for those who have breakout-prone and sensitive skin is that it works more gently than physical scrubs which may create small, invisible cuts to the skin’s surface and increase irritation and the potential for infection.
When you hear “acid” you most likely imagine something that peels or exfoliates, however hyaluronic is in the hydration game. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring hydrating agent and humectant (meaning it helps skin attract and retain moisture in the skin). The application of hyaluronic acid has a plumping effect on the skin. As a loss of moisture leads to early signs of aging and loss of elasticity, hyaluronic acid helps to replenish the skin and protect it against ageing.
AHAs can also be used to improve the condition of dry skin. Not only does frequent exfoliation with a gentle AHA reveal softer, smoother skin, their humectant properties help the skin attract and retain moisture.
Elasticity, pigmentation and age spots
Vitamin C, or L-ascorbic acid which is a form of vitamin C, is one of the most powerful antioxidants in skincare. Vitamin C is known for its firming and brightening benefits and its ability to reduce the appearance of age spots and sun-damage related hyperpigmentation. This incredible vitamin also helps to protect the skin from environmental stressors and sun damage.
Start with a patch test and identify purging
Better safe than sorry! Whenever you introduce a new ingredient or product to your skincare regimen, we highly recommend that you do a patch test first to ensure your skin doesn’t have a reaction. Apply a small amount on your wrist or behind your ear to see how your skin reacts – if you experience anything more serious than very mild and passing redness or irritation, this is not the right product for you. It is also a good idea to bear in mind that your skin may experience mild ‘purging’ when you begin using a new chemical exfoliator such as an AHA. This involves mild, non-cystic breakouts which emerge as clogs are brought to the surface, and pass relatively quickly. If you experience persistent, cystic breakouts for an extended period of time, unfortunately this product is likely to be unsuitable for your skin type.