The mere thought of “acids” in skincare can be quite scary to a novice to be honest. I know I was. The first thing I thought was that they were going to burn my face off. It also didn’t help that I used to be very awkward and clumsy in high school which resulted in lots of accidents in chemistry class and now I have to put it on my face??? But now I know enough to know of the many different acids in skincare and their benefits.
The truth is; acids are wonderful for the skin. Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, azelaic acid, kojic acid, ascorbic acid among others are now regarded as OGs that have the ability to transform the skin from 0-100 when used in the right way.
Here’s an incomplete guide on some of these good acids in skincare and what they really are…
Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA or Salicylic Acid)
Salicylic acid is a multi-tasking exfoliant that penetrates deep into skin to dissolve clogs that causes blemishes in the skin. Salicylic acid is oil-soluble which makes it best suited to oily skin. This bad boy is also an anti-inflammatory agent that can refine pore size, reduce bumps and textures, soften wrinkles, improve tone and restore hydration to the skin. Multi-tasking indeed. Even though they are used interchangeably sometimes, salicylic acid is not the only known BHA. Betaine Salicylate is also another type of Beta Hydroxy Acid. It’s as effective as salicylic acid when used in double the concentration e.g 4% Betaine Salicylate equals 2% salicylic acid.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid are some of the well known alpha hydroxy acids. AHAs are exfoliating acids. They correct hyperpigmentation, reduce textures, even out skin tone, reduce skin damage, lessen the look of wrinkles. They work by breaking down the glue that hold dead skin together so they can slough off in order to reveal smoother, fresher skin.
A personal fave. A glycosaminoglycan. This superstar is famed for being able to hold up to one thousand times its weight in water. It is also a humectant that draws water to the skin. Hyaluronic acid is also available in many different molecular sizes and is effective in little concentrations such as 2%. Commonly used in lip fillers to plump up the lips.
Ferulic acid is and antioxidant that helps to fight against the damage caused by free radicals. It is typically used in combination with other actives and antioxidants. An absolute powerhouse when combined with ascorbic acid as it helps keep it more stable. Ferulic acid is naturally derived from the walls of plant cells. It has been shown to slow down the aging process and protect against sun damage.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They are also water-binding agents for the skin. They contain antioxidants and calming properties. They occur naturally in the skin and are great for all skin types. They help the skin feel smoother and more hydrated.