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  • Writer's pictureGrace


Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Think back to Chemistry lessons at high school where the word ‘acid’ was only used to describe harmful substances. Would you believe it when I say that most acids are now more commonly known for providing some of the best ingredients in the skincare industry due to their amazing exfoliation properties and hydration properties (Hyaluronic Acid). But how do you know which acids will be best for you? I’ve put together everything you need to know about each of these skincare acids to make your choice a little bit easier.

There are many different types of acids in the market, the main 2 contenders being AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) and BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids). Let’s look at the AHA’s first.

Glycolic Acid, an AHA, is originally derived from Sugar Cane. Glycolic Acid is most effective in treating mild acne scarring, rough skin texture and helping to lighten pigmentation and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Due to the smaller molecule of Glycolic Acid, it is one of the more irritating acids that can cause skin irritation if not used safely. Best suited for ageing skins and pigmentation.

Lactic Acid, again an AHA, is formed from Sour Milk. With a variety of anti-aging skin benefits, this makes it a perfect option for those more mature skins. It can help to improve signs of ageing by stimulating collagen renewal, speeding up cell turnover and also it helps to increase the natural barrier lipids and skins natural moisturising factor, helping to keep the skin moisturised.

Mandelic Acid, derived from bitter almonds, is one of the least irritating AHA acids due to its time taken to penetrate the skin. It’s unsuitable for oily skin, but together with salicylic acid, it works well for darker skin tones and discolouration issues. Most effective in treating acne, pigmentation, improving elasticity and wrinkles and fine lines by promoting collagen production. It is also amazing for dry skin as it increases sebum (oil) production.

The most common BHA which is widely known in the Skincare industry is called Salicylic Acid. Salicylic Acid is derived from the bark of the Willow tree and is best suited for breakout prone skin and sensitivity. This exfoliator works by going deep into the hair follicle and unclogging it, also helping to encourage the skins natural pore cleaning process. It also acts as an effective anti- inflammatory, making it the best option for inflamed breakouts and sensitive skin.

Then finally, there is a number of acids that neither come under the AHA or BHA umbrella but are equally as amazing in delivering desirable results.

Azealic Acid is a dicarboxylic which naturally occurs on the skin, produced by yeast. It is also found in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s most effective in treating pigmentation, breakouts and helping to calm rosacea symptoms. It also is an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, making it suitable for all skin types including sensitive.

Kojic Acid is produced by different types of fungi. It is also a by-product during the fermentation of rice wine and soy sauce. It can irritate the skin but gives visible results, however it makes the skin sun sensitive. It’s best effective for treating pigmentation, sun damage, blemishes and it also has anti-aging effects.

Malic Acid is also produced by the body naturally, but in skincare products it is derived from unripe apples. Best suited for mature, sensitive and combination skin as this acid doesn’t irritate. Its main benefits are reducing the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles, promoting cell turnover rate, decreasing blemishes, and smoothing the overall skin texture.

Ferulic Acid is a hydroxycinnamic acid, found in plant cells. With its antioxidant properties, it helps to fight free radicals which cause premature signs of ageing. It also protects and heals important structures in the skin, making this the best option for mature skin or damaged skin.

Phytic Acid is again neither an AHA nor a BHA, in fact it is an antioxidant that helps to fight off free radicals which cause premature ageing. It can also prevent blackheads and shrink pores, making it a great option for congested skin with larger pores.

So now you have all the tools equipped to help you choose which acid is best for your skin, be mindful to use them sensibly, as although these ingredients give astonishing results, they can cause damage if used incorrectly.

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