The world of skincare products is ever so growing and confusing. It happens to all of us – we get lost trying to find one product and end up examining a completely different one, just because it looks interesting. It’s definitely tempting to try out every single product on the market, but it’s not always the best idea. Your skin doesn’t like to be experimented on very much, so switching all of your products every single week is not only harmful to your budget but also for your face.
That is why it’s important to be knowledgeable about how different products affect your skin even before you buy it. It’s unrealistic to know how every single product functions and what it does for your skin, but if you’re looking for something specific, it’s important to start from there.
Which brings me to today’s subject – acids. No, acids aren’t merely reserved for chemistry class, they’re actually something your skin can benefit from greatly. Every acid has a specific function, and with that, unique benefits which come along with it. Let’s explore every single type of acid suitable for the face so you can decide whether you need it in your skincare routine.
You’ve probably come across vitamin C as an ingredient in some of your cosmetic products. In fact, it’s one of the most commonly found ingredients for skin brightening and anti-aging benefits. Well, ascorbic acid is one form of vitamin C and it seems to be superior to the others. Why you might ask? It’s because it contains a large number of antioxidants which help the skin look refreshed, firm and healthy. So ascorbic acid will not only help with wrinkles and fine lines, but it can also help with saggy skin.
If you add this antioxidant powerhouse in your skincare routine, you will likely notice improvements within weeks. In addition to brightening the skin tone, vitamin C is amazing for an evening out the skin tone. It helps with hyperpigmentation and acne scars.
But there’s more! It seems like the list of benefits from ascorbic acid are endless! Not only will it help maintain your youthful and firm skin, but it will also protect it from external stressors and environmental pollutants. If you live in an area with high pollution, then this benefit is probably very appealing to you. Have we convinced you to try ascorbic acid yet?
If you want to optimize the benefits of this acid, you could try combining it with another antioxidant, or simply purchasing a product which contains other skin-beneficial ingredients alongside ascorbic acid. Each product varies in terms of how high the concentration of vitamin C is, but research shows that both high and low concentrations of vitamin C have the potential to help the skin repair itself.
It’s important to note that vitamin C doesn’t agree with every other ingredient out there. For instance, it shouldn’t be combined with niacinamide (a vitamin B3 derivative) because it can cause negative effects on the skin.
This strange sounding acid is actually quite useful for us since it comes with many benefits for the skin.
Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid which has an incredible exfoliating function on the skin. On top of that, it aids the process of unblocking the pores and improves the texture of our skin.
Just like vitamin C derivatives, azelaic acid also contains a myriad of antioxidants which do all sorts of wonders for the skin.
You might be wondering where this useful acid comes from. Although it’s usually derived from rye, barley, and wheat, this acid is usually made in the lab. The acid most often found in cosmetic products is lab-made, but that doesn’t make it any less helpful.
If you consider purchasing this acid, be wary of the fact that it’s not always easy to find. The reason behind its unavailability is the fact that it’s quite hard to make, so the amount of acid produced is quite sparse. As far as what the best concentration for topical application is, there is a consensus among dermatologists that a 10% solution or less has the best benefits.
This acid is among the most commonly used acids for the skin, as well as some of the most useful for many types of skin issues.
AHAs are acids which are used in many skincare products such as toners, creams, moisturizers, cleansers, and masks.
There are seven types of AHAs acids:
All of the abovementioned types of AHAs carry unique benefits which come with regular application. When it comes to which ones are tested out and researched the most, lactic acid and glycolic acid take the cake.
To anyone familiar with skincare, it’s no secret that AHAs have many benefits for our skin. For starters, they help prevent breakouts and scarring. They not only work as a preventative measure, but they also help heal existing acne, marks, and scarring. In terms of anti-aging benefits, they will help you achieve a youthful look due to the fact that they promote collagen production and blood flow to the face (they have a similar effect to exercise). The amount of collagen which our skin produces decreases as we age, so it’s very important to keep in mind that it’s optimal to start using anti-aging products while we’re in our twenties so that we can prevent premature signs of aging. But they don’t only prevent fine lines and wrinkles, they help to smooth out any existing ones!
Moreover, AHAs help brighten the complexion and they help the skin shed off dead skin cells, making them an amazing option for when you’re in need of thorough exfoliation. A saturation of dead skin cells makes our complexion look dull and unhealthy, not to mention it can lead to potential congestion and breakouts.
Now that we’ve explained exactly what AHAs are, let’s move on to their strongest competitor – BHAs.
BHAs have an amazing exfoliating ability. They’re perfect for those of you who suffer from oily skin, acne or blackheads. Exfoliators usually shed off the first, topmost layer of skin in order to reveal new skin from underneath. Well, not only do BHAs do this, but they also delve deeper into the pores and remove any congestion that might be present. By doing so, we can conclude that they not only treat existing acne but they also have a preventative function.
The most popular BHA product used as an integral part of many skincare products is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid and it’s derived from plant sources. You might have noticed your favorite skincare product containing salicylic acid inside. Well, this is no coincidence since salicylic acid has been proven to help with the majority of skin issues such as acne, whiteheads, blackheads, blocked pores, and inflammation.
One of the many benefits of using salicylic acid on the skin is that it is a powerful anti-inflammatory tool which you can use if you struggle with inflammation. This usually entails pigmentation, redness, and acne. Salicylic acid can help with all of those problems and it has an almost immediate effect since it decreases the size of the pimple and the redness surrounding it.
As far as the ideal concentration of salicylic acid is concerned, it’s usually best to go from 0.5 and 5 percent. The number you choose will depend largely on how sensitive your skin is and how much you want to get out of the product. For a more intense exfoliation and peeling, it’s recommended to go higher. However, make sure to consult your doctor for the best advice.
The difference between these two distinguished acids is that AHAs are water-soluble, while BHAs are oil-soluble. While both have incredible exfoliating properties, BHAs can penetrate deeper into the skin and thus provide a better cleansing and skin rejuvenation.
By now you might be wondering whether you can technically use both of these types of acids at the same time. The good news is that you can, but it’s usually recommended that there needs to be some space between the applications. For instance, if you use BHAs in the morning, try using AHAs at night or even switch them out week by week. There are some skincare products out there which already contain both of these ingredients, so if you want to purchase some of those you will save yourself the trouble of having to pick two different ones and alternate between them.
If you layer BHAs and AHAs on top of each other, you risk getting some side-effects such as redness and dry skin. In order to avoid this or any other unwanted outcome, follow the alternating days/weeks method. You could also use them on different parts of your face at the same time, assuming that you want different results from both of them.
PHAs or polyhydroxy acids are very similar to AHAs. They are chemical exfoliants which contain properties that are extremely beneficial for the skin.
Although there are several types of PHAs, the most commonly found ones are galactose, lactobinoic acid and gluconolactone.
Similarly to BHAs and AHAs, these do an amazing job of exfoliating the skin and removing dead skin cells which can lead to clogged pores. Regular exfoliation helps keep the skin healthy all year round, so even if you don’t suffer from any skin issues, in particular, it’s recommended that you use one of these in order to maintain a smooth and glowing texture.
PHAs contain a myriad of antioxidants which help fight free radicals, which is one of the most common disease-causing issues.
In terms of structure, PHAs are slightly softer on the skin and don’t penetrate as deeply as BHAs do. There is a slight difference in their structure in regards to their molecules, the ones of PHAs being quite bigger than the others, which is one of the reasons why they don’t go so deep into the skin.
And now for the question some of you might eagerly expect an answer to – can you use BHAs, AHAs, and PHAs at the same time? Believe it or not, it can be done, and some cosmetic companies are doing it on a regular basis. There are a few things you should keep in mind, though. Firstly, don’t use all three in a short span of time, like in a day. If you have sensitive skin, then it might not be the best idea to use all three to begin with. Overusing any of them, no matter what your skin type is, can lead to redness, itchiness, dry patches and irritation. And these are not pleasant or easy to deal with symptoms, so it’s best to play it safe.
If you have sensitive skin, it’s a good idea to stick to PHAs since they’re not as strong as BHAs and AHAs.
Ferulic acid is a type of phenolic antioxidant which is found in many plant sources such as bran, oranges, and apples. Needless to say, this antioxidant can help fight free radicals in the body. Just like other free radical fighting products, ferulic acid too can help with signs of aging, and thus giving your skin a youthful and healthy look. There’s even enough evidence to claim that ferulic acid can protect against environmental pollutants and any other external damage.
It’s found in many skincare products and companies usually combine it with ingredients such as vitamin C and vitamin E. although it’s safe for all the skin types, if you have sensitive skin it’s best to use it cautiously. Try doing a patch test before including it in your regular skincare routine. A patch test is when you test a new product out on one part of your face in order to see how your skin will react to it.
Hyaluronic acid is already naturally found in our skin. It’s an incredible moisturizer and water-retainer and it leaves your skin both hydrated and firm. Not only does hyaluronic acid moisturize the skin, but it also locks the moisture in, so you’ll be left with hydrated skin for hours after the application.
Due to its structure and the fact that it has a similar function to collagen and elastin, it can help fill out fine lines and wrinkles. The amount of hyaluronic acid found in our bodies decreases as we get older, so it’s important to supplement it through using skincare products which contain hyaluronic acid in them. It’s never too early to start with an anti-aging skincare routine, so choosing at least one product which contains this ingredient is a good way to start.
You could also try adding more fruits and vegetables in your diet which contain a lot of antioxidants inside. These also have the benefit of protecting your skin and your body from any inflammation, which is very useful if you’re suffering from any type of skin issues.
If you still have doubts as to whether you should choose hyaluronic or glycolic acid, you can read more in depth here. The good news is that hyaluronic acid can be paired with other harsher ingredients such as Retin A, vitamins and harsher skin treatments such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion, so you don’t have to worry too much about any potential cross-reactions. However, as we’ve already mentioned, you should be careful about pairing it with other acids if you have sensitive skin.
If you have dry skin then this one is for you. Oleic acid is a wonderful moisturizer because it’s very easy to reach deeper skin layers which provide better hydration. As we age, our skin tends to become dryer, so this is a great option for people who want to keep their skin hydrated for years to come.
Like most acids, oleic acid contains many antioxidants which provide a wide range of benefits for both our skin and our bodies. Thanks to its rich and moisturizing texture, oleic acid can also help with certain health conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. We can conclude that oleic acid can be of help whether you have normal skin which is in need of some nutrients, dry skin or aging skin.
Hopefully, you’ve found this comprehensive list of acids useful for your next skincare shopping trip. Getting educated about what we put on our skin is the first step into choosing better products and in return getting better results.
Remember that when it comes to skin health it doesn’t make much difference what you put on your skin if your inside isn’t taken care of. Regular exercise, healthy sleeping patterns and minimizing our stress levels is just as important as the products we use topically, if not more!