April 9, 2018
The benefits of using acid seem endless – smooth skin, less breakouts, softer wrinkles, even skin tone…
And there’s nothing to be scared of. Using the word ‘acid’ and ‘skin’ in the same sentence can feel strange at first, but it’s inportant to remember our skin (and indeed, our whole body) is made up of chemicals some of which, yes, are acids.
There are hundreds of different acids we could use on our skin, but today I’m going to try and keep things as simple as possible and talk about the main players for exfoliation – and those to look out for are glycolic, salicylic and lactic. And within those, there are two categories: AHA and BHA. Alpha hydroxy acids penetrate the top layer of the skin, while Beta hydroxy acids penetrate deeper into the skin. Glycolic and Lactic are both AHAs and great for anti aging while Salicylic is a BHA and used to tackle those under the skin spots and breakouts.
Acids work by dissolving the ‘cement’ that holds dead skin cells to the surface, keeping it from shedding naturally. So using an AHA will get rid of the unwanted layer of dead skin and give you that glowing look. This also means any serum or skincare products you use have a better chance of actually penetrating the skin (rather than just sitting on top of dead skin) which means your serums will work better! Win win.
There is actually only one BHA and that is salicylic acid. It works in a similar way to AHAs but on a deeper level. Because it is oil soluble it is able to penetrate into the pore lining where it can dissolve clogs that lead to bumps on the skins surface. It’s also great at calming the skin so if your skin is more sensitive, it’s the one for you. (Although NB I have sensitive skin and use AHAs with no problems).
Don’t think of acids as drying the skin (*flashback memories of stinging toners from adolescence*) they’re completely different – they balance the pH of the skin and hydrate, too. They can be used daily to amazing effects. Your skin will be smoother, firmer and wrinkles will soften. I really can’t recommend them enough! Below I’ve listed some of my favourites. I use them directly after cleansing all over my face and décolletage. And make sure you ALWAYS wear sunscreen if you use one. Always.
Pixi Glow Tonic
Perhaps the most well known (and affordable) acid on the market. A simple and effective product with 5% glycolic acid, gentle enough to use everyday HERE
Skinceuticals Glycolic 10
I’m a big fan of all things Skinceuticals so I was really excited when they recently launched this product. This is one you use at night as it’s a 10% glycolic, and more of a gel consistency so you can apply it directly to the skin. HERE
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA liquid
Her ground breaking formulas launched in 1995 and they’re still some of the best out there today. This % of BHA is perfect for sensitive skin, too, and will unclog pores of dead skin cells. I apply with a cotton wool pad after cleansing. HERE
Alpha H Liquid Gold
This was the first acid I ever tried, probably about four years ago. It’s a cult classic and uses 5% glycolic acid and liquorice root extract to soften the skin too. HERE
Sunday Riley UFO Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil
Acids in an oil? Oh yes. Infused with salicylic acid this is a great way to brighten and help heals past breakouts faster at the same time as preventing new one. Use a few times a week for best results. HERE
Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
A great all in one product that has both AHA and BHA at 12% (total) which will gently resurface and refine the skin texture overnight. It’s got raspberry extract in too – hence the name – to soothe the skin at the same time. A new cult classic. HERE
Clinique Clarifying Lotion 1.0
A recent discovery for me, and gentle enough to use twice a day (this isn’t like the stingy one you used to use when you were younger!) It’s got Salicylic in so would be great for anyone with the odd minor breakout. HERE
Biologique Recherche P50W
The OG of skincare acids. P50 first starting selling in 1970 – yup! It mixes a whole concoction ingredients including salicylic and lactic acids, smells awful, but has a cult following and I trust anything my BR facialist tells me to use. There are many types depending on your skin type. I use P50W (for weak) for my sensitive skin. I’d tell you which is for which but you can find out HERE with a consultation, or head to Liberty or EF Medispa.
REN Ready Steady Glow
Also a recent discovery, and I’m so glad it came across my path as it’s my new favourite gentle glow-to! It uses Lactic Acid to exfoliate and brighten the complexion and Willow Bark to tone the pores, too. HERE