Emma Hoareau

Emma Hoareau
April 9, 2018



The benefits of using acids 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 important to remember our skin (and indeed, our whole body) is made up of chemicals some of which, yes, are acids. Furthermore, the neutral pH of our skin is acidic, coming in around 4.7-5.7

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: AHA and BHA. Alpha hydroxy acids penetrate the top layer of the skin, while Beta hydroxy acids penetrate deeper into the skin. Glycolic, lactic and mandelic are 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 it’s totally fine to use both AHA and BHA together, since they target different layers of skin. 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

Oskia Liquid Mask Lactic Acid
I love Lactic as it’s derived from milk making it great for even the most sensitive skins. This peel is combined with a cocktail of minerals and vitamins to balance the skin as it encourages a smoother looking complexion. Apply in the evening 2/3 times a week. 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

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

more AHA favourite below – scroll along to see more



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

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

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash
Great for daily use for those with oily skin and / or breakouts, this uses salicylic to help unclog pores and remove dead skin cells. Just as great for prevention as treatment HERE

more BHA favourite below – scroll along to see more


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