Skincare acids are the most versatile little wonders that can be a game changer to ace your skincare game. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) have always been around to exfoliate and brighten your skin, fight acne and rosacea, improve skin texture, smoothen fine lines and wrinkles, and much more!
Who wants a highlighter or foundation, when you can naturally make your skin glow and hydrate from within for effortless and, oh-so-gorgeous skin? The journey to healthy skin begins with opting for the ‘right’ skincare ingredients or actives as per your skin type and skin concerns.
Click here to curate your personalized skin regime.
Let’s cut to the chase, below are specific hero skincare acids, AHAs/ BHAs, to tackle the topmost commonly encountered skin conditions at some point in our lives:
- Azelaic acid, Salicylic acid, Lactic acid: The Acne Busters
- Glycolic acid, Ferulic acid: Age-defying Skin Acids
- Kojic acid: Fade away Hyperpigmentation
- Hyaluronic acid (HA): The most lovable Skin Hydration Replenisher
- Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C): The Glow-boosting Antioxidant
You can go through these once and see which one strikes the cord for you.
Azelaic acid, Salicylic acid, Lactic acid: The Acne Busters
Azelaic acid is the hidden marvel in the skin acids clan for soothing red, inflamed skin and clearing the clogged pores from the bacterial invasion that causes acne and pimples.
Azelaic acid benefits:
Along with pore-cleansing and anti-bacterial properties, azelaic acid has been known to lighten hyperpigmentation and fade acne scarring and blemishes. It is even an FDA-approved treatment for rosacea, which bring about inflammation, redness, and rashes on the skin.
Interested to read more about Azelaic Acid for Skin, click here!
A type of BHA, Salicylic acid is a boon for oily and acne-prone beauties! There is a wide range of salicylic acid face wash, creams, and lotions which works on clearing the skin pores to get rid of dirt and oil buildup on the skin.
Salicylic acid benefits:
This ‘BHA exfoliator’ is effective to remove dead skin cells, blackheads, non-inflamed breakouts and whiteheads.
Read here to learn more about Salicylic Acid for Skin: Its uses & benefits in acne
Stemmed from fermented milk, Lactic acid is one of the mildest and most moisturizing acids. Going back to ancient times, Cleopatra was said to bathe in sour milk for young and beautiful skin.
Lactic acid benefits:
Lactic acid relieves skin redness and irritation and, helps to restore the damaged skin barrier. It lessens the skin microbes, and has been found to shrink the size of acne lesions and erythema by 5%. The use of this AHA has improved the skin texture and appearance, along with lightening of scars and pigmented spots.
Glycolic acid, Ferulic acid: Age-defying Skin Acids
One naturally derived (from sugarcane) and most widely used AHA is- Glycolic acid works to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin cells and has exceptional anti-ageing benefits.
Glycolic acid benefits:
Being the smallest of other AHA’s, this little miracle acid has the advantage of spearing through the skin layers more efficiently to encourage skin brightening, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, evens out skin tone and age spots (A true multitasker, right!)
Mostly used with Vitamin C, Ferulic acid is a highly potent and skin brightening active ingredient of many well-known face serums. This superior antioxidant helps protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals, reducing inflammation and signs of aging.
Kojic acid: Fade away Hyperpigmentation
Kojic acid is all the rage in the Asian skincare market due to its skin brightening, lightening and radiance benefits.
Kojic acid benefits
Kojic reduces the appearance of sun-induced damage on the skin and is a known suppressor of hyperpigmentation to fade away blemishes and age spots.
Hyaluronic acid (HA): The most lovable Skin Hydration Replenisher
Skin looks its best and shines from within, thanks to the power of Hyaluronic acid which is naturally present in the skin and has the to hold 1,000 times its weight in water. Sadly, HA starts depleting when we age, leading to dry, dehydrated skin with more pronounced wrinkles, lines, etc. So, this humectant is widely used in skin care products (creams, gels, lotions, serums) to hold water in the skin to stay moisturized.
As per a 2021 study- ‘HA serum can visually perk up skin plumping and recover skin hydration by 55%’
Hyaluronic acid benefits
This designated ‘water magnet’ is useful to quench dry skin, transforming the skin into a plumper, softer and smoother appearance. It stimulates collagen production, improves skin elasticity and smoothens out fine lines and wrinkles.
Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C): Glow-boosting Antioxidant
Another favorite out of the many skin acids is the- Ascorbic acid, which helps to protect the skin from free radical damage due to environmental stress, UV rays and pollution.
Ascorbic acid benefits
The continued use of this antioxidant can brighten dull skin, boost collagen, and fade unwanted pigmentation and dark spots. It has anti-ageing as it helps to minimize wrinkles and smoothen fine lines.
Pieces of advice:
- Trying acids for the first time, try a wash first! Opt for gentle face washes, as rinsing limits the contact time, and you don’t have to worry much about skin irritation (especially in sensitive and acne prone skin) or over-drying.
- A patch test (behind the ear: Higher concentrations of acids can burn, irritate or can cause a rash or scar on the skin. It is recommended doing a patch test first before starting with a skin care acid. Products with a lower concentration of acids can be a safe bet!
- Don’t forget sun protection: The use of acids can also cause sun sensitivity or allergy. Always wear a broad-spectrum UV protection sunscreen with SPF 30 or more!
- Check the active ingredient: Given the multitudinous brands with active acids in serums, toners, creams and so on, always make a point to read the label and list of ingredients to check for the active ingredient (probably near the top).
- Familiarize yourself with the ‘art of mix-match' of different active ingredients: Mindless pairing of actives can play havoc on your skin. While it is a good practice to pair acids with exfoliating, anti-inflammatory properties along with hydrating blends, muddling up AHAs, BHAs and retinol is no good but can be harsh on the skin. Read here to know which active ingredient combinations you say ‘yes’ to and which to say ‘No’.
- Be extremely cautious before trying a chemical peel at home. Instead of using different peels for multiple skin concerns, use a single peel containing multiple ingredients in low concentrations to treat multiple issues for a win-win situation for your skin.
While the thought of using acids on your skin might seem intimidating at first, picking the right skin care acid can make a visible difference on your skin. AHA BHA are best suited for oily to combination skin, while acids with larger molecules like polyhydroxy acids and mandelic acid are the saviours for dry to sensitive skin and hyperpigmentation. Henceforward, factoring in your skin type and concerns, you can pick your best pick to improve your skin’s health, mindfully.
Q. Can I use AHA daily?
Ans. AHAs with lower concentrations (like in face wash, creams, etc.) can be used daily, whereas higher concentrations should be used as recommended by the dermatologist.
Q. Which is better Vitamin C or ascorbic acid?
Ans. L‐ascorbic acid is the biologically active form of vitamin C. It has been proven to brighten the skin tone, reduce dark spots and improve skin texture.
Q. What does salicylic acid do to your skin?
Ans. Topical salicylic acid works to reduces inflammation (swelling) and redness, clearing the blocked skin pores which allows the pimples or non-inflammatory acne to shrink and heal.
Q. Does malic acid exfoliate the skin?
Ans. Malic acid is categorized as fruit acids, called alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). It works to exfoliate the dead skin cells to reveal clearer and brighter skin.
Q. Should I moisturize after using glycolic acid products?
Ans. Yes! Always use a light moisturizer to lessen the effects of irritation and dryness on the skin after glycolic acid application.
Q. Can I use benzoyl peroxide with salicylic acid for mild, moderate, and severe acne?
Ans. Salicylic acid can be used with Benzoyl peroxide (spot treatment) as a topical anti-acne treatment and control blackhead or whitehead.