Nowadays it seems no skincare routine is complete without the addition of an acid. But with so many on the market and different acids for different skin types it can be hard to know where to begin. Plus, with the complex names and abbreviations, you could be forgiven for feeling like you’re back in GCSE science rather than shopping for beauty buys.
But never fear as help is here! We’ve put together this handy guide to help take the guesswork out of acids. Glowing skin shall be yours – and you don’t need an A* in chemistry to achieve it. So first, let’s start with Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)…
“AHAs have a number of benefits to the skin, including balancing overall skin tone and moisturising,” explains Dr Howard Murad, founder of Murad Skincare. “However, their largest benefit is as a topical exfoliating agent. AHAs slough away the dead, dry and unhealthy skin cells at the surface of your skin. This increases cell turnover and ultimately causes newer, fresher, healthier skin to appear more rapidly.”
Best for: Anti-ageing
You’ve probably seen glycolic acid mentioned a lot in skincare products, and that’s because as well as helping with wrinkles and ageing skin, it’s also good for acne-prone and uneven skin. Acting as an exfoliant it penetrates deeply into the skin so is very effective. It comes in all kinds of forms from cleansers and toners to peels, and is an all-round cult favourite when it comes to acids. Beware though, glycolic acid increases sun sensitivity even when it’s not on the skin, so if you’re using it in your routine you’ll need to introduce an SPF too to avoid sun damage.
Best for: Dry Skin
Unlike glycolic acid, where the small molecules penetrate deeply to encourage peeling, lactic acid targets the outer layers of the skin, drawing in moisture while exfoliating. It’s great for those with sensitive and dry skin, but is suitable for all skin types, and is a great acid to start with if you’re just beginning to dabble with acids in your skincare routine.
Best for: Blemishes
Unlike AHAs, which are water soluble, Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) and is oil-soluble, so it can cut through excess oil and get rid of dirt and dead skin cells which clog up pores. It can be used to treat acne, and also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Best for: Moisturising and hydration
Neither an AHA or BHA, hyalurounic acid is suitable for all skin types and is hailed as a bit of a hydration hero, due to its ability to hold over 1,000 times its own weight in water within skin cells. It hydrates the skin by binding water to collagen, so plumps and draws moisture from deeper layers of the skin, bringing it to the surface. It’s especially good for ageing skin where the collagen naturally depletes and dehydrates more easily.
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
Best for: Brightening and evening skintone
Not just found in your morning orange juice, Vitamin C is also a powerful skincare ingredient, and when applied to the skin acts as an antioxidant as well as defending against environmental and sun damage. It also has a whole host of other benefits, such as reducing wrinkles, evening skintone and increasing collagen production.
THESE PASS THE ACID TEST
Worked out which acid is best for you? Give these products a go
AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser (£34, www.murad.co.uk)
An award-winning multi-tasking cleanser, containing a trio of glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids to exfoliate, smooth and polish. This cleanser leaves skin clear, smooth and bright.
Dr David Jack
Good Morning! Antioxidant Super Serum (£89, www.spacenk.com)
This advanced Vitamin C serum is fortified with 10% l-ascorbic acid that provides day-to-day protection from environmental aggressors such as UV rays. It also works to help repair damaged skin due to previous sun exposure.
Ageless Total Pure Hyaluronic Filler (£80, www.imageskincare.co.uk)
A concentrated topical filler, containing six forms of lower and higher molecular weight hyaluronic acids to rapidly smooth away the appearance of wrinkles. It delivers an immediate, noticeable boost of hydration.
Throwback Thursday Overnight Peel and Reveal (£48, www.timebombco.com)
This two-step at-home peel system combines chemical and mechanical exfoliation to slough away the surface layer of dead, dull skin cells to reveal the fresh, radiant and dewy skin underneath.
Alive Prebiotic Balancing Mask (£38, www.johnlewis.com)
Try this mask formulated with a prebiotic from algae, a good-bacteria probotic and patented Alguronic Acid. It balances, detoxifies and boosts radiance for a healthy, glowing complexion – and it promises results in just 10 days, too.