The world of skin care can be beautiful when it involves the right products and a glowing complexion. It can be very confusing too, with trendy new ingredients popping up around every corner and a clean vernacular beauty dominating the market. Much of the skincare that can be both rewarding and intimidating? Acids. Acids in skin care can make what should be a fun getaway down the beauty aisle feel like a morning in chemistry class, and while the name can be off-putting, acids are still a thing of the past. heroic ingredient in many skin care formulations – and for good reason. Keep scrolling to learn all about the 12 most popular skin care acids (old and new), how they can benefit your complexion, and the best practices to make sure you’re using them safely.
Skin Care Acids: Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane. It is a popular choice in anti-aging skin care products because it helps promote cell renewal (i.e. shedding dead skin to reveal new skin) and collagen production. . It also offers a gentle exfoliation to the surface of the skin. “Glycolic acid is the smaller of the acids, which means the molecule can penetrate deep into the skin,” says certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman of the Shafer Clinic. “This makes it very effective at breaking down skin cells and removing dead particles.” Glycolic acid also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, making it a great ingredient for anti-aging products.
As with any AHA, glycolic acid can increase your risk of sunburn, so be sure to lather up the SPF 30 after using a glycolic acid skin care product. (PS: if you have very sensitive skin, go for lactic acid – it’s a milder AHA that’s better tolerated by this skin type.) Keep scrolling for more.
Skin care acids: lactic acid
Lactic acid, an AHA, is derived from milk and best known for its pigment perfecting properties (think: discoloration and age spots). It also has collagen strengthening effects, explains Dr Luigi L. Polla, a Geneva dermatologist and founder of Forever Institute and Alchimie Forever. “Like all acids, lactic acid exfoliates by removing the top layer of the stratum corneum to reveal brighter skin and allow better penetration of all topical products,” says Dr. Polla. “Lactic acid is generally considered a mild acid and rarely generates side effects, but the usual precautions for post-acid use are of course recommended (i.e. no sun exposure and no hair removal for 24 hours). after use). ” Keep this acid in your back pocket if you have sensitive skin.
Skin Care Acids: Hyaluronic Acid
You may have heard that dry skin and hyaluronic acid go together like bread and butter, and that’s because hyaluronic acid attracts water (making it a humectant) and helps. thus to hydration. “Hyaluronic acid, a sugar found naturally in our body, maintains lubrication and stimulates collagen production,” says cosmetic and surgical dermatologist Dr. Naissan Wesley. You’ll likely see this collagen supporting response when HA is used as an injectable filler, but if you’re not quite ready to go this route (but still want plump skin), look for the acid. Topical hyaluronic in serums, masks and moisturizers.
Skin Care Acids: Retinoic Acid
Think of retinoic acid as the fairy godmother of all acids. It’s an extremely potent acid that has the ability to connect to almost any receptor site in skin cells and tell it to behave like a healthy, younger-looking skin cell, Dr. Engelman tells TZR. “It also works as an antioxidant which can fight the free radical damage process that causes wrinkles and other signs of aging.” Continued use of retinoic acid can help improve fine lines and wrinkles, skin tone and texture, and skin barrier resistance. It is also the most potent retinoid available, and is what other topical retinoids (like retinal and retinol) must convert to in order to work on your skin.
You can ask your doctor or dermatologist to add prescription retinoic acid to your skin care regimen to prevent the first signs of aging or help treat acne. Dr Engelman notes that pregnant women should not use retinoic acid, and those with sensitive skin should use it with caution.
Skin care acids: salicylic acid
Salicylic acid is a BHA known to fight and repel acne thanks to its antibacterial and anti-comedogenic properties. Dr. Wesley says that because salicylic acid enters the sebaceous glands, it helps reduce the inflammation and oiliness that are often associated with acne. You can find salicylic acid in everything from cleansers and moisturizers to spot acne treatments. Incorporate it into your routine to kill acne-causing bacteria if you have a rash or if your clogged pores need a deep clean.
Skin Care Acids: Ferulic Acid
Ferulic acid is an AHA found in the cell walls of plants. Dr Wesley Says It Has Antioxidant Benefits To Help [neutralize] free radicals in the skin that are created by the sun and environmental damage. Most skin types can tolerate ferulic acid, but it’s best for photo-damaged or aging skin, especially when used in combination with other antioxidants such as topical vitamin C. Store your ferulic acid based skin care products in a cool place to prevent oxidation.
Skin Care Acids: Tranexamic Acid
Do you have melasma? Tranexamic acid will be your new benchmark. Although relatively new to the field, Dr Polla says that tranexamic acid can be used to even out pigments, reduce melanin synthesis, and lighten skin (especially when paired with vitamin C). Tranexamic acid is more likely to appear on a serum’s ingredient list, but you can also find it in moisturizers and face masks. To prevent your skin from drying out, avoid using tranexamic acid with other acids.
Skin care acids: hypochlorous acid
Hypochlorous acid has a long list of skin care benefits and is somewhat of a unicorn when it comes to acids in skin care. Besides the fact that it has broad spectrum antimicrobial activity and is very active against bacterial, viral and fungal microorganisms, Dr. Polla notes that it is also useful in the management of inflammatory skin disorders such as seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema and acne. Use this ingredient in a toner, face mist, serum, or mask if you have an inflammatory disease or are prone to acne.
Skin Care Acids: Trichloroacetic Acid
Trichloroacetic acid – aka TCA – is derived from vinegar and is often used as a chemical scrub in the office. It exfoliates the top layer of the skin, and Dr. Wesley notes that its benefits include reducing dark spots, fine lines, and thin, superficial skin growths (such as keratoses and warts). Skin that remains with dark markings after a rash as well as photo-damaged skin can also benefit from TCA. However, those with colored skin should be careful with TCA, because “depending on the strength, too much exfoliation or irritation could lead to discoloration or dark marks due to the treatment itself,” warns Dr. Wesley.
Skin Care Acids: Mandelic Acid
Mandelic acid is an AHA naturally found in bitter almonds. Yes, you read that right. It is known for its antiseptic and brightening properties, and is best suited for people with dull complexions and acne-prone skin, and is considered one of the safest options for darker skin tones. “Mandelic acid has the ability to remove dead skin cells that can clog pores and cause acne breakouts,” says Dr. Polla. “Plus, it has moisturizing effects that keep the skin hydrated and soft, allowing blemishes to heal better.” Although there may be redness or mild irritation from the use of mandelic acid, it is generally better tolerated than glycolic acid.
Skin Care Acids: Gluconolactone
Gluconolactone is a non-irritating polyhodroxy acid (or PHA) that has a similar effect to glycolic acid, but is milder and offers the added benefit of antioxidant and anti-aging properties, says Dr. Engelman. Because it attracts and retains water, it effectively hydrates dry skin. Gluconolactone can be found in peels, serums, and moisturizers, and is safe for sensitive skin types, including rosacea-prone skin and those prone to atopic dermatitis.
Skin Care Acids: Kojic Acid
Kojic Acid is a skin lightening acid derived from fermented rice. “Kojic acid is used to treat pigmentation disorders,” says Dr. Polla. “It inhibits the activity of tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for the production of melanin in the skin. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. If your skin has uneven pigmentation (from sun damage or acne scars), kojic acid may help as it can brighten a targeted area without removing normal melanin from your skin tone (and can be used by all skin tones).
The ingredient can be found in spot treatments, peelable swabs, and serums, but one thing to note is that kojic acid is a known irritant that can cause contact dermatitis, erythema, transient redness, and tingling. . Dr Polla notes that it is generally not considered a “clean” ingredient and is strictly regulated in Europe, so talk to your dermatologist before incorporating kojic acid into your routine.