There's A Skincare Acid For Every Skin Type, Find Yours
One of the most reliable skin-glowing and -smoothening ingredients are acids, from well lauded Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids to trendier Polyhydroxy Acids.
There’s a reason AHA, BHA, and PHA products are all the rage in skincare and that’s because they just truly, really work. A lot of toners and exfoliating treatments even combine these acids at lower concentrations for an invisible but hardworking peel (the Glossier Solution, for instance, combines all 3).
Here, a closer look at these acids that degunk pores, remove flakes, and make for glowy, smooth skin. First, AHAs. The most popular of which is glycolic acid, usually derived from sugarcane or fruits. It works on the appearance of large pores, uneven skin tone, and rough patches by dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells and causing them to fall off. Once the skin exfoliates, a smooth, glowing surface is revealed.
Other commonly used AHAs are lactic, malic, citric, and mandelic acids. I personally prefer AHAs because of their ability to improve the skin’s moisturizing capability, perfect for normal to dry skin. BHA, on the other hand, is salicylic acid (and its derivatives). Unlike AHAs, salicylic acid is oil-soluble making it ideal for oily skin as it can really penetrate, bypass the oil, and unclog pores. This is why it’s widely used for acne-prone skin.
PHAs are similar to AHAs except that PHA molecules are larger, which means they stay more on the surface of the skin where they work exfoliation wonders—unlike AHAs and BHAs that can penetrate deeper. Retail products would usually have up to 10% AHA concentration and up to 2% for BHA.
While percentages matter, another important factor is pH. The lower the pH level, the more acidic the product. Sometimes irritation could be due to the pH level more than the concentration of your AHA or BHA. Ideally the pH should be between 3-4 to give it enough ‘tingling’ to work. Brands usually adjust the pH level using buffering agents that allow them to still keep a higher concentration without being too irritating.
I prefer acids (or lasers) over physical (and just surface!) exfoliators like scrubs or brushes because many times and if you’re not careful, those can be too abrasive and end up just damaging the skin. Have you tried any acid?