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A Guide to Exfoliating Acids

Ingredient Spotlight, Tips
Your Skin on Stress
Posted on February 17, 2021

Exfoliating acids can often sound like a bad idea–harsh, irritating and only tolerated for those with genetically blessed skin. However, over the years, these formulations have proven to be the only way to dissolve dead skin cells that lead to dry and dull looking skin, keep blemishes at bay, revive collagen synthesis–all while working synergistically with your skin to keep it at the right pH. The right acid for you is dictated by your skin’s resilience and complexion, while also accounting for the formulation of the product. Finding the correct one can result in much less irritated skin, improve your skin’s texture and tone, and create a luminous glow. It’s also worth mentioning that if used incorrectly (overuse or the wrong type), acids can cause damage to the skin’s acid mantle. What may work for your friend, may not work for you. It’s best to do the research and check in with your current products to ensure you have room to add these products into the mix.

Mandelic & PHAs

Mandelic and PHA style acids are the gentlest and for all skin types. If you feel you have a weaker skin barrier, this may be the group to begin with. They have larger molecular sizes and they take longer to penetrate the skin–meaning it isn’t as potentially irritating as other acids may feel due to their slow dissolving of dead skin cells. They encourage exfoliation, cell turnover and hydrate the skin.

Try–Serum Factory’s Party Peel

Fruit Acids

Even gentler yet are fruit acids which have enzymes to exfoliate and protect the skin from environmental stress and free radical damage. These enzymes help break down any cellular build up which is usually the culprit for a whole range of skin conditions including premature ageing, dehydration and acne breakouts. If your skin can’t tolerate stronger acids, try finding products that have enzymes such as Papaya, Pineapple, Kiwi or Mango enzymes for their active properties yet gentle action.

Try–Odacite’s Bioactive Rose Gommage or Evolve’s Miracle Mask

GOMMAGE, Miracle Mask

Lactic Acid

One of the more well-known AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids), Lactic Acid has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and best for those with sensitive skin. It’s considered to be the most hydrating of all acids as it boosts the level of hydrating lipids that sit on the skin’s surface and increases the water retention. It’s the second smallest molecule out of the acids meaning it’s incredibly gentle yet effective. You may find you see immediate results with this acid, so be cautious of over-using it just because it may appear that it’s ‘working’. Like all acids, they’re best in small doses.

Try–Pestle & Mortar NMF Lactic Acid Toner

Glycolic Acid

The king of AHAs, Glycolic Acid is the most effective exfoliating acid for correcting sun damage, smoothing fine lines, uneven skin tone and dissolving ‘dead’ skin cells resulting in a dull complexion. Congested and oily skin types usually respond well to Glycolic Acid; however, it is known to be the most irritating. Often, and depending on your skin type and concerns, using it in a wash-off cleanser or only including it in your routine a few times weekly can be best.

Try–Holi Frog Halo AHA + BHA Serum or Pestle & Mortar Exfoliate Glycolic Acid Toner

Salicylic Acid

The best known BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid) is made up by the one and only Salicylic Acid. It is oil-soluble and therefore can penetrate far deeper than any AHA could. Whilst it also helps to exfoliate and hydrate the skin, Salicylic Acid minimises pore appearance and keeping them clear. Best for those who are fighting blemishes or have an oily skin type.

Try–Alder Everyday Face Serum or Haeckels’ Seaweed + Salicylic Exfoliant

Kojic Acid

Kojic acid is specifically known to benefit visible sun damage, age spots, or scars. It also has some antimicrobial properties. Best used by anyone seeking to improve the look of discoloration caused by sun damage, melasma, and/or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that occurs after a blemish. It can be used daily, and is often used alongside Glycolic Acid.

Try– Hunter’s Anti-Ageing Elixir

Due to their acidic nature, acids aren’t often prescribed to use alongside other actives or with ingredients that have a more neutral or alkaline pH (like Niacinamide). This is because it generally can halt the efficacy of the acid, wasting product and not providing you with the results you desire. If you use a Vitamin C, for example, you will need to move that Vitamin C to your morning routine and utilise the evening for your acids. It’s not recommended to use acids alongside Retinol as this can be irritating to the skin, however you can choose to alternate nights of your actives to reap the benefits of each and avoid overusing them.

Still unsure which is right for you? Call us or visit our store to discuss building your skincare routine.

Your Skin on Stress