A Handy Guide To Which Type Of Skincare Acid You Actually Need
Unless you’re extremely clued up on your beauty bible knowledge, the world of skincare can be a very confusing one to dive into. There’s more moisturisers, eye creams and oils out there than you can shake a serum at, so where are you even supposed to start?
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And just to add even more high-tech ingredients into the mix, acids are the latest must-have addition to your beauty product cupboard.
It sounds kind of terrifying, but we promise that these acids aren’t the radioactive, bright green, metal-melting kind you've seen in cartoons. That'd be slightly painful around the eye area.
They’re genius, gentle inventions designed to seriously upgrade your skincare routine - and there’s an acid out there for every skin type and concern that you can think of.
If you’ve been wondering exactly where to start with 'em, then here’s a handful of the most common skincare acids explained to help you figure out which one to go for.
Best for: those pesky early signs of aging
Fed up of feeling self conscious about hyper-pigmentation or dark spots on your skin? Maybe think about adding some citric acid to your skincare stash, as it's designed to speed up cell renewal and balance the skin’s pH.
It also acts as a natural skin exfoliator amongst everything else, and will help you tackle a whole array of stressful problems from mild acne and pigmentation, to clogged pores, dark spots and light wrinkles.
Best for: a good all rounder
As one of the weaker, more chilled out acids of the bunch, glycolic features in the majority of cult fave skincare products and works as a chemical, liquid exfoliator.
So yep, that means you can ditch those harsh, gritty scrubs that do more damage than good.
It's a bit of a miracle worker really as glycolic can also lighten hyper-pigmentation, uneven skin tone and sun spots while also treating your acne, fading any blemishes, reducing fine lines and brightening the skin in general.
Best for: dry or dehydrated skin that needs a drink asap
Another one you've almost definitely heard of, hyaluronic acid is the non-Hogwarts equivalent of a potion for boosting your skin's hydration levels.
This magical ingredient has the capacity to retain up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, so that's pretty impressive.
It helps to strengthen your skin’s barrier to make it look and feel softer, smoother and plumper, so reach for the hyaluronic if you're feeling dull, flakey or super dry. You'll see a big difference.
Best for: dull, city-living skin that needs a boost
Better known by its friends and family as Vitamin C in its purest form, the miracle ingredient is amazing for your skin in the same way that scoffing oranges is good for your body.
It can help to even out skin tone, protect against polution and UV damage and hydrate and brighten the skin.
Its packed with antioxidant properties which will boost and firm the skin, and that means that you'll be left with plumper, fuller skin that stays looking younger for longer. Sounds good to us.
Best for: dry or sensitive skin that needs gentle exfoliation
If you struggle to find products that make any real difference in getting rid of annoying acne scars, lactic acid is about to become your new BFF.
Fun fact - it actually comes from sour milk, but luckily it doesn't smell like it.
With a slightly weaker strength, lactic acid gently exfoliates the skin and speeds up cell turnover. It's ideal for sensitive, dehydrated or tired-looking skins as it simultaneously helps to boost moisturise levels and buff away dead cells to leave your face feeling silky soft.
Best for: spotty skin
You might as well stick a red cape on your bottle of salicyclic acid and call it the spot-fighting superhero. While a lot of acne-busting products simply dry out spots, salicylic acid works to draw out the impurities.
It's best suited to combination, oily or acne-prone skin and will help you out by exfoliating, clearing pores and treating breakouts, as well as giving a boost to your collagen and reducing excess sebums.
If you have a drier skin, stick to using salicylic acid in targetted spot treatments for each individual blemish rather than an all over application.
AHAs (fancy name: alpha hydroxy acids)
As the most commonly used acids, you'll find these bad boys in a lot of skincare these days. This is the general group term for acids that include glycolic, citric, mandelic, malic and lactic.
AHAs are the acids that you'd swap into your skincare routine instead of your average exfoliator. As well as exfoliating, they'll also stimulate collagen, meaning that their special superhero skills mainly revolve around combatting signs of aging.
And just a heads up - using AHAs should be swiftly followed with a high protection SPF for at least one week after use, as your skin’s sensitivity to the sun will be increased afterwards. Got it?
BHAs (fancy name: beta hydroxy acids)
There's actually only one BHA to know about, and that's salicylic.
Similarly to the AHAs, this one also acts as an excellent exfoliator as it cleverly breaks down the glue that holds your skin cells together, increases the shedding and kickstarts the rejuvinating process.
BHA also has the added bonus of fighting breakouts, and is also pretty great at managing other problems caused by clogged or blocked pores like keratosis pilaris if used in shower or moisturising products.
PHAs (fancy name: polyhydroxy acids)
Consider these the 2018 version of AHAs. They're basically a much more scientific, new generation of acids that allow for slower and more gradual penetration into the skin, meaning that the whole process is gentler on sensitive skin.
These are non-irritable and won't sting when you apply them.
With their support system for collagen and ability to restore the skin's barrier cells, keep an eye out for PHAs if you're worried about signs of aging, sensitivity or dehydration. A good all rounder, really.
Words by Lucy Wood