INGREDIENT FOCUS: The A-Z Skincare Guide to Acids
Ever wondered what the acids found in skincare can do for you? Here’s why you should consider adding exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids and polyhydroxy acids into your daily regime.
Beauty industry insiders and skincare enthusiasts have long reaped the rewards of using ‘acids’ – that’s to say chemical exfoliants – in their skincare, considering them a fast track route to a healthy looking glow and smooth, clear complexion.
Here’s what you need to know.
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A GOOD OPTION FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
While the term ‘acid’ may sound intimidating (you’re probably thinking back to action films of old whereby acids are inevitably green, bubbling and best avoided), there’s to need for alarm. Because there are several different acid groups, skincare formulators are now producing a new generation of hardworking, high-tech formulas that tend to use a blend of these acid types at lower concentrations to provide gentler use and great results. This makes these latest formulations suitable for even sensitive skin types who might find physical scrubs too abrasive.
THE NEED-TO-KNOW ACID GROUPS
A is for AHAs – alpha hydroxy acids.
These chemical compounds can be naturally occurring or synthetic and are often derived from organic sugars. Offering chemical (as opposed to manual) exfoliation, they work primarily on the skin’s surface, gently dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells so that they can be swooshed away to reveal smoother, softer feeling skin. AHA’s are capable of minimising the appearance of fine lines and dark spots, but being water-soluble they don’t penetrate deeply below skin’s surface.
Glycolic Acid: Research widely states that glycolic acid is one of the most effective acids on the market, making it the most famous of the AHAs. Made up of the smallest molecules in this acid group, it is easily absorbed. An excellent clarifying option for oily skins, it rids skin of the dead skin cells and trapped bacteria that cause blocked pores. Lactic Acid: Another popular AHA and a milder alternative to glycolic. It works to moisturise as well as exfoliate. Mandelic Acid: This is gentler than many AHAs and so popular among those with sensitive skin. It is also antibacterial.
B is for BHAs - beta hydroxy acids
There is only one BHA and it is commonly known as salicylic acid. Used widely in skincare it has powerful exfoliating and anti-microbial. Oil soluble, it travels into pores instead of operating at surface level. This ability to clear pores of dirt and sebum without manual exfoliation makes salicylic acid ideal for treating oily skins.
P is for PHA’s - polyhydroxy acids
These are the least known of the acids and a gentler class of exfoliant than AHAs and BHAs. Though not dissimilar from AHAs, they are made up from larger molecules, meaning that they penetrate the skin less deeply and efficiently. This makes them gentler on sensitive skins.
Gluconolactone: Probably the most prevalent of PHAs, Gluconolactone is often praised for being effective without the sensitivity sometimes associated with using the heavier duty acids.
Lactobionic Acid: Gently smoothes and resurfaces even sensitive skin. A strong humectant it attracts and retains moisture, helping skin stay hydrated.
HOW TO INTRODUCE ACIDS TO YOUR REGIME
Keen to add acids into your regime? Many of the new formulations that harness acids are designed to be used daily, but it’s always sensible to build up usage slowly if you are new to chemical exfoliators. Begin using them once a week after cleansing and before bed, building up to daily use at night and finally daily use morning and evening.
HOW TO APPLY
Apply your acid of choice by soaking a cotton pad in the solution and sweeping it across the skin, avoiding the sensitive eye area. Remember that acids are effective below the neck as well. If using them on your body rather than face, gently move the soaked cotton pad in circular motions to apply. Acids can make skin more sensitive to UVA and UVB rays, so always use a daily SPF when incorporating them into your regime.