What do Skincare Acids Do? 

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids and Beta Hydroxy Acids are both exfoliating. Still, both have different properties to address many skin care concerns, including hyperpigmentation, texture, dryness, acne, wrinkles, fine lines, and sun damage. Using the correct skincare acid can transform your skin over time. There are different types of skincare acids, and finding the one best suited for your skin type can be overwhelming. Hopefully, this guide is a start to understanding what each one does. 

Types of Acids

Alpha- Hydroxy, and Beta-Hydroxy are the two main types of skincare acids. AHA’s are water soluble, comes from sugarcane, fruits, or milk, and are the most used acids in skincare. They work to exfoliate your skin and increase collagen production to renew your skin and give it a glowing appearance. Bha’s are chemical exfoliators that soften and loosen dead skin. Bha’s are oil soluble and able to penetrate deeper into the skin. 

 Alpha-Hydroxy Acids are Part 1 in my Series on Skincare Acids.

Glycolic Acid (AHA) is derived from sugar cane and helps increase cell turnover, and it’s tolerated well by most skin types except sensitive ones. Glycolics have small molecules that can penetrate the skin better than other skincare acids making it the strongest of the aha acids. Glycolic Acid brightens the skin, increases firmness, helps control acne, and improves fine lines and wrinkles. Glycolic acids are an effective way to treat acne and aging skin. It’s important to know that glycolic Acid can make your skin sun sensitive, so it’s even more essential to wear sunscreen daily. 

Lactic Acid is a type of AHA acid that comes from milk and is known to be gentle on the skin, making it a good option for dry and sensitive skin. The Lactic Acid works more on the skin’s surface and acts as a humectant that will draw moisture into the skin, giving it a subtle glow. If strengthening your skin barrier is your goal, Lactic Acid may be a good option for your skin. 

Citric Acid is from citrus fruits like grapefruits, lemons, and oranges and acts as a chemical exfoliate on the skin’s surface, which helps to rid your skin of clogged pores. Citric Acid is a powerful antioxidant that helps to repair damage and speed up cell renewal making it an excellent option for mature skin. Oily skin will like how it makes your skin feel clean, and dry/sensitive skin will like that it reduces inflammation while protecting it from cell damage.  

Mandelic Acid is extracted from bitter almonds and is suitable for all skin types. Mandelic Acid helps to improve dull skin, sun damage, texture, and cell turnover and helps regulate oil in the skin. Mandelic Acid has a large molecule and penetrates the skin slowly, making it an excellent option for sensitive skin. Antimicrobial properties make it a great choice for controlling bacteria in the skin. 

Malic Acid is a fruit-derived alpha hydroxy acid that is also naturally occurring in our bodies, but adding it to your skincare will add to the benefits. Malic Acid is thought to be the most gentle of the Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) and acts as a mild, gentle exfoliant, making it a good choice for sensitive skin. Malic Acid treats melasma, fine lines, and wrinkles. 

Tartaric Acid found in fruits and wines helps improve the skin’s dullness and texture. One thing that makes tartaric Acid unique is that it can be used in conjunction with other acids and helps to stabilize the ph in different formulas, which makes your product less irritating. 

When starting any new acid in your skincare routine, I always recommend a patch test on your inner arm and waiting 48 hours to see if you develop any reaction. Please start a new acid slowly, use it a few times a week, space it apart, and then increase the usage. Apply a generous amount of SPF daily to protect your skin. 

As with all new skincare products and programs, it helps to work with a licensed skincare professional or dermatologist. 

Have questions? I’m here to help! 


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