What Are Acids?

While we have finally been fortunate enough to let you in on the wonders of retinol, we would be remiss if we didn’t give a guide on another miracle ingredient. In this case, we’re here to introduce you to the world of acids. Similarly to retinol, just the word may make you shudder with visions of dry or irritated skin, but don’t fret. Acids do much more good than harm when implemented correctly and understood well. Therefore, we are here to give you all the tools necessary to harness the power of the acid.

First and foremost, we should probably explain what acids truly are in the context of skincare. Derived from natural ingredients like milk and sugarcane, acids are active ingredients that can be found in cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, etc. While different acids are aimed towards different skin concerns, many of them are similar to retinol in some ways as they help with cell turnover, acne, pigmentation, anti-aging, and clogged pores. In the simplest of terms, mild acids are used as natural exfoliants and can do wonders when used correctly. So, without further ado, we present a guide to our favorite acids. 

AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acids):

Alpha Hydroxy Acids are the first category of mild acids and can be most recognized on ingredient labels as glycolic acid or lactic acid. In fact, lactic and glycolic acids are some of our favorites. Firstly, glycolic acid, which derives from sugar cane, is a must for aiding in cell turnover and exfoliation. What makes the acid so unique is that it is perfect for targeting the issues of anti-aging and acne at the same time. Lactic acid is better for those with sensitive skin and is most commonly used as it helps to exfoliate but holds many moisturizing properties as well. Lactic acid is actually the only AHA that both moisturizes and exfoliates which makes it a truly wonderful ingredient and favorable for body exfoliation as well. That being said, lactic acid is an ingredient that makes the skin sensitive to sunlight and should only be used in the evening routine. 

BHA’s (Beta Hydroxy Acids): 

Beta Hydroxy Acids are not to be confused with our banned ingredient BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), but are actually another category of acids which include one as common as salicylic acid. A touch stronger than AHA’s, BHA’s should be looked for in lower concentrations and should only be used in the evening. In the same way, BHA’s should be introduced into the skincare routine at a lower frequency, starting with 2-3 nights a week. Salicylic acid is a great ingredient to introduce if one suffers from acne as it helps to cut oil and sebum production. Other BHA’s are huge heavy lifters when it comes to exfoliation and can be incredibly beneficial to those who don’t suffer from sensitive skin. 

PHA’s (Poly Hydroxy Acids):

Poly Hydroxy Acids are the mildest of the acids mentioned thus far and are most commonly recommended to those with sensitive skin. These acids are a great option for those that wish to reap the benefits of a natural exfoliant but still feel moisturized. They are best for skin smoothing and helping to maintain the integrity of the collagen and elastin in your skin. PHA’s are incredible in maintaining smooth, firm skin while gently exfoliating. 

Antioxidant-Rich Acids: 

Another important category of acids would be those that are high in antioxidants. Important examples would include ascorbic acid, which is a common form of vitamin C, and ferulic acid. Ascorbic acid is essential in stimulating collagen production and cell turnover. Similarly to ferulic acid, since it is an antioxidant, ascorbic acid helps to protect the skin from outside pollutants. In particular, ferulic acid acts as a shield against free radicals which are found literally everywhere in the air around us and can damage the skin. On top of that, it helps to protect collagen and elastin. These acids are awesome to introduce into your routine since they can be used morning and night and can easily be paired with other acids due to their moisturizing benefits. 

Hyaluronic Acid:

Last but not least is an acid so wonderful that it deserves its own mention. Where would the skincare world be without hyaluronic acid? Those of us at SLFMKR do not wish to know. Hyaluronic acid is an ingredient that is used mainly for hydration as it is able to hold up to 1,000 times its weight in moisture. The acid works by drawing moisture from the air and trapping it and giving a plumper look to the outer layer of the skin. Not to mention, the ingredient does not make the skin sensitive to the sun. If you’re searching for something hydrating, chances are hyaluronic acid will be your first step. Pair with other acids to naturally exfoliate and then replenish with unmatched moisture. 

Our final tips and tricks: 

While this amount of information can be daunting, it is necessary for picking the acid(s) that work best for you. In order to give your skin the most love, we have a few tips and tricks. 

Acids can work well in tandem, however, pairing two strong exfoliants would be detrimental to the skin due to a lack of moisture. Therefore, introducing a moisturizing acid to pair with an exfoliating acid is key. If you do happen to use two different exfoliating acids, make sure they are both mild and introduce a good amount of moisture alongside them. Lastly, don’t pair retinol with BHA’s and AHA’s as they are all exfoliating ingredients and when used all together can be too harsh on the skin. Alternate products and focus on one specific ingredient at a time. An effective routine takes time, but we are hopeful that giving our loyal community the information that counts allows you all to deep dive without fear. As always, we are here to help. 

Some of our favorite acid products: 

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