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The Truth About Acids in Skincare

Happy New Month!


When we hear the word acid, our minds quickly go to harsh harmful chemicals, but in the world of skincare, they are mild and balanced active ingredients meant to benefit your skin by brightening and exfoliating it, giving you that much desired glow!


These acids have been components of skincare since ancient times and a good example is Cleopatra exfoliating her skin with lactic acid from milk.


The main purpose of these acids is to address specific skincare concerns such as Acne and breakouts, hyperpigmented and dull skin, among others


There are two major categories of these acids, mainly; Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) and Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).


I'm going to do a deep dive into each category and how beneficial they are to your skin, I hope this helps!  

Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)

BHAs are oil-soluble acids.


These acids penetrate deep into your skin and help dissolve sebum(an oily substance that your skin creates) which when created in excess leads to Acne. It also helps in the removal of dead skin.


Some common BHAs include;

  • Salicylic Acid: This is the most common BHA in skincare products! It penetrates deep into pores, where excess oil and dead skin cells love to hide and dissolve them. It also gently dissolves the 'glue' that holds the dead skin cells together which allows for easier removal, preventing clogged pores and the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. It has anti-inflammatory properties too!

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)

Unlike BHAs, these are water-soluble acids.


They help loosen the fluid that binds surface skin cells together, removing dead cells which in turn leave you with brighter and smoother skin!


Let's look at the various AHAs and their roles;

  • Glycolic acid: Derived from sugarcane, glycolic acid is the strongest and most well-researched AHA and a staple in most anti-aging skincare products! It is a strong exfoliant that works to smooth out your skin’s surface and refine pores. It also helps with discoloration, fine lines, and wrinkles. With long-term use, it can boost collagen production. 

  • Ascorbic acid: Popularly known as Vitamin C, this is a strong antioxidant. It helps fight off free radicals which when built up, cause oxidative stress that leads to wrinkles, sun spots, and hyperpigmentation.

  • Lactic acid: Lactic acid is one of the gentler AHAs. It offers similar exfoliating benefits but with less intensity, making it a good choice for those with sensitive skin. Lactic acid also possesses hydrating properties, which can be beneficial for dry skin types.

  • Kojic acid: Kojic acid is an AHA most commonly used for people experiencing dark spots or patches also known as hyperpigmentation. It works by inhibiting the formation of Tyrosine(amino acid that is needed to produce melanin)

Other Skincare Acids

Not all skincare Acids fall under AHAs and BHAs, here are some popular ones as well;

  • Hyaluronic acid: HA is a sugar molecule that helps bind water to collagen, which helps make the skin more plump. It acts as a super sponge, attracting and holding onto water molecules. It also helps maintain a healthy skin barrier, which protects against environmental aggressors like pollution and UV rays.

  • Azelaic acid: Azelaic acid works at the surface of your skin and also penetrates deeply. It is effective in evening out your skin tone and can help clear up redness, rosacea, and melasma making it a good choice for sensitive skin

Skincare Tips

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