There was a time when we would never think to put something categorised as an acid on our skin, but now the ingredient is a basic daily staple that we would struggle to live without. If the whole idea of acids still leaves you baffled, here’s how to make sure you use the right one for your skin and its needs.
Best for Dehydrated Skin
Any skin type can be dehydrated – just look out for dull tone and flat, lacklustre skin if you are unsure – and Hyaluronic Acid is the best acid to fix this problem. Naturally present in our skin, Hyaluronic Acid successfully quenches skin’s thirst without making it feel greasy, shiny or irritated (hence its popularity amongst those with oily skin) plus it can safely be mixed with other ingredients to create the ultimate topical solution for parched skin.
Best for Mature or Prematurely Aged Skin
Likely to be the acid that makes most people think of red, peeling skin, Glycolic Acid is more than just an exceptional exfoliator. Derived from sugar cane, it works by dissolving the cellular glue that holds all the dead cells onto the surface of the skin and it is this process that causes the tell-tale tingle that puts most people off using it, but it’s worth sticking with. While it works wonders at shedding unwanted skin, Glycolic Acid is also quite a small molecule, making its journey down to the deeper layers of the skin much quicker and easier (there’s that tingly sensation again) where it stimulates collagen production to kick-start a reduction in wrinkling at the surface.
Best for Blemish-Prone Skin
Those with spotty skin have probably been using products that contain Salicylic Acid since their hormonal teenage years, and for good reason. Salicylic Acid is oil-soluble which means it can penetrate the pores and clear them out, reducing the severity of active blemishes and reducing the possibility of new ones developing. When used in high concentrations – in serums, for example – it can dry out the skin, so make sure you always use an oil-free moisturiser alongside it to prevent flakes and, more importantly, excess oil which can lead to pimples.
Best for Sensitive Skin
A great all-rounder, Lactic Acid is a great entry-level acid for either those new to AHAs or anyone with a delicate complexion. It’s made up of large molecules, so its passage through the epidermal layer is slower and therefore less irritating than other acids such as Glycolic, and it has the ability to improve skin barrier function and increase dermal thickness, something all sensitive skin types can benefit from in the quest for a more harmonious complexion.
Best for Dark Skin
You might not have heard of this AHA, but Mandelic Acid is a highly effective multi-tasker that is particularly useful for those with dark skin tones. When treating conditions such as acne, some acids can trigger the post-inflammatory response mechanism within the skin, leading to uneven pigmentation developing at the surface. This is particularly challenging for darker skins as one problem is essentially replaced with another. Mandelic Acid won’t do this thanks to its huge molecular structure, so it will still do all the things a normal exfoliating acid would, just without the unwanted after-effects.
Best for Discoloured and Uneven Skin
Most exfoliating acids will help to brighten dark patches of skin, but tone correction is Kojic Acid’s main USP. Derived from a type of mushroom, Kojic Acid easily penetrates the skin to where melanin is produced to actively inhibit its production, preventing uneven clusters of pigment developing and peppering the surface. It can also lighten existing dark spots but it can irritate sensitive skins, so steer clear if your complexion doesn’t react well to this type of ingredient.
Best for All Skin Types
Part of the Poly-Hydroxy Acids family, Lactobionic Acid was created as a gentler alternative to the more aggressive AHAs like Glycolic Acid, so that everyone could enjoy the skin-perfecting benefits minus the irritation. Unlike traditional AHAs – which are made up of a single string of molecules – PHAs like Lactobionic Acid are made up of multiple strands of larger sized molecules, meaning they penetrate the skin slower and cause little to no tingle. They can remove cell build-up, plump fine lines and restore barrier function, but they also attract moisture to the skin making them an ideal acid for dry complexions and they can even be used on skins prone to conditions such as eczema thanks to their gentle composition.
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