what to look for skincare product acids

What should I be looking for in a skincare product part 2 – Acids

Let’s explore some more key ingredients to look for in skincare products to help the skin age healthily. In this article, I’m going to focus on ‘acids’.

I’m only talking about naturally occurring acids that help to keep the skin youthful in some way; by either improving the tone, texture and clarity, exfoliating, hydrating or increasing the cell turnover like I explained in my previous article.

These ingredients are suitable for use on most skin types and can be found in many skincare products as well as clinic treatments, therefore are very popular in the world of dermatology and aesthetic medicine.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)

AHAs are naturally occurring acids; you may have heard of:

Glycolic acid – from sugar cane
Lactic acid – from sour milk
Phytic acids – from rice
Mandelic acid – from almonds
Citric acid – from citrus fruit
Azelaic acid – from grains

  • They help to speed up the cell turn over like Retinols
  • They help to take off the top layer(s) of dead skin cells – In simple terms the acids penetrate between the top layer of skin cells and dissolve the ‘bond’ so they can eat away the dead cells on the surface, also known as exfoliating without physically having to scrub your skin
  • They help to “unclog” the pores
  • Brilliant for texture and radiance
  • Helps healthy ageing by improving skin thickness and collagen production
  • May reverse signs of ageing such a pigmentation, sun damage, fine lines, scarring
  • Work deeper into the skin than BHAs
  • Helps to hydrate skin; they help the skin to hold onto moisture
  • It is also thought that they ‘may’ improve the skin barrier function so can help with sensitive skin and reduce irritation
  • Very popular for chemical peels
  • Very popular in-home products
  • May be used to treat acne or rosacea as it kills bacteria that causes acne and rosacea. It also helps to clear bumps, lesions and swelling caused by rosacea. In some cases, rosacea will get better with AHAs but often worsens, it is BHAs that are better for rosacea

Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)

You may have heard of the ingredient salicylic acid – well this is it!

  • Very popular ingredient in chemical peels
  • Very popular ingredient in-home products
  • Helps with oily skin and low-level acne; attracted to oil so penetrates into hair follicles where the oil is and helps to exfoliate and unclog the pores so is very effective at treating acne and reducing blackheads; more so than AHAs
  • Salicylic acid is anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial which is why it is great for treating acne and rosacea
  • Can decrease the frequency of acne breakouts as it reduces inflammation associated with acne and exfoliates the skin to prevent dead skin cells clogging up the pores
  • BHAs work better at treating rosacea than AHA because of the anti-inflammatory properties
  • Only works in the top layer of the skin unlike AHAs which work deeper
  • Can also help to fade pigmentation and reduce skin roughness and fine lines, similarly to AHAs
  • Avoid if pregnant, breastfeeding or allergic to aspirin

Both AHAs and BHAs are naturally occurring organic acids and help to stimulate exfoliation and accelerate the cell cycle; therefore can both cause dryness so should be used in combination with a moisturiser.

They enable other skincare products to work more effectively because they exfoliate the skin by removing the surface layer of dead skin cells.

It may be beneficial to periodically stop the use of AHAs and BHAs as long term they will work more effectively.

Hyaluronic acid (HA)

  • Naturally found in the skin and naturally declines with age
  • Its job within the skin is to attract and hold water/moisture to provide fullness, volume and radiance
  • It can help with collagen and elastin production
  • When applied topically through skincare products it cannot penetrate deeper than the top layer of skin
  • Popular ingredient in cosmetic products as it helps to hydrate the skin
  • The most commonly used ingredient for dermal filler injections as it helps to slow down the ageing process

All 3 of the above ingredients when used on a regular basis, have the ability to positively impact your skin health;

  1. Radiance and glow
  2. Healthy skin ageing
  3. Rosacea treatment
  4. Reduced oil production and clear pores
  5. Acne prevention and treatment
  6. Plumpness and hydration
  7. Collagen and elastin support and production

Depending on what you are trying to achieve with your skin you may want to use them as stand-alone ingredients or in combination with each other. You may want to use them in addition to the 3 gold standard ingredients discussed in my previous article.

Note: Although these ingredients are naturally occurring many are now lab engineered for stability and effectiveness.

Interesting Theory: Apparently Cleopatra used to put sour milk on her face (lactic acid) to enhance her youthfulness.

Additional Advice

Although I’m based in the Marlow, Buckinghamshire for face to face consultations, I now offer online skincare consultations with product delivery direct to your house. This is within the UK as well as various overseas countries including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Poland. All skincare products come with a 45-day money back guarantee.

If you would like to chat in more detail about skin care in general or specific product advice, please contact me for a virtual consultation using the form below:



Tel: 01844 698144
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