Decoding Acids in Skincare

Adding an acid toner to your skincare routine provides multiple benefits, but it can be difficult to know which acid is right for you. Depending on how your skin feels, it’s a good idea to mix acids in your routine. Use our Simple Guide to Acids to figure out what’s right for you.

 

THE SIMPLE GUIDE TO ACIDS IN SKINCARE

 

PH

Let’s start by explaining skin pH. The skin’s acid mantle is a very fine slightly acidic film which protects the skin. This is the layer that we are constantly trying to keep balanced. pH measures how acidic the skin’s acid mantle is. Healthy skin is on the weakly acidic side of the pH scale (around 4-6).

You will know that your skin has a balanced pH if it has a soft texture and no dry spots. Most reputable skincare products are pH-balanced, meaning that they are formulated with a pH that falls in the range of healthy skin.

Using an acid toner (e.g. AHA, BHA or PHA) whose pH is in the acidic range is not a problem – the skin will re-adjust its pH within an hour of application and acidic substances stimulate the skin to produce key substances that it needs to look smooth and supple.

 

Hyaluronic Acid

What is it?

Hyaluronic Acid is a carbohydrate found naturally in skin that keeps every aspect of the skin structurally stable and constantly renewed.

When should I use it?

Everyone should incorporate Hyaluronic Acid into their routine every day because as we age, the amount of HA present in the body diminishes. Incorporating hyaluronic acid into your skincare regime is therefore crucial to maintaining a youthful complexion.

What does it do?

Hyaluronic Acid has the capacity to attract and hold vast amounts of moisture. One single molecule of HA can hold up to 1000 times its own weight in water. In addition to retaining skin moisture, HA also facilitates collagen production, contributing to anti-ageing benefits for the skin. A good hyaluronic serum will instantly plump up the complexion and smooth fine lines and wrinkles.

 

Glycolic Acid

What is it?

Glycolic Acid (most-commonly derived from sugar cane) is a member of the alpha-hydroxy (AHA) group of ‘skin-friendly’ acids. It is powerfully penetrative due to having a very small molecular size.

When should I use it?

At the correct concentrations, glycolic acid is good for virtually all skin types with the exception of those with diagnosed skin conditions, like rosacea. Its main function is as an exfoliant. Use glycolic acid when your skin looks dull and your skin tone appears uneven.

What does it do?

It works at the very top layer of the skin, breaking down the glue that holds dead skin cells together. The result is clearer pores, a brighter complexion and fresher-looking skin.

 

Lactic Acid

What is it?

Lactic Acid is a naturally occurring carboxylic acid found in many foods. It is present in milk and according to legend, it’s the reason why Cleopatra bathed in this substance to keep her skin soft and beautiful.

When should I use it?

Lactic Acid is a sensitive skin hero, gentle enough for use on all skin types. It improves the skin’s natural moisture factor, or the means by which the skin keeps itself hydrated. Use a lactic acid toner when your skin feels dry and unbalanced.

What does it do?

Lactic Acid exfoliates the skin by sloughing away dead skin cells on the surface and hydrates skin by enhancing its ability to moisturise itself. Hyperpigmentation fades and fine lines and wrinkles diminish. The visible benefits are smoother, softer skin and a radiant complexion.

 

Salicylic Acid

What is it?

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) derived from willow bark. It is more oil-soluble than the AHA acids which makes it highly penetrative. It penetrates deep into the pores of the skin to dissolve skin debris that clogs them.

When should I use it?

Use salicylic acid when you are experiencing blackheads, whiteheads and breakouts.

What does it do?

Salicylic Acid dissolves the type of skin debris that clogs pores and causes acne. It loosens and removes dead skin cells deep in the dermis and helps to dissolve blackheads.

 

Top Tips!

Spritzing after toning calms, hydrates and rebalances the skin – and feels great. Just remember that in the case of hyaluronic acid only, it’s better to spritz first as hyaluronic acid will lock-in moisture from spritzing.

AHAs and BHAs make you burn faster in the sun. Wear sunscreen while you’re using them and for at a least a week afterwards.

Many people find that waiting a few minutes for hydroxy acids to sink in before applying other products gives better results.

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