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0
< THE BEAUTY SPELLBOOK SHOP >
Beauty 101

What You Need To Know About Skincare Acids

Rachel Gibbons Beauty Expert
What You Need To Know About Skincare Acids

The word “acid” has a negative–scary even connotation; which may prevent some people from diving into acid-based skincare products. Here’s the thing, by avoiding acids, you skip some of the most effective and transformative skincare ingredients on the market. Exfoliating acids have fast become staples in our beauty regimes because of their proven ability to resurface the skin, without the damage that often comes hand-in-hand with mechanical, or ‘scrub’ exfoliators. No matter how daunting they sound, acids are safe, effective, and yes, a little misunderstood.

What are chemical exfoliants?

There are two types of exfoliation: physical and chemical. Physical involves sloughing off dead skin cells—and sometimes facial hair if you use a dermaplaning tool like Instant Gratification—manually. In contrast, chemical exfoliation works at the ingredient level to dissolve the bonds between dead skin cells and the skin, effectively removing them. Acids fall under the chemical exfoliation category.  

These chemical exfoliants work in two ways: by lifting off the build-up of dead cells on the skin's surface to reveal a brighter, smoother complexion (in the case of alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs), or by penetrating into the pores to shift build-up and help clear breakouts (in the case of beta hydroxy acids – BHAs). However, without picking the right formula for your skin type – or by using a product incorrectly – acids can have the opposite effect to their primary intentions.

What are AHAs and BHAs?

In skincare, exfoliating acids can be separated into two categories: AHAs and BHAs, which stand for alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids, respectively (the names refer to their chemical makeup). AHAs are water-soluble and target skin's surface while oil-soluble BHAs penetrate the skin more deeply.

The benefits of exfoliating acids are similar to the benefits of any exfoliant: Brighter tone, smoother skin texture, and unclogged pores. Both AHAs and BHAs have been found to reduce the number of dead skin cells, allowing your skin to reflect more light and look more radiant. This can also be helpful in reducing the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation. Exfoliating also allows other skincare products to penetrate deeper into the skin, working harder and faster than they would otherwise. 

But acids are special in that they're multi-beneficial: they also boost cellular turnover, encourage collagen production, and provide substantial brightening effects on dark spots and uneven tone.  

Types of Exfoliating Acids

AHAs are generally known as the acid that helps treat hyperpigmentation, smooth bumpy texture, and soften signs of aging like dull tone and fine lines. These are the types of AHAs you'll often find in skincare: 

  1. Glycolic Acid: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution and Good Molecules Glycolic Exfoliating Toner
  2. Lactic Acid: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA and A La Carte 12% Lactic Acid
  3. Mandelic Acid: The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

BHAs, on the other hand, are mostly known for treating acne because of their anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties;

  1. Salicylic Acid: SKINTIFIC 2% Salicylic Acid Acne Serum and Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Salicylic Acid

There you have it. Never fear incorporating chemicals in your skincare routine!

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