All you need to know about using acids in skincare

Acids are amazing they are promoted as the cure of many skin concerns to achieve flawless skin.

But I’m going to caution you first by saying before using acids make sure you always speak to a skin specialist regarding which is the best for you. Misinformation is leading to an overuse and misuse of this great ingredient. It can lead to irritation, dryness, photo-sensitivity, pigmentation, thin skin, unbalanced skin, impaired skin barrier and premature ageing.

Picking the wrong formula for your skin type, or by using them incorrectly or using too many can have the opposite effect of their primary purpose.

Acids are a very complex ingredient which has many different levels that need to be considered. Not all acids are created equally. You have to have the right information about the following:

1st – Which acid do you use?  Lactic, Glycolic or Salicylic?

2nd – How strong a percentage should you have to get the desired results?

3rd – The PH level of the acid changes the overall strength.

4th – Do you leave on or a wash off the product?

5th – How often do you use it.

Which acid to use

Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) work by melting the inter-cellular glue that holds our skin cells together, they aid the skin’s natural shedding process. If you have surface-level skin concerns like faint scarring from past acne, pigmentation, uneven texture then AHA’s with their exfoliation properties are fantastic. They are great to rejuvenate aging skin and giving brightness.

Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) is an oil loving acid. They are anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. This makes them great for oily and acne prone skin and perfect for treating blackheads and whiteheads. BHA can get through the oil that clogs the pores and clean inside the pore where the bacteria is.

BHA’s are more active than AHA’s, and are usually found in lower concentrations.


Ok this is when we start to get more technical for those that want more…..

2nd and 3rd– what people may pick up on is the % of acid in the product, but this is only a very small part. What is more important is the PH of the product. This is a measure of acidity or alkalinity in a product. This can change the % of active acid in the product. For example if you had a lactic acid @ 30% with a ph. of 4 you actually have 42.01% active acid, the same 30% lactic with a PH of 2.5 will give you 95.82% of active acid. This is why at face value it is very hard to compare products as this is not on any product ingredient listings.*

Wash off or leave on

Leave on products will have longer lasting results. Acids work best when left on the skin for a minimum of 3-5 mins or overnight. Cleansers that are washed off straight away will more likely be a bit drying rather than very active.  It is great as a boost to skins that have a lot of oil flow as it will clean the skin more thoroughly for your products following it, but if you are sensitive or an impaired barrier it will cause irritation . It is better in a lot of cases to have it in serum to give the best results.

5th– Just because you have brought a product doesn’t mean you need to use it every day, Introducing it slowly is great and also maybe alternating