It’s no secret that acids form the foundations of a successful skincare routine. But in territory where combining the wrong products could render them useless, or worse irritate the skin’s moisture barrier, it is important you know the rules of play. Get to know what acids are out there, AHA from BHA, what to pair, what to part, and you’ll feel be able to create a skincare routine fit for a queen (aka you). Go get em!
AHAs and BHAs, what’s the difference?
There is a lot of talk about AHAs and BHAs when discussing acids in skincare. But what gives?
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are water-soluble and mainly address the skin’s surface. This makes them excellent at exfoliating the top later of skin to reveal radiance and even out the skin tone. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), however, penetrate more deeply. BHAs are able to unclog pores and remove excess oil, which makes them a great option for those suffering from acne.
There are many AHAs and BHAs out there, but here are the ones you are most likely to come across…
A popular chemical exfoliate, you’ll likely find glycolic acid in peels and toners. It helps remove dead skin cells to reveal new layers of skin underneath. The result? A bright complexion. Glycolic acid is also able to stimulate collagen production to help promote firmer more youthful looking skin. It is worth noting, as with any exfoliant, start small and build up, especially for those with sensitive skin types.
Lactic acid is best used to achieve a youthful complexion. Whilst exfoliating, it speeds up cell turn over and stimulates cell renewable for smoother, softer skin. It is great at improving the skin’s moisture levels too, all of which leads to younger looking skin.
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Salicylic Acid is an exfoliant that penetrates into the skin’s layer, helping to unclog pores and remove dead skin cells and excess sebum. It is also excellent at reducing inflammation in the skin, which can help improve overall skin health.
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But there’s more… What about hyaluronic acid?
Although technically an acid, hyaluronic acid is praised for its ability to hydrate the skin rather than exfoliate it. As a humectant, it is able to retain and preserve moisture, making it an excellent all rounder for most skin types but especially dry skin. The hydrating and plumping effect of hyaluronic acid makes for excellent anti-age serums too.
How should I use an acid?
We recommend starting small and building up, after a patch test of course. Starting small could mean a mild cleanser containing salicylic acid, like this one by Teami Blends, or applying a cream/serum just in the PM. When you’re good to go, you can increase usage. By giving your skin time to adjust you will minimise the risk of any irritation.
When it comes to combining acids, it really depends on your skin’s needs. It is safe to combine AHAs and BHAs, and when done correctly, it can create a powerhouse routine. By applying them at different times of the day, AM or PM, or alternating in the PM, you can safely use both types of acids in your skincare regime, but always take care.
With regards to interacting with other products, avoid applying vitamin C immediately after using an acid as this can cause irritation and redness. If you want to use both, again apply at different times of the day and favour the AM for Vitamin C. We love the Perfecting Serum with Vitamin C by Allies of Skin.
As for retinol, approach with caution. As retinol also exfoliates the skin, combining with an AHA or BHA at the same time can lead to irritation and dryness. This is why we think it is best to combine acids with products that moisturise and hydrate, or alternate days. It depends on your skin’s needs and tolerance, so if in doubt, check in with a dermatologist and always patch test.
It is also *even* more important to apply SPF whilst using acids in your routine to ensure your skin stays protected from harmful sun exposure.
As long as you’re paying attention to how your skin feels and being mindful of your product choice and usage, you’ll be on your way to a healthy complexion.
Now go forth and glow!