So, before you think that all you need is make up for that beautiful glow, take a moment to read up on these 5 common acids that play an important function in a skincare routine, what they do, and the skin types that benefit from them.

So, before you think that all you need is make up for that beautiful glow, take a moment to read up on these 5 common acids that play an important function in a skincare routine, what they do, and the skin types that benefit from them.

When you hear of acids, do chemistry sets come to mind? Or other things, not pleasant to the face? Spend any time reading the back label of skin care products, and you’ll find that acids play an important role in skin health. Here are five acids that can change your skincare routine for the better...

The Acne Banisher: Salicylic acid

This acid may be the most well-known of all the acids within the skincare realm. Usually found in cleansers and exfoliators because of its effectiveness at clearing out clogged pores and acne bacteria, it’s great for those who are prone to pimples and acne breakouts. Used at 1 to 2 percent, products with this ingredient can dry out one’s skin, so make sure to moisturize after use. Salicylic acid is also found in professionally applied peels. In the office, the percentage is much higher, at 20 to 30 percent, which is why you’ll need to get those peels at a spa or a dermatologist’s office.

The Exfoliator: Glycolic acid

Found in sugar cane (of all places!), glycolic acid is now also made in labs, and is one of the alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) of which there are five. Among the five, it’s reputed to be the safest. And because it has the smallest molecule structure of the five AHAs, it easily penetrates the top layer of skin and can act on living cells at the dermal layer. Thus, it is a common ingredient in exfoliators. Glycolic acids also help brighten sun spots or age spots, so you’ll often find it in serums, eye creams, and moisturizers—as well as at-home or in-office peels. When choosing a serum with glycolic acids, look for one with glycolic acid as close to 10 percent as possible. In this case, the higher the percentage, the better.

The Brightener: L-ascorbic acid / Vitamin C

Or better known as good ol’ vitamin C! Vitamin C has, in recent years, taken center stage as a powerful way to combat dark spots and hyperpigmentation. It is also said to help with collagen production for greater firmness to the skin. So, for those who are battling with aging spots, serums featuring this acid should have a permanent place in your skincare routine. After application, it stays within the skin’s environment for up to 72 hours. Apply it at least every other day. When choosing a serum with l-ascorbic acid, look for one with a pH balance of 3.5 or less, which will help the skin absorb the acid. And because it is powerful stuff, you don’t want anything higher than a 20 percent concentration. Your vitamin C serum should come in an airtight dropper or dispenser to protect the ingredient, as it needs to be shielded from sunlight and air to be effective.

The Hydrator: Hyaluronic acid

Our skin makes acid, too. Hyaluronic acid is naturally found on our skin, but you can also buy it in a store because, according to experts, we lose about 50 percent of hyaluronic acid from the surface of our skin by the time we reach our mid-forties. One of the fantastic elements of this acid is that it pulls moisture from the environment. Hyaluronic acid is a common ingredient in toners and lotions (read: magical Japanese liquid moisturizer). Toners and lotions are the skincare step immediately after cleaning and right before applying essences and serums. But look for it in essences and serums to get a higher concentration in one go.

The Sensitive One: Lactic acid

Another within the family of AHAs, lactic acid is found in milk, plants, fruit, and vegetables. Gentler than other siblings in the AHA family, it is perfect for those with sensitive skin, doing many of the same tasks that glycolic acid does. For example, lactic acid hydrates and brightens the appearance of skin, helps reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging, as well as helps prevent and deal with acne breakouts. Found in a toner, at-home peels, and serums, all in varying degrees of strengths, it is perfect for the person with picky skin prone to blotchiness or redness.

Knowing the acids in your serums and how they work on your skin will give you a leg up when it comes to choosing the right beauty products for your skin care routine.

Eun-Ha Park

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