How To Pick The Right Acid For Your Skincare Needs

How To Pick The Right Acid For Your Skincare Needs

Exfoliating acids have fast become staples in our beauty routines, yet many of us are still unsure of the right formula for our skin type – not to mention how to use them correctly. Here, Nicola Bonn, host of chart-topping podcast, Outspoken Beauty, breaks down these much-hyped glow-getters.

When it comes to acids, some skincare professionals recommend using one every night. Others might advise you to use an acid once a week. Then there are the experts who don’t believe we should be using them at all because they encourage our skin to be lazy. If you want to try an acid, use one when you feel your skin needs it and don’t be afraid to change your acid by season. For example, salicylic acid might work well in summer months, when skin can be oilier, while a weekly glycolic acid treatment could suit colder months.

Hyaluronic Acid

Don’t be fooled – or scared – by the ‘acid’ in hyaluronic acid. This is actually a powerful hydrator that is found in our own skin cells and can hold 1,000 times its weight in water. It works like a magnet, attracting moisture and keeping your skin plump and hydrated.

Nothing works miracles and, unless you have dermal fillers, a product containing hyaluronic acid will work mainly on the surface of the skin, attracting moisture and strengthening the barrier function. Try The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% plus B5.

Some hyaluronic products contain a variety of molecular weights, with the larger ones working on the surface and smaller ones going slightly deeper to hydrate and plump from within. Try Alpha-H Hyaluronic 8 or Hada Labo Tokyo Lotion No.1 – Super Hydrator.

Glycolic Acid

If you have very sensitive skin, this is probably not for you. Glycolic is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). Of all the AHAs, glycolic has the smallest molecular size and is therefore the most potent. It’s an excellent chemical exfoliant, removing dulling dead skin cells to reveal fresh, bright skin. It is often used to help with pigmentation or scarring, and it can even reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Glycolic newbies should try Pixi Glo Tonic. It’s mild enough to use every day but really does improve the appearance of the skin.

Alpha-H Liquid Gold is a leave-on treatment that’s stronger than the Pixi and works wonders. Use once or twice a week.

Lactic Acid

This is a milder AHA, making it an acid of choice for those with sensitivities. Lactic acid works on the surface of your skin to unglue dead cells, making skin brighter and more hydrated. It’s a good option if you’re suffering from dry skin.

The Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum is effective and affordable. If you’re ready to invest a bit more, try Sunday Riley’s Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment. Its combination of purified lactic acid and liquorice will leave your skin looking plump, bright and radiant.

Salicylic Acid

This is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA). Reach for salicylic acid if you suffer from oily, acne-prone skin or worry about congestion and blackheads.

To keep oily skin in check, try Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. It keeps everything balanced even in summer months, when congestion can be worst.

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution is great and under £5. Dab it directly on spots to take away redness, or use a thin layer all over the face.

Azelaic Acid

This lesser-known acid is a personal favourite of dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting. Azelaic acid is found in grains and is a true multitasker: not only is it an antioxidant, it brightens, improves texture and minimises the appearance of blemishes.

As well as improving your skin’s tolerance of ingredients such as retinol, azelaic acid can be used during breastfeeding and layers well with ingredients such as vitamin C. 

Sesderma Azelac Moisturizing Gel combines azelaic acid with niacinimade – a perfect cocktail for acne and blemish-prone skin. Paula’s Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster combines it with salicylic acid and liquorice.

Wriiten by Nicola Bonn. Nicola hosts the chart-topping podcast Outspoken Beauty. Hear the episode with Nadine Baggott here.

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