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Decoding beauty acids and their skincare benefits-The Day Ahead
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Decoding beauty acids and their skincare benefits

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From AHAs to salicylic acid to hyaluronic acid, read on for your guide to skincare acids.


AHAs? BHAs? Hyaluronic acid? With so many beauty acids in skincare, navigating which one is right for your skin can be pretty confusing. Here, we decode what you need to know about the most common beauty acids from what they are, to the skincare benefits, and how to include the right acid for your skin type and skin concerns in your beauty routine.

What are beauty acids?
When it comes to acids, they’re not just an ingredient bubbling away in a beaker in chemistry class, they’re actually very effective skincare ingredients that target and treat a host of skin concerns including ageing, acne, pigmentation, dehydration, dullness, uneven skin tone and more.

What are the most common beauty acids?

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are water soluble acids found in fruits, sugar cane, milk and other foods. These types of acids work on the skin’s surface to exfoliate it, helping to achieve a brighter, clearer, more even complexion. Skincare benefits of AHAs include anti-ageing, promoting collagen production, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, helping to treat and prevent acne breakouts, brightening, evening skin tone, and assist with pigmentation and acne scars. AHAs include glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid and citric acid and are often the hero ingredient in cleansers, toners, serums and exfoliators.

Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are oil soluble acids and like AHAs, they exfoliate the skin. However, BHAs are able to penetrate more deeply into the pores of the skin to slough off dead skin cells, remove bacteria and excess oil and keep pores clear. The most common BHA used in skincare is salicylic acid which is well-known as an acne treatment and is found in targeted spot treatments, cleansers, serums and exfoliators.

Hyaluronic acid: the other acid you’ve likely heard about is hyaluronic acid. This type of acid has powerful hydrating properties and is able to retain water molecules on the surface of the skin keeping skin hydrated, smooth and plump. Hyaluronic acid is a key ingredient in many hydration-boosting and anti-ageing serums.

What are the skincare benefits of the most common beauty acids?
Glycolic acid: glycolic acid is an AHA derived from sugar cane and is an exceptionally effective exfoliator known for its anti-ageing benefits. Glycolic works to slough off dead skin cells helping to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, prevent acne, fade dark spots, stimulate collagen production, and even skin tone.

Lactic acid: gentler than glycolic acid, lactic acid is another AHA. Made from fermented milk, lactic acid exfoliates dead skin cells while also helping to hydrate by attracting moisture to the skin. This gentler acid is an option for sensitive skin and benefits include softening fine lines and wrinkles, evening skin tone, brightening, treating breakouts and keeping skin hydrated. Notably, Cleopatra was rumoured to bathe in milk unknowingly enlisting the benefits of lactic acid to keep her skin looking youthful.

Mandelic acid: derived from bitter almonds, mandelic acid is also from the AHA family but is gentler than glycolic and lactic acid. Like the other AHAs, mandelic acid is an effective exfoliator useful for wrinkles and fine lines, pigmentation, uneven skin tone, skin firmness, and to treat acne.

Fruit acids: fruit acids are AHAs that include citric acid (from lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits) and malic acid (from apples). These fruit acids are relatively gentle and are frequently paired with other AHAs to increase their benefits. Fruit acids work like other AHAs as exfoliators to slough off dead skin cells for brighter, even, plumper skin.

Salicylic acid: this well-known acne-fighting acid is from the BHA family of acids. Salicylic acid works to clean the oil and bacteria out of pores, helping to prevent breakouts and treat existing acne. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Azelaic acid: azelaic acid is another pore-clearing acid useful for treating acne. This acid may also help treat acne scars and hyperpigmentation.

Kojic acid: produced from different types of fungi and as well as a by-product of fermented soy sauce and rice wine, kojic acid is lauded for its lightening properties and is used to treat skin conditions like melasma (pigmentation), age spots and sun damage.

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C): ascorbic acid is a water-soluble form of vitamin C and with its antioxidant properties is good for anti-ageing, brightening and stimulating collagen. Learn more about the benefits of vitamin C in skincare, here.

Hyaluronic acid: hyaluronic acid is a superhero of hydration when it comes to skincare. As noted earlier, as a super retainer of water in the skin, hyaluronic acid is a top ingredient for ageing skin working to hydrate, improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and plump the skin.

How to add a beauty acid into your skincare regimen
Adding a beauty acid into your skincare routine is pretty simple. Start by working out what your main skin concern is and match it to a skincare product containing an acid that targets that specific concern. For instance, if your skin is prone to breakouts try a spot treatment or face wash containing salicylic acid. Try: Grown Alchemist Blemish Treatment Gel: Salix-Alba and Boswellia

If fine lines and wrinkles are a concern, try a serum containing an AHA like glycolic acid or a gentler fruit acid. Try: Mukti 2-in-1 Resurfacing Face Exfoliant with desert lime and rainforest lime (AHA) fruit acids. If dry, dehydrated skin or wrinkles and fine lines are your main concerns opt for a serum featuring hyaluronic acid. Try: Peggy Sue AM Vitamin Serum

If you’re new to using a beauty acid especially one of the stronger acids like glycolic acid, it’s a good idea to patch test the product on your arm and wait for at least a day to check for a reaction. In addition, beauty acids may increase sun sensitivity so up your sunscreen when using an acid in your skincare even if you’re using as part of your evening regimen.

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