What are Face Acids and Which Should I Use?

  • Using face acids at the right concentrations provides some of the best skin care benefits.
  • Salicylic acid is known to treat acne while glycolic acid is used for its anti-aging benefits.
  • Kojic acid, azelaic acid, and ascorbic acid, meanwhile, are known for their brightening properties.

The benefits of face acids

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You may be frightened by the word “acids”, but using it at the right concentrations provides some of the best skin care benefits.

Let’s take a look at the different types and what they have to offer:

Salicylic acid: For acne treatment

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Salicylic acid is perhaps the most well-known treatment for acne. It works by fighting inflammation, exfoliating the skin, and keeping pores clear.

It usually comes in the form of cleansers, spot treatments, and serums, with concentrations ranging from 0.5 to 2 percent.

Glycolic acid: For anti-aging

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Glycolic acid is the most popular alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) used in skincare for fighting signs of aging. It usually comes in concentrations below 10 percent.

Originating from the sugar cane, it is the smallest AHA and therefore easily absorbed by the skin.

Aside from reducing fine lines, it also effectively exfoliates, increases skin thickness, evens out skin tone and texture, fades dark spots, and prevents acne.

Mandelic acid: For even skin

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Mandelic acid, which is derived from bitter almonds, is another AHA. It also exfoliates, evens out pigmentation, treats sun damage, and prevents acne.

Its larger molecular structure does not allow it to penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid, but it also makes it less irritating to the skin.

Azelaic acid: For getting rid of pimples

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Azelaic acid helps reduce inflammation, kill bacteria, and keep pores clear. It also helps fade post-acne marks or hyperpigmentation.

It’s usually found in creams with 15 to 20 percent concentrations.

Kojic acid: For whitening

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Kojic acid is popular in Asian countries for its whitening and anti-aging properties.

It is produced by bacteria used in making sake or fermented rice. While it’s very irritating to the skin, it is quite effective. It’s usually found in soaps, cleansers, and serums at 1 to 4 percent concentrations.

Ascorbic acid: For a more soluble form of vitamin C

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Ascorbic acid, the most common water-soluble form of vitamin C, is known for its anti-aging effects.

It is very unstable and prone to oxidation when exposed to oxygen, sunlight, or water, which is why it is usually stored in a dark or opaque container. Its more stable forms include magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and tetra-isopalmitoyl ascorbic acid.

Lesser-known skin care acids

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There are several other lesser-known face acids:

lactic, citric, malic, and tartaric acidsAHAs that exfoliate, lighten uneven pigmentation, and smooth out skin texture.
ferulic acidantioxidant most commonly used with vitamins C and E.
lipoic acidantioxidant and anti-aging.
trichloroacetic acid (TCA)used in peels and for flattening out scars.
alguronic acidanti-aging.

Which acid should I use?

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First identify the skin problem you want to treat:

Best for…Acid
acne-prone skinazaleic acid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid
mature skinglycolic acid, lactic acid, ascorbic acid, ferulic acid
fading pigmentationkojic acid, azelaic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, linoleic acid, ascorbic acid, ferulic acid

Make sure to do a patch test and start with a lower concentration before moving up — a higher concentration will be more irritating to the skin.

Can you mix acids in your skin care routine?

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While you can use more than one, you can’t use them all at the same time. Mixing can cause extreme irritation or cancel the other’s benefits.

Don’t mix these face acids

  • Salicylic acid combined with any other acid or niacinamide will cause extreme skin irritation.
  • Using glycolic acid or lactic acid with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) will only negate the ascorbic acid’s effect.
  • Avoid retinol when using AHAs.

If you still want to get the benefits of different acids, you can use one in the morning and the other in the evening.


Source: healthline

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