Acids in skincare

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I’ve only recently started paying attention to acids in skincare. My skincare routine is simple, I use few products with simple ingredients, and rarely look for ingredients with specific qualities. A few months ago I was looking for a light moisturiser for the summer, and came across one with Hyaluronic Acid. I quickly looked up what it was and decided to get it. It ended up being the only moisturiser I used all summer and now that summer is over and we’re moving towards dryer times skin-wise, I thought I’d look into hyaluronic acids as well as other acids used in skincare, to know what products to use and why.

It may sound scary to put acid on your skin, and if used wrong or in immoderate amounts some acids might be harmful to your skin. Used correctly, in proper amounts and combined with the right ingredients acids are not only safe to use, they are also very beneficial. A few rules of thumb when using acids is never to mix different types of acids as they often work at different pH levels and mixing them might cause irritation to your skin. Also, you shouldn’t leave out other products in favour of acids from your skincare routine. Some acids are best used as a supplement, maybe every second day. Since most acids work as exfoliants, excessive use might cause irritation and thinning of skin.

There are a few main types of acids most commonly used in skincare.

AHA or alpha hydroxy acids: Examples of AHA acids are lactic, glycolic, malic, tartaric, mandelic and citric acid. AHA acids exfoliate the skin by removing the “blockage” on the surface of the skin so that dead skin can shed more naturally.

Salicylic acid/BHA or beta hydroxy acid: BHA is oil soluble which is why it penetrates the skin and exfoliates deeper in the pores of the skin. BHA is also said to have calming properties and is good for acne or blemish prone skin. For more specific effects or use check with a dermatologist.

Hyaluronic acid: Hyaluronic acid exists naturally in our skin and lessens with age and sun exposure. It is a hydratant, meaning it moisturises our skin as well as defends the skin against moisture loss. Hyaluronic acid is safe to use every day, as it doesn’t exfoliate the skin.

L-ascorbic acid or vitamin C: It’s an antioxidant that calms our skin as well as protects it from pollution. Vitamin C is also safe to use more regularly.

Amino acids: They’re a part of proteins, which our skin needs to rebuild itself. Amino acids are water binding and thus moisturising, as well as antioxidants that might have calming effects on your skin.

Retinoic acid: Used mostly by professionals for anti-aging treatments, as it’s an even more deeply exfoliating acid than BHA, and has to be used in controlled amounts. 

Fatty acids: Examples of fatty acids are oleic, palmitic and linoleic acid. They strengthen the skin’s surface against moisture loss and prevent dirt from entering your skin.

Since a lot of these acids are exfoliant (AHA, BHA, retinol), they’re best used at night and you should always use spf (sunscreen) when using these acids in your skincare routine, even during the winter months, to protect from sun damage. When using exfoliating acids, the pH level in the product is important, too high and you might damage your skin by peeling off too much. A good rule is to buy products from trusted companies, always do a patch test (if it stings too much it’s too strong) and don’t use concentrated acids at home. 

I also always try to think that we shouldn’t try to magically heal our skin or change it, but rather accept our natural look with wrinkles and imperfections. A lot of the time these imperfections might disappear with some time and patience.

The products I’ve used are:

Evolve Hyaluronic Serum 200 – it’s quite expensive but available in a smaller size for a lower price. It feels nice on my skin but I haven’t used it long enough to really say if it makes a difference, maybe in the winter it’ll be more noticeable, when my skin is a lot dryer. I have noticed that it seems to dry out the thin skin underneath my eyes a bit, so I avoid putting it there.

Evolve Daily Defence Moisture Mist – is maybe my favourite product at the moment. In the summer it was my saviour, spraying the cool mist in the heat of the European summer was so nice. It moisturised enough so I didn’t need to use any other moisturiser all summer. Now I use it every morning but already have to use some other moisture as well as the air is getting dryer.

I found this Madara Brightening AHA Peel Mask and plan to get it as my first AHA product. Since I have pretty clear skin I won’t use it more that once a week and I’m curious to see if it’ll have a visible effect.

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