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February 10, 2021
Acids may sound irritating to many, however, with the right formulation and concentration, they can be used by all skin types, even sensitive, rosacea, and eczema prone skin, to target acne, pigmentation, uneven skin tone and rough texture.
Find out what types of acids there are, and which of them suit your skin!
This water-soluble type of acids exfoliate by dissolving the bond between dead skin cells. With nothing forcing these cells to stick together, they can be shredded off much quicker and easier. This helps smooth skin texture, even skin tone, fade pigmentation faster, and allow skincare products to penetrate better. If used on a regular basis, they can also increase collagen and hyaluronic acid deposition and synthesis within the dermis, so the skin will appear more plumped, smooth and bouncy!
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Mandelic Acid is derived from bitter almonds, and is considered to be the most gentle compared to Lactic and Glycolic Acid. Apart from gentle exfoliation to even skin tone and smooth texture, it has been shown to reduce melasma by as much as 50% in four weeks, and is thus most often recommended for skin with pigmentation.
This gentle acid is also great for treating existing acne and preventing future breakouts, as not only is it antibacterial, it also helps regulate sebum production, unclog pores, and reduce inflammation.
In addition, studies have also shown that mandelic acid helps stimulate collagen production, which ultimately helps soften the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
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Lactic Acid, which is derived from milk, is a gentle, hydrating AHA that is naturally found in our body. It is rather unusual in the sense that it is also one of the main substance of the epidermis’ Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF). This means although it gently exfoliates, it also improves the skin’s NMF, as well as enhances ceramides production in the epidermis, so the skin is more hydrated, and can better lock in moisture.
In addition, studies have shown lactic acid to kill bacteria, reduce acne, and diminish wrinkles, as well as help treat keratosis pilaris.
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Glycolic Acid is derived from sugar cane, and is considered the most potent form of AHA thanks to its small molecular size. Like Mandelic and Lactic Acid, it is effective at exfoliating skin, reducing fine lines, and preventing acne; however, it is comparatively more irritating.
Even for non-sensitive skin, Glycolic Acid is not for everyday use. In fact, at high concentration, using it even once a week may greatly irritate some skin. And if you have sensitive skin, it is best to avoid Glycolic Acid.
Different from AHAs, BHAs (basically consists of only Salicylic Acid and Willow Bark) are oil-soluble, and thus, can get deeper into the pores to remove dead skin cells and excess sebum. The interesting thing is, not only does it benefit acne skin, research has shown that it is beneficial to rosacea skin as it helps to alleviate those acne-like bumps, as well as redness.
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Salicylic Acid, a BHA derived from Willow Bark, is an oil-soluble acid. This means besides exfoliation, it can penetrate into pores, and dissolves the skin debris and oils that are clogging them, thereby reducing blackheads, whiteheads, and acne.
For at-home use, look for products with under 2% Salicylic Acid. Anything over that may be irritating to the skin.
A natural source of Salicylic Acid, Willow Bark is also considered a BHA. In addition to possessing ability in unclogging pores and alleviating acne just like Salicylic Acid, this anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, versatile ingredient is also high in tannins, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and various minerals, all of which help soothe the skin, stimulate cell regeneration, as well as reduce signs of aging and the appearance of wrinkles.
What’s more, some studies have shown Willow Bark to help alleviate conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea!
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PHAs are quite similar to AHAs in terms of similar chemical structure and similar effects on the skin, such as exfoliation and long term anti-aging benefits like increased skin thickness and decreased wrinkles. They are, however, larger in molecular size than AHAs, and are thus more gentle. What’s better, they even possess hydrating and antioxidant benefits!
Lactobionic acid, is a PHA derived from sugar that has similar effects to AHAs, such as exfoliation, fading pigmentation, reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles, improving enlarged pores and smoothing skin texture. Although less potent than AHAs, they are gentle enough for even sensitive skin, as it doesn't need to be used at a low pH.
In addition, besides also being a humectant that attracts water to the skin, it has been shown to act as a potent antioxidant as well that targets naturally-occurring, skin degrading enzymes to help maintain a youthful look.
Gluconolactone is a type of PHA that naturally occurs in fruit, honey, and wine. Not only is it a gentle exfoliating acid, it is also a hydrator thanks to its ability in attracting water to the skin, making it a great choice for sensitive skin. Better yet, Gluconolactone has healing and antimicrobial properties, and therefore is often recommended for healing broken skin, including those that have had recent superficial cosmetic procedures like laser treatments.
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