Types of Acids in Skin Care

Alpha Hydroxy Acids?

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA's) are naturally occurring compounds found in food that have exfoliating properties for the skin. They work by "un-gluing" dead skin. They have small molecules so they are able to penetrate deep into the layers of the skin. 

Glycolic Acid - sugar cane
Lactic Acid - sour milk
Citric Acid - citrus fruits
Malic Acid - apples
Tartaric - fermented grapes
Mandelic - bitter almonds

Beta Hydroxy Acid?

Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) are naturally occurring compound and better known as salicylic acid. This acid is derived from the bark of the willow tree. Salicylic acid is typically found in acne products and even used to burn off warts in high concentrations. 

How do they work?

Both AHA's and BHA work by exfoliating the skin but in different ways. AHA's are water soluble and work from the surface of the skin down. While BHA is an oil-loving acid and work from the bottom to the surface of the skin. Depending on your desired skin result you are trying to achieve and what types of skin conditions you treating depends on what type of acid you would use. 

Both AHA's and BHA are found in skin care products such as moisturizers, toners, treatment serums, on the spot type treatments and peel pads. They are also found in chemical peels that are performed by estheticians and dermatologists/plastic surgeons. These peels are stronger concentrations.

Stronger is not always better

There are two factors in strength of an acid product or peel. It's percentage and the ph. For example, in a spa/salon setting a typical peel would be in the 20-35% range with a lower ph to penetrate deeper into the skin. Peels are brushed on to clean skin, left 1-3 minutes and then removed with water and neutralized. This is to bring the ph of the skin back to the normal 4-5.5 range and stop the exfoliating activity.  Now, of course, this could mean a bit of tingling on the skin during the process. I like to refer to this as "burn so good!" For the most part, you will leave with a glow to the skin and should not have peeling or shedding of the skin.

Ideally, for effective daily/weekly skin care products that are left on the skin and not removed like a peel, they should be in the 1%- 15% range with a higher ph. 

There are deep peels that are performed in dermatologist or plastic surgeon setting that can be pretty aggressive. They usually will have some down time and true shedding and peeling of the skin. These are for people with deeper pigmentation, acne scars and wrinkles.

Benefits + What acid is best for my skin type?

Typically in skin care, the most commonly used acids are glycolic and lactic in products and peels.

     + AHA's great for restoring moisture and plumpness in the skin
     + Best for dry, flakey, aging and preventative for aging
     + Jumps starts collagen production
     + Reduces fine lines
     + Minimizes sun spots and hyperpigmentation

     + Salicylic acid has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties
     + Best for rosacea, sensitive, acne prone skin types
     + Treats acne, clogged pores, blackheads and congestion

My AHA Favorites

I recommend products that are left on the skin versus cleaners that are washed off quickly. The leave-on products have more time to be effective and yield better results. 

Skin Authority Resurfacing Accelerator 

This is a really nice 15% glycolic acid gel that should be used nightly and left on the skin. This product will soften fine lines, smooth the look and texture of the skin and allow the penetration of products to absorb better. I would recommend this for dull, dry, aging as well as preventative for aging and flakey skin. 

Mad Hippie Exfoliating Serum

This is a glycolic and lactic acid serum and ideal for aging, premature aging, dry and dull skin types. It will jump start collagen production in the skin will resurfacing and smoothing fine lines.

My BHA Favorites

Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Pads

For clogged pores, acne and blackheads I am a big fan of using products that contain BOTH salicylic and glycolic acid. While salicylic works from the bottom of the pore up un-clogging and aiding in calming inflammation, the glycolic smooths the surface of the skin healing any pigmentation left from a blemish.  

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum

This is a powerful treatment serum that contains salicylic, malic and glycolic acids. All the acids work together to clear clogged pores and resurface the skin, while the vitamin C stimulates collagen and is one of the best antioxidants out there!