Putting acids directly on your face might not sound like something you would like, but there is actually acids out there that may work wonders for your skin! In this blog post, I will focus on some of the more well known exfoliating acids, explain to you what an exfoliating acid is and let you know which type of exfoliating acid you should consider adding to your skin care routine.

I think alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), beta hydroxy acid (BHA, which also is known as salicylic acid), and glycolic acid are some of the most well-known acids as the main part of products with exfoliating acids contain at least one of these.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s)

Glycolic acid is actually an AHA, so let us talk about AHA’s first. You might also know AHA’s as fruit acids as many AHA’s are present in foods and fruits. AHA’s are great because they facilitate water absorption among the cells at the outer layers of the skin and reduce cohesion of the skin cells in the outermost layer of the skin. This will result in a higher skin moisture level, improved cell turnover (your skin will be renewed more frequently) and normalization of keratosis and pigment abnormalities. When talking about exfoliating acids we also talk about their size; the smaller the acid, the deeper will it penetrate the skin. Glycolic acid is the smallest AHA and therefore also the AHA which can penetrate the skin the deepest. Other AHA’s are lactic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, mandelic acid, and citric acid.
AHA’s are good for people with dry and mature skin but are also effective against acne. I, myself, use a glycolic acid toner (pictured above) which is the Deciem The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (*). Another glycolic acid toner I have tried, which I also really like, is the Pixi Glow Tonic which contain 5% glycolic acid.

Beta hydroxy acid (BHA) / salicylic acid

Products that only contain BHA/salicylic acid are very mild but effective as they can penetrate through the oils on the skin which AHA’s are not able to in the same way. This makes them able to exfoliate in your pores which is why salicylic acid is very effective against acne and blackheads. If you, for example, suffer from rosacea, then I would suggest salicylic acid if you are considering a chemical exfoliator. When looking for salicylic acid to add to your skincare routine, you need to be aware of the level of alcohol in the product and the pH value of the product. You do not want products with high amounts of alcohol in them as it can cause dryness, irritation, and breakouts – and we do not want that! You also want to find a product which as a low pH value, because if the pH of the product is too high, the product will be ineffective. I use the Deciem The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (*) which has a pH around 3.2-3.5 and are alcohol-free!

As mentioned earlier, there are products out there that contain both AHA and BHA. An example of such a product is the Deciem The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution (*) which is a 10-minute exfoliating facial mask which only should be used two times a week at max and only for ten minutes at a time.

When using exfoliating acids, your skin will become more sensitive to the sun which is why you always should use a sunscreen when using exfoliating acids on your face.

How I use exfoliating acids

There is a lot of different products containing exfoliating acids on the market, the once I have mentioned are just the ones I have tried and love. I use the Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (*) on a daily basis mixed together with Deciem The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (*) which is a product that will reduce the appearance of skin blemishes and congestion. Every now and then I use the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (*) and I tend to use it in the morning. The reason why I don’t use it as often is that it feels a bit “strong” on my sensitive skin so I don’t want to overdo it. I did not have the same experience with the Pixi Glow Tonic which I think is because of the lower concentration of glycolic acid in the Glow Tonic so that might be the better option for me in the future. When I have used the Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (*), I will not add any other exfoliating acids because of my sensitive skin. How much your skin can tolerate is different from person to person. If you want to start using exfoliating acids, then start out slow. Do not overdo it. Start out with the acid of your choice and see how your skin reacts. Is it too harsh, then I would suggest looking into a different acid. You would want to start using the exfoliating acid a couple of times a week before using them every day. Listen to your skin. That might be the best advice I can give you. Some might tingle a bit but that is totally normal. However, you do not want your face to burn. My face often stings strongly a bit when I first apply the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution (*) but it will fade after a couple of seconds.

Ending remarks

I hope you learned something from this blog post, if you have any unanswered questions, then don’t be afraid to put them in the comments. I am not a professional but I have read a lot about the topic and because of my scientific background I am able to remain a critic of what I read. If you already use exfoliating acids, then please let us know your skin type and problems in the comments and what products you find that works the best for you! Thank you so much for reading, I hope to see you back soon! xx

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