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Guide to Using Acids in Skincare

December 01, 2021

Guide to Using Acids in Skincare

When you think of applying an “acid” to the face it may sound scary. Yet when certain kinds of acids are used in skincare in the right formulation, they are extremely beneficial to the skin.

Let's take a look at the most common acids in skincare and how to choose the ones right for you. We'll cover ascorbic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, mandelic acid, and kojic acid in this article.

Common Acids in Skincare

  • Ascorbic acid is the most common water-soluble form of vitamin C, and is used in skincare for its anti-aging benefits. It’s also used in treating melasma. Ascorbic acid is very unstable in the presence of oxygen and water, so ensuring a stable form is very important. For example, the Ascorbic Acid + Gold + Glutathione in Triple C + Gold improves the stability of ascorbic acid, and extends the lifespan of ascorbic acid in the skin. Glutathione is a precursor to ascorbic acid, so it regenerates ascorbic acid as it is used up by our skin. This results in an effective delivery system that far outperforms any percentage of free ascorbic acid or other ascorbic acid derivatives.
  • Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA). Because it has a small molecular structure, it penetrates well. It's kind of an all-in-one anti-aging ingredient. Glycolic acid will exfoliate, reduce wrinkles, prevent acne, fade dark spots, increase skin thickness, and even out skin tone and texture. The best concentration is 8%. Glycolic acid might be used in stronger percentages when used in peels for treating acne and pigmentation, sometimes with microdermabrasion or micro needling. However, this should be performed by a Pro.
  • Lactic acid is an AHA that acts as an exfoliant. It lightens uneven pigmentation and smooths out skin texture. Lactic acid is an AHA almost as popular as glycolic acid. It is known for being gentler, more hydrating, and more effective at treating sun damaged skin.
  • Salicylic acid is ideal for exfoliating the skin to keep pores clear which reduces blackheads and acne. It is also used in higher concentrations as a peeling agent for treating acne, acne scars, melasma, sun damage, and age spots.
  • Mandelic acid is another AHA. It too exfoliates and prevents acne, helps sun damage, and evens out pigmentation. Due to its larger molecular structure, it doesn’t penetrate skin as deeply as glycolic acid. This just means it is less irritating to the skin. It is often used in peels to replace glycolic acid when glycolic acid is not working.
  • Kojic acid is a popular ingredient in Asian skincare products for its whitening (dark spots) and anti-aging properties. It is produced by bacteria used in the fermentation of rice for the production of sake. If not formulated well it can be irritating to skin but it’s very effective.

How to Choose an Acid

The main three categories for choosing an acid are:

Mature Skin (Anti-aging): Glycolic, Lactic, Ascorbic

Fading Pigmentation: Glycolic, Lactic, Ascorbic, Kojic

Acneic Skin: Azelaic, Salicylic, Glycolic, Lactic, Mandelic

You'll need to experiment to find the best combinations that work for YOUR skin. The safest and easiest one to try first is products with Glycolic Acid. It's the closest to an all-in-one skincare acid as they come. Revive Exfoliating Serum is my favorite.

Here's some additional tips when using acids:

  1. Don't use salicylic acid with any other acid during the same application. Skin irritation may occur. Alternate applications.
  2. Avoid using AHA's with prescription retinol for best results or use them in the AM, and retinol in the PM.
  3. Don't use glycolic and lactic acids in combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). This will prevent vitamin C from being effective. 

    To use conflicting acids simply use one in the AM, the other in the PM. You'll still get results using them once daily.


    Want to get support with your skincare journey? Join us at the Christine Byer Beauty Club. We offer a 14-Day FREE Preview with full access to everything in the Club. Ask Christine questions and have access to savings and the opportunity to win a FREE consultation. If you don’t find value in your membership, cancel within the 14 days at no charge.

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