Put acids on your face? Don’t worry, we’re not talking about bubbling laboratory vials and noxious gases, but powerful ingredients that are probably in skincare products you’re already using. You’ve heard of AHAs, BHAs, even Vitamin C – these are often used in anti-aging, brightening, and exfoliating products. Your dermatologist may even use higher concentrations in chemical peels and facials. But what exactly do they do?
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
These include glycolic, lactic, citric, malic, and tartaric acids. They are gentle exfoliants that also stimulate collagen production and help control hyperpigmentation. Unfortunately, they can also make your skin more sensitive to the sun. If you use any product with AHAs, be sure to use a good sunscreen. If you are new to AHAs, start with low levels and work up to higher concentrations to avoid irritation.
Of all the AHAs, glycolic acid has the smallest molecules and can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. Lactic acid is derived from sour milk and is known to be moisturizing.
This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) is derived from willowbark. It is a keratolytic, which means it can exfoliate the surface layer of the skin and clear out clogged pores. That makes it a very effective ingredient for acne treatments, especially for those with oily skin. However, it can be drying and potentially irritating for those with sensitive skin. For this reason, it is often used in small concentrations, put into spot treatments (rather than those applied all over the face), or combined with calming or hydrating ingredients. You can also switch to a product with a gentler acid like glycolic or lactic acid.
If you are allergic to salycylates (found in aspirin) you may want to avoid any product that has salicylic acid, since this may trigger contact dermatitis.
This actually occurs naturally in our skin and acts like a lubricant. However, our body produces less as we grow older. Synthetic hyaluronic acid pulls in moisture from the air, holding over a thousand times its weight in water. It is a mega-moisturizing molecule, and a powerful ingredient for anyone with dry skin.
It’s important to understand what’s in your skincare. Follow this blog for regular posts on ingredients like retinol, antioxidants, and more. You may also want to check our article on parabens. Contact us if you’re curious about a particular ingredient – we’ll be happy to write about that, too!
Mei Hui - Managing Director/Pharmacist