A common ingredient in many skin care products is acid. A common misconception is that something that is ‘acid’ is going to peel or exfoliate your skin. This isn’t always the case, used correctly, acids can also help with dry skin, fine lines, wrinkles, and acne. If you are feeling overwhelmed after staring at ingredient labels and need some direction (and product recommendations), read on.
In my opinion, there are 10 acids that you need to know about.
- Retinoc Acid (Retinol) – Derived from Vitamin A, Retinoic acid is well known as an antiaging powerhouse. This acid causes skin cell turnover and provides benefits of increased collagen production, clean pores, accelerated skin cell shedding and evened out skin tone. Your skin may take a short time to adjust to this acid (skin flaking is completely normal). Because of this acid’s anti-aging benefits, almost every female dermatologist is on a prescription retinoid. My favorite prescription retinoid is Differin, very effective, with few side effects.
- Salicylic Acid – If you have acne, this acid is sure to be in your bathroom. When used to treat acne, the acid will dry up blemishes. As an antibacterial, the acid will work as an exfoliator to remove discolored and damaged skin cells to improve skin tone. At high concentrations, sal acid can be used as a chemical peel that can help clear major breakouts in no time. Salicylic acid peels should be performed by your dermatologist. I have acne, so I make sure to do a sal acid peel every 3 months.
- Glycolic Acid – This is one of the best acids out there, going beyond the top layer of skin to help loosen up the bonds that hold dead skin together. Glycolic acid will shrink pores, lighten spots, even out scars, lessen wrinkles and keep the texture of your skin smooth and bright. Gentle enough for beginners with proven anti-aging properties, this would be a great start if you want to incorporate acids into your routine. If you are new to acids, I would recommend starting at a 5% glycolic acid product. Neostrata has a great glycolic acid wash.
- Lactic Acid – Gentle and effective, those with sensitive skin will benefit from a product that includes Lactic acid. It exfoliates and softens lines and wrinkles in a much less irritating way than other acids. Find it in HydroPeptide Even Out (enter code DOCTOR-IP for preferred pricing).
- Mandelic Acid – Another one that works well on sensitive skin, Mandelic acid is great for brightening skin, addressing dark spots, as well as diminishing the signs of aging.
- Hyaluronic Acid – This acid is a moisture booster and can add volume when injected. A key in many moisturizers and fillers, hyaluronic acid is synthetically made to replicate a natural structural component of skin. When used as a cream or serum, skin will feel softer and you will notice improvement in the appearance of fine lines. Look for a product that combines this with vitamin C to assist in effective penetration.
- Azelaic Acid – If you suffer from redness (especially related to rosacea) and acne, Azelaic acid could benefit you. This acid is derived from grains and soothes irritated skin. Azeliac acid is also a power fighter of hyperpigmentation. The great news about this product is that it can be used in pregnancy!! This is my go to product for fighting my acne and melasma (the brown mask of pregnancy that many women get) when I am expecting. Works like a charm and perfectly safe.
- Ascorbic Acid – This is the synthetic version of Vitamin C and is known to have antioxidant benefits as well as the ability to brighten skin and increase collagen. You’ll find vitamin C in lots of serums. Just be careful. Some vitamin C serums can lose potency quickly. I keep mine in the fridge to preserve it for as long as possible.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid – A powerful antioxidant that will help to minimize the look of lines and wrinkles, Alpha Lipoic acid will protect against free radicals and help to prevent damage. This a newer, more-potent antioxidant that will diminish fine lines and give your skin a healthy glow.
- Malic Acid – Another one that is great for sensitive skin, Malic Acid encourages cell turnover when used as an exfoliator.
Many over the counter products will combine these acids to produce a powerful combination for your skin care needs. You an also find many of these acids combined for effective skin brightening and pore tightening in the Hydropeptide plump and peel kit. This is why this is my go to home peeling kit that I use once a week to make sure that my skin always has a healthy glow. It is important to find the right balance for your skin type (especially those with sensitive skin). Any new skin care routine will take time to see results – over time you should notice that your skin is brighter and more evened out. If your skin becomes red, irritated, itchy and dry you may have overused the acid and should stop the use of the product for a few days (and be sure to keep up with the moisturizer to help soothe any irritation).
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African American Dermatologist