Everything you need to know about skincare acids

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If it’s smooth, glowy skin you’re after, then it’s worth swotting up on acids – here’s how to work out what’s best for you…

We get it: the idea of using skincare products that contain acids can be intimidating.

It’s the fear of the unknown. Is the product right for your skin? What will it feel like? And what kind of results can you expect?

Because skincare acids are such powerful exfoliators, it’s important to know exactly what they do, when to use them,  in what kind of dosage, and how to apply the proper kind of aftercare to ensure the best results. 

There are also a whole range of acids out there with varying properties, the benefits of which will hugely depend on your individual skin type and needs. 

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know to make sure you get the most out of these ultra-effective products – consider it your acid education…

How exactly do skincare acids work?

Put simply, acids work by exfoliating away surface layers of the skin. 

They’re hailed for the fact that, in most cases, the results are pretty instant – no mean feat in the world of skincare. 

In addition to those exfoliating qualities, they can also help boost collagen levels, prevent breakouts and even hydrate skin.

Put simply, when used properly, they’re are effectively miracle workers, which is why they’re so popular.

So how do you know which ones will suit you best? Time for a very quick science lesson…

What different types of skincare acids are there?

There are two main categories of acid: AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) and BHA (beta-hydroxy acid), and while in theory they are similar, they are different in terms of molecule size.

That means they work on different layers of skin, and have differing benefits. 

The most popular and well-known AHA is glycolic acid – glycolic acid has the smallest molecular size of all acids, so it’s able to penetrate deeply into the skin, something that also makes it the fastest-acting.

Other AHAs include lactic acid and mandelic acid. 

When it comes to BHAs, things are a little simpler, as there is only one you need to know about: salicylic acid. 

Salicylic acid is most suited to oily, acne-prone skin types because as well as exfoliating at the surface, it’s able to penetrate deeply into pores to get rid of excess sebum. 

When’s the best time to use skincare acids?

That really depends what else you’re using in your routine.

Ideally used at night time, acids should be the only active ingredient you’re using at that particular time. 

For example, if you’re also using vitamin A – retinol – then it’s best to use that on alternate nights to an acid, unless of course the product you’re using combines both.

That’s the case with the new Liquid Gold Midnight Reboot Serum from Alpha-H.

It uses glycolic acid to accelerate the removal of accumulated dead skin before harnessing the power of granactive retinoid – a gentle form of vitamin A – to resurface and renew dull, ageing skin, giving it a new lease of life. 

What are the best acid-based skincare products to use?

This is where it comes down to your own individual skin type and concerns. 

If your skin is oily and acne-prone, choose something salicylic acid-based. 

Alpha-H Clear Skin Tonic combines 2% salicylic acid with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial Australian botanicals, including eucalyptus and thyme.

Applied in the evenings, it’ll help decongest pores while reducing excess sebum. 

If you’re looking to improve skin texture and tone, then Alpha-H Liquid Gold might be the product for you.

Formulated with 5% glycolic acid, it encourages skin renewal and turnover, stimulates collagen production and helps hydrate skin too. 

Use it on alternative nights to the Liquid Gold Midnight Reboot Serum to breathe new life into your complexion.

If you want a gentle product to use around the delicate eye area Alpha-H Liquid Gold Firming Eye Cream targets hyperpigmentation, skin roughness and puffy eyes with gentle Native Australian Lime Pearl™ AHAs, quadruple peptide technology and multiple skin brighteners including illuminating diamond particles

No matter what acid product you’re trying, it is important to introduce it into your routine slowly to build up the skin tolerance and avoid over-exfoliation, which can result in impaired skin barrier function AKA sensitised skin. 

What sort of after-care should you use?

Along with avoiding overuse, acid after-care is equally important. 

Incorporating a pH-balancing cleanser that won’t strip skin, like Alpha-H Balancing Cleanser, is a good idea. 

The gentle, cream formula helps prepare and prime skin for the active ingredients you’re about to apply, ensuring they’ll work harder, while also getting rid of make-up, dirt and debris that’s accumulated on skin throughout the day. 

Then, the day after using acids – and, actually, every other day too – make sure you’re applying a non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores) sunscreen that has at least SPF 30, but ideally 50, in it. 

Alpha-H Daily Essential Moisturiser SPF50 ticks both those boxes while also being super-llightweight and hydrating enough to replace your usual daily moisturiser. 

Want to put your acid education into practice? With a 25-year heritage, Alpha-H is a pioneer – and now authority – in the use of glycolic acid and other accelerating acids – shop the range here.