Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Sritama Dutta (Medical Science) on 03rd Mar 2021
The 10 Best Acids for Your Skincare Routine
Facial acids have gained immense popularity in recent days because of their versatile nature. While some can help moisturize the skin or reduce aging signs, other facial acids can help fight acne and soothe the skin's texture. But with numerous facial acids available in the skincare market, all with lucrative benefits, choosing the one suitable for your skin can be a daunting task to do. In this article, we will discuss the various facial acids and their benefits and uses. Let's begin!
1. Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is a Beta Hydroxy acid known for its ability to reduce acne on the skin. It helps to exfoliate the skin at a cellular level by penetrating the skin layers and dissolving the dead skin cells. It also helps in unclogging the congested pores and clogged hair follicles by clearing the excess sebum, accumulated dirt, and grime. This action, in turn, helps in reducing blackheads and whiteheads, together termed as non-inflammatory acne.
In a higher concentration, salicylic acid acts as a peeling agent and is often used to treat acne, acne scars, melasma, and age spots. However, there are some side effects that you can expect from using salicylic acid. Though usually safe on the skin, overuse of salicylic acid can cause skin irritation or extreme dryness. You might experience peeling of the skin in the first few days after you start using the acid. However, hypersensitive reactions are infrequent, and you are mostly going to enjoy the feeling of smooth skin on using it.
2. Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid that is derived from sugarcane. This ingredient too helps in treating skin breakouts and acne. Glycolic acid, when topically applied, penetrates the skin and breaks the desmosomal bonds between the superficial epidermal layer and the underlying dermal layers. This action peels off the outer skin layer and helps you eliminate the hardened, dull and dead skin cells, and reveals smoother and brighter skin.
Glycolic acid also helps in retaining moisture in the skin cells and prevents drying out the skin. Research has also shown it to have antibacterial as well as antioxidant properties. Glycolic acid even helps enhance collagen synthesis, which thickens the skin and makes it stronger and more elastic.
3. Ascorbic Acid
Ascorbic acid, better known as Vitamin C, is another potent facial acid with multiple skin benefits. It is a rich source of antioxidants and prevents free radicals on the skin. This prevents skin damage and delays the aging process. Ascorbic acid also promotes collagen synthesis, which makes the skin firmer and more resilient.
Vitamin C is also known to lighten the skin tone by inhibiting the tyrosinase activity responsible for melanin (skin pigment) synthesis. It is also helpful in preventing signs of sun damage. Another benefit of this ingredient is replenishing Vitamin E supply in the skin, which helps protect the skin from sun damage.
4. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is another naturally occurring acid. Chemically speaking, they are long unbranched chains of carbohydrates or polysaccharides, known as glycosaminoglycans, present in our body's connective tissues. It gives our skin its structure and integrity. However, with advancing age, the HA present in our body induces the appearance of aging signs. That's when you need topical Hyaluronic Acid.
HA is a potent humectant that draws in moisture from the surroundings and keeps the skin well hydrated. This, in turn, increases the skin's elasticity, reduces wrinkles and fine lines, and makes the skin soft and supple. It also helps in faster wound healing. Hyaluronic acid is used in treating skin disorders like eczema too.
5. Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid is an organic acid obtained from grains like barley, wheat, and rye. It is popular for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which help treat skin conditions like acne and rosacea. It helps keep acne-causing bacteria at bay by clearing out the open pores. It also enhances the cell turnover rate, aids in faster wound healing, and minimizes scarring.
Azelaic acid is also effective in treating hyperpigmentation and fades away dark spots and patches. However, it has some side effects too. One might experience a burning or tingling sensation, peeling and flaking of the skin, skin dryness, and redness. It might also make the skin thin and make it more sensitive to sun damage.
6. Lactic Acid
Lactic acid is another Alpha hydroxy acid derived from milk. It is considered to be a potent anti-aging agent as well as a pigmentation-fighting ingredient. Like a chemical peel, this acid helps slough off the dried-up outer layer of the skin and brings up the brighter, more radiant skin layer underneath. It can help reduce age spots and give your skin an even complexion.
Lactic acid is much milder than most other AHAs and is therefore facial acid of choice for sensitive skin people. However, using lactic acid can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage. It might also cause skin irritation, rash, and itchiness, which usually subsides as the skin gets familiar with the ingredient. Lactic acid peel is not recommended if you have an existing skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea.
7. Mandelic Acid
Mandelic acid is an organic acid among the Alpha Hydroxy Acids obtained from bitter almonds. It is a milder acid suitable for sensitive skin. This acid can slowly get absorbed in the skin and accelerate cell turnover by exfoliating the dead skin cells. It is also responsible for improving collagen formation, thereby making the skin strong and resilient.
Mandelic acid is also helpful in treating acne and breakouts by regulating sebum production and unclogging pores. It also has an anti-inflammatory action that helps reduce pimples and blemishes. It makes the skin smoother by removing the dull and dried-up skin cells deposited in the superficial layers and revealing the brighter layer underneath. The same action also helps in fading away hyperpigmentation.
By promoting collagen production, mandelic acid also reduces wrinkles and fine lines and gives your skin a youthful appearance.
8. Ferulic Acid
Ferulic acid is obtained from various sources such as bran, oats, rice, eggplants, and even citrus fruits. It is also a rich source of antioxidants that fight against the free radicals in the skin. It even boosts the performance of other antioxidants like Vitamin C, A and E. It also helps to stabilize vitamin C and offers protection against sun damage.
It has been proven to reduce the risk of skin cancer too effectively. It is mostly safe on the skin but might cause hypersensitive reactions in certain people. An allergy to ferulic acid can experience redness, rashes, hives, itchiness, and even peeling and flaking of the skin.
9. Kojic Acid
Kojic acid is derived from various fungi types, mainly by fermenting foods like Japanese sake, soy sauce, and rice wine. It is most popular because of its excellent skin-lightening properties. It inhibits tyrosine (an amino acid responsible for melanin synthesis) formation and reduces skin hyperpigmentation.
Kojic acid also helps in fighting off several bacteria and reduces acne to some extent. It also has anti-fungal properties that help treat various skin infections. It can be used to treat conditions like candidiasis, ringworm, or athlete's foot. Though usually safe on the skin, it is preferable to use in lower concentrations. Kojic acid might cause contact dermatitis and give rise to skin irritation, redness, itchiness, rashes, and swelling.
Malic acid is categorized under Alpha Hydroxy acids. This acid is derived from apple juice and helps exfoliate dull superficial skin. It improves cell regeneration and gives the skin a vibrant appearance. Being a humectant, it draws in moisture from the environment, enhances skin hydration, reduces wrinkles, and leaves your skin a smoother texture. Malic acid also helps in balancing pH levels. Malic acid also plays a role in lightening acne scars and PIH faster. It removes excess oil and dirt from the skin and prevents acne.
Some Lesser Known Acids With Incredible Benefits
- Linoleic Acid: Known for pigmentation lightening capability.
- Oleic Acid: Acts as a carrier that helps in transporting other drugs by penetrating the skin layer.
- Lipoic Acid: Has a high amount of antioxidants and also helps in delaying aging.
- Alguronic Acid: Acts as an anti-aging agent.
The Bottom Line:
After reading this article, we seriously hope you will pick acids to remedy your skin woes. To make things easy for you a bit more, here's the brief version of the beneficial effects of the different facial acids at a glance:
- Hyaluronic acid is one of the most potent humectants that can help in keeping the skin well moisturized.
- Fighting against acne, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid, and azelaic acid can help.
- Ascorbic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid, and ferulic acid can be wonderful remedies to cure aging signs. They can make your skin appear more radiant and youthful.
- You can include kojic acid, lactic acid, ascorbic acid, linoleic acid, or even ferulic acid in your skincare regime for treating hyperpigmentation.