There’s a lot of talk about acids in the skincare world, and though the name might imply severity, these compounds can work wonders for your complexion (sensitive ones included). With so many acid-infused products on the market, we turned to all-star aesthetician Renée Rouleau to break down the need-to-know basics. Consult this guide to determine which type is best for your skin.
Who: "Lactic acid is good for sensitive, dehydrated skin."
What: "Derived from milk, this acid exfoliates skin and keeps it hydrated. It also aids in diminishing fine lines and wrinkles."
Where: "Lactic acid can be found in cleansers and serums."
Who: "Glycolic acid is a great exfoliator for all skin types, especially a sun-damaged dermis. Depending on your skin’s needs and how sensitive it is will determine the strength of glycolic acid you want to use."
What: "Derived from sugar cane, this acid is best known for its ability to exfoliate, hydrate and rejuvenate skin. Glycolic acid is the smallest molecule of the alpha hydroxy acid family. It effectively treats brown spots, sun damage, post-breakout red or dark scars, blemishes, clogged pores and fine lines and wrinkles by removing the top layers of skin, forcing new collagen growth and improved elastin. Acne and fine lines/wrinkles are essentially indents in the skin, and pigmentation is uneven color. The refined surface after use creates smoother, even skin tones because there is less of a visible indent and discoloration. It can also help alleviate dry skin and keratosis pilaris. Skin can’t effectively be moisturized until the dry skin buildup is removed, allowing the product to penetrate. Keratosis pilaris is made less visible through exfoliation."
Where: "Glycolic acid is typically found in serums and masks."
Who: "Hyaluronic acid is good for oily skin types because it’s an oil-free hydrator. It’s also good for dry skin types and aging skin with fine lines and wrinkles."
What: "It’s a component of skin’s own natural tissue that is frequently used in products as a good skin-identical ingredient, since the complexion responds and accepts it easily. It’s a bioactive hydrating ingredient to bind 1000 times its weight in moisture to the skin. It’s also known as sodium hyaluronate, and has been used for years and continues to be one of the most commonly used hydrating ingredients. With continued use, skin’s water content improves daily and fine lines and wrinkles become more plump and therefore less visible."
Where: "Hyaluronic acid is commonly found in toners (alcohol-free), specialty serums, moisturizers and eye creams. It is also used as an injectable by dermatologists for filling in lines and wrinkles since the body doesn’t really see it as a foreign substance since it’s found in our own bodies."
Who: "Salicylic acid is good for acne-prone, problematic skin."
What: "Salicylic acid is a keratolytic beta hydroxy acid (BHA) famous for its ability to smooth the skin sans irritation and reduce acne-causing bacteria and oil to prevent blemishes, all while penetrating the pores to help clear out impurities. It’s a fabulous ingredient with proven results in reducing blemishes, and excellent for preventing blackheads after a deep pore-cleansing facial."
Where: "Salicylic acid is found in cleansers and moisturizers formulated for skins prone to break-outs, as well as in acne spot treatments."
Who: Citric acid benefits aging skin.
What: "This fruit-derived acid helps stimulate collagen fiber production in the dermis. It also helps with skin discoloration."
Where: "Citric acid is typically found in moisturizers."
Contains lactic acid.