Jackpot! Why You Need Acids in Your Skincare Routine
By Kaitlyn Hunter, MedSpa Nurse Practitioner
Lactic acid. Glycolic acid. Salicylic acid.
You’ve probably heard about using these acids on your face. But are they really that safe? Why would anyone want to put acids on their face? Won’t it be a recipe for disaster if you have skin concerns or sensitivities?
As a skin care expert, I’m here to clear up the confusion, calm your fears, and provide a little light on the subject. Let’s take a look at the three most commonly used acids in skincare ingredients.
Lactic acid: gentle exfoliation and hydration
Lactic acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid, is naturally found in healthy skin cells. Its job is to exfoliate the skin, but also keep the skin hydrated at the same time. This means it’s a humectant; it brings water up to the surface of the skin to make sure that the skin stays hydrated.
Lactic acids are:
- Exfoliating and hydrating
- Gentle and perfect for sensitive skin types
- Derived from milk*
* If you have an allergy to milk, you may have a hard time using this ingredient, but people who are lactose intolerant should be fine.
Glycolic acid: stronger exfoliation for oily skin
Glycolic acid, another alpha hydroxy acid, is derived from sugar cane. Its role is to exfoliate the skin to speed up skin cell turnover and get the dead skin off of your face. Unlike lactic acid, it does not keep the skin as hydrated, which is why it’s recommended for normal to oily skin.
Glycolic acids are:
- Stronger than lactic acid (stick with lactic if you have sensitive skin)
- Great for normal and oily skin
- Derived from sugar cane*
* If you have an allergy to sugar or strawberries, you may have some irritation with any prep that has glycolic acid in it.
Salicylic acid: decrease sebum to improve acne
Unlike the first two acids, salicylic is part of the beta hydroxy acid group. It’s actually the most commonly used one in skincare, which is why it’s the perfect ingredient for oily skin types and acne-prone patients.
When we have oily skin, a lot of sebum is being released to the surface of the skin. Sebum acts like cement for our skin- it fills in the spaces and holds onto dead skin cells.
If you have oily skin, you know this becomes a big problem, because now your skin is collecting more and more oil and dead skin. It’s only going to make you more acne-prone!
Salicylic acid works to break up the sebum between the skin cells to help remove that dirty layer off your face. It also targets clogged pores, so it improves your existing acne too.
Salicylic acids are:
- Great for oily or acne-prone skin
- Derived from willow bark
- Safe for many people with sensitive or easily irritable skin