Face & Body Care

SBC’s Acid Skincare Guide

Are Acids Safe to Use on the Skin?

If you are new to acids, the concept of using one on your skin may sound a little scary. Whist the term ‘acid’ may sound intimidating, fear not, they are in fact considered ‘game changers’ for your skin. Adding them into your skincare regime can transform your skin, regardless of type, concern or age.

Acids are used as chemical exfoliants and are generally kinder to your skin than many physical exfoliants, which can scratch the skin’s surface. They work to slough away dead skin cells to leave you with a smoother, brighter and more youthful-looking complexion.

There are different types of acids, and it can be confusing to understand which one works best for certain skin types, so we have rounded up some key acids, to tell you what they are, how they work and how they could benefit your skin.

Why should I use Acids on my Skin?

To put it simply they help to remove the build-up of dead skin cells, which has the following effects on the skin:

  • Smooths the skin’s surface
  • Reduces fine lines/dehydration lines
  • Increases water held in the skin
  • Stimulates collagen and elastin production
  • Improves skin function
  • Reduces breakouts caused by blocked pores

What are AHAs & BHAs?

There are two main types of acids found in skincare products:

  1. AHA – Alpha Hydroxy Acids: AHAs are naturally occurring substances found in fruits, sugar cane and sour milk. Imagine the old video game Pac-Man – AHAs work like Pac-Man to eat up excess dead skin cells to reveal the brighter, more youthful-looking skin underneath.
  2. BHA – Beta Hydroxy Acids: A chemical compound that works deeper than AHAs, to penetrate the skin’s pores and loosen dirt, oils and dead skin, whilst exfoliating with a whirlpool effect.

There are also Polyhydroxy Acids (PHA). These are like AHAs but work at a slower rate and are gentler on the skin. Finally, there are also hydrating acids (we’ll look at one particular favourite later).

How do AHAs Work?

The main benefit of AHAs is their ability to exfoliate the skin and loosening the bonds that hold together the top layers of dead skin cells. By removing the excess build-up on the surface of the skin, AHAs allow newer, softer, healthier-looking skin to emerge. AHAs also improve the effectiveness of your other skincare products, by enabling them to penetrate more effectively.

AHAs help diffuse the appearance of age spots, sun damage and skin discolouration. They can also reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Regular use of AHAs reveals smoother, softer, visibly firmer, and more even-toned skin. All skin types can benefit from AHAs, but they work best on normal to dry skin.

Types of AHAs

  • Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid derives from sugar cane, sugar beet and some fruits. It is the strongest AHA due to its small molecular size, which allows for better skin penetration. It won’t go inside a pore but works on the skin’s surface to loosen and dissolve the bonds between the dead skin cells, which, if not attended to, can leave skin dull and prone to blocked pores.

The benefits of using Glycolic Acid are to decrease the appearance of spots and scars, brighten a dull complexion, and target signs of ageing, whilst reducing pore size and normalising the skin. Glycolic Acid can also help to improve skin hydration, leading to improved skin function.

  • Lactic Acid

Lactic Acid derives from milk and fruit sugars and is a little more gentle than Glycolic Acid, but equally as effective. It works to unglue dead skin cells, revealing brighter, more even skin, as well as providing additional moisture to the upper skin layers.

It is suitable for people of all skin types looking for a brighter, more even and hydrated complexion. This is a popular choice for those with sensitive skin.

  • Mandelic Acid

Mandelic Acid derives from grapes. It has a high acidity level but is, again, more gentle than Glycolic Acid. This too is ideal for those with a more delicate skin type and is still effective at brightening the complexion.

  • Malic Acid     

Malic Acid is probably the least known of the commonly used acids in skincare. It derives from apples and encourages an increase in the skin cell turnover rate. It can also encourage the production of Collagen and reduce the production of melanin, to balance uneven pigmentation

  • Citric Acid

You may recognise this one, Citric Acid is rich in antioxidants and keeps other acids within a safe pH range. It also acts as a preservative, keeping products fresher for longer. Citric Acid has the largest molecular structure, within this list of AHAs, so is the least effective at penetrating the skin, yet still provides very gentle exfoliation and works to treat uneven skin tone.

How do BHAs Work?

The most common BHA in skincare products is Salicylic Acid, which occurs naturally in willow bark and sweet birch.

The main difference between AHAs and BHAs is that BHAs can travel into the pores, instead of only operating at the surface level. This is because BHAs are oil-soluble, as opposed to AHAs being water-soluble. This means they can get down into the pores to work in reducing sebum and clearing dirt and dead skin cells that can clog them, leading to breakouts and blackheads.

All skin types can benefit from Salicylic Acid, but it’s best for normal, combination and oily skin, who tend to suffer from blemishes and blocked pores. BHAs also have the natural ability to calm skin, whilst refining pore size and even softening the look of wrinkles. They can improve skin texture, tone and hydration within the skin and restore a gorgeous glow.

Hydrating Acids – Hyaluronic Acid

There is one more we want to mention, which you may have already heard of – Hyaluronic Acid.

Very different from the acids mentioned above, as the main function of Hyaluronic Acid is to deeply hydrate skin cells, soothe skin and defend against moisture loss. It is naturally present in the body and can hold over 1,000 times its own weigh in water for beautiful plump, hydrated and smooth skin. Hyaluronic Acid has restorative abilities and can improve overall skin function and collagen production.

All skin types can benefit from Hyaluronic Acid, as well as from its salt form, Sodium Hyaluronate. They can leave skin feeling smoother and beautifully hydrated. The plumping effect makes it perfect for targeting signs of ageing.

Finally, a Few Words of Caution…

It’s normal to experience a slight tingle when acids are applied, especially when you first introduce them to your routine, however, they should not burn or cause problems. If the use of a product does result in a high level of redness or stinging, it is recommended that you avoid further use.

Using acids, particularly AHAs, causes the skin to become more sensitive to the sun and increases the possibility of sunburn. You should always use an SPF of at least 30 on your skin every day of the year, but when using them in your routine, it is essential that you follow this advice.

Consider your crash course complete!

Find out more about our new Acid Collection Here.

3 responses to “SBC’s Acid Skincare Guide”

  1. Leila Jamal says:

    I just bought the set from QVC. I use Ultrasun sun screen on the face and body. Can I use the acid face and body serum on top of the sun screen and can I use my oils and moisturiser on top of that to finish my routine?

    I am a bit confused although I love the body wash. Thanks

    • Lianne Robinson says:

      Hello Leila,
      We apologise for the delay in getting back to you.
      So after speaking with our chemist, please do not apply the Glycolic Resurfacing Serum on top of your sunscreen. It could interfere with how both products perform. Products containing AHAs such as Glycolic ACid should be used underneath SPF. Or we would recommend using your Glycolic Resurfacing Serum in the evening only, to coincide with Ultra Sun’s directions of use.
      And yes you can use your oils and moisturiser on top of either the Glycolic Resurfacing Serum and/or the Hyaluronic Gel Concentrate to complete your routine.
      We hope you are getting on well with them 🙂

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