While the thought of putting acids on your face might seem a little scary at first, don’t fret. Acids in skincare aren’t the corrosive chemicals you mixed in high school chemistry class. They’re much gentler, and they can help solve a multitude of skin problems like unclogging pores, helping with pigmentation and exfoliating.
Chances are, you’re already using some kind of product that contains an acid or two, most likely ferulic, hyaluronic, lactic, salicylic, ascorbic, azelaic, citric, glycolic, mandelic or oleic. You can find these in face washes, masks and most potently in serums.
The Acid Alphabet and What It Means
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are naturally occurring acids commonly found in fruits, milk and sugar cane. These are your citric, glycolic and lactic acids. They’re much different than their industrial-strength counterparts, such as hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid. AHAs can help correct skin discoloration, while also reducing the visibility of age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles.
Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are also known as salicylic acids, and unlike AHAs—which are only water soluble—they are oil soluble. In other words, BHAs know how to get down to business and make their way through any oil that may be clogging your pores. They contain antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties too, making them ideal for combatting acne and blackheads.
However, it’s important to take note: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has done research on both AHAs and BHAs, showing that these acids have a photosensitizing effect on the skin. Translation: They will increase your chances of getting a sunburn. Use them at night, and don’t skip the SPF during the day.
“Have a thorough consultation with an aesthetician (for superficial peels) or a medical provider (for medium-strength peels) to be sure the chemical peel solution that’s selected fits into your lifestyle,” advises OrangeTwist’s Dr. Francis Palmer, a renowned Beverly Hills plastic surgeon. “The deeper the peel, the longer the recovery time.”
When you come into OrangeTwist for a skin-smoothing consultation, our highly trained, licensed estheticians may recommend the ZO 3-Step Peel, which helps to simultaneously treat discoloration while providing an anti-irritant, as well as follow-up, at-home care.
Superficial peels, which can include fruit acids (AHAs) and salicylic acids (BHAs), remove some or all of the outer layer of the skin called the epidermis.
Medium-strength peels, like those with trichloroacetic acid (10-30%), remove the epidermis and the upper layer of the dermis.
Deep peels, including those with trichloroacetic acid (40% or higher) or phenol, remove the epidermis and approximately 50% or so of the dermis, Dr. Palmer explains.
Medical-strength acids can also render your skin extremely sensitive for a few days afterward.
“Don’t use a tanning booth or have significant sun exposure while recovering from a chemical face peel,” he says. “Do not apply anything that will irritate the skin, such as a vitamin C or Retin A cream during the healing phase of a chemical peel.”
This is Not the Time for Rule-Breaking
Adding acids into your routine will step up your skincare game. Do know your skin type and problems. Different acids work better for different types of skin.
You’ll also want to give your skin time to adjust to new products—and always spot-test first on a small patch of skin. When you start incorporating exfoliating acids into your skincare routine, you could be susceptible to dryness and irritation. You’ll also want to avoid trying too many new products at once.
Hyaluronic Acid: We’ve All Got It
Hyaluronic acid is universal because our bodies produce it naturally—it’s in a different class than the ones that are used for peels. It’s the key element in our skin retaining moisture. A Dermato-Endocrinology article notes that skin aging is associated with loss of skin moisture, and the key molecule involved in skin moisture is hyaluronan or hyaluronic acid.
“Hyaluronic acid is a component of cartilage in our body and shouldn’t be confused with the acids we use to peel and rejuvenate the face,” says Dr. Palmer.
All set for your acid trip? Schedule a complimentary consultation at OrangeTwist to figure out the best and safest way to add acids into your skincare routine.