The top three acids to fight wrinkles, sun damage, dry skin and even acne
I touched upon acids in my previous post about how I’m dealing with rosacea. And since I found that certain type of acids were more effective than any other product or ingredient in treating redness and bumps I figured I’d write a whole separate post on different acids used in skincare, their effects, downsides, and where to get them.
Acids for sensitive skin – a myth?
Although the very word ‘acid’ sounds like nothing you want to put on your skin, there are types that work even for the most sensitive epidermis. There are acids that exfoliate, acids that help fight wrinkles, and even acids that calm inflammation. I’ll be going into detail in a minute. Stay tuned.
What is it?
AHA refers to Alpha Hydroxy Acids, which are arguably the most popular and widely used type of acids in anti-aging skincare at the moment. AHA’s main function is dissolving old skin cells and thus renewing the upper layer of the epidermis helping other products to be more readily absorbed by the skin. AHA works well for aging skin and dermatologists often prescribe it to treat sun damage. AHA occurs naturally in sugar cane, milk, grapes and citrus fruits.
What names does AHA hide under in the ingredients list?
Look out for
- Apple Acid
- Citric Acid
- Glycolic Acid
- Lactic Acid
- Fruit Acid
- Malic Acid
- Mandelic Acid
Skincare products contain 5% to 10% concentrations of AHA while dermatologist can offer you up to 70% concentration to perform an Alpha Hydroxy Acid peeling of the upper layer of the epidermis. This procedure will likely leave you with irritation and a red face that will last for days, but once it’s over you’ll see smoother, more even toned skin. These peels have the best effect if performed in series a few weeks apart.
Is AHA for everyone?
Nope. If you are a proud owner of sensitive or rosacea-prone skin you’ll do better with BHA instead as AHA can be quite irritating for sensitive types. If you are successfully using products that contain AHA then you have to remember to wear sunblock, since Alpha Hydroxy Acid thins the outermost layer of skin and makes skin more susceptible to sun damage.
Unlike Alpha Hydroxy Acids, which are water soluble, BHA, or Beta Hydroxy Acids, are lipid (oil) soluble. Which means BHA can exfoliate and also penetrate the upper layer of skin, exfoliating dead skin cells and and excess oil inside your pores – aka BHA ‘de-gunks’ your pores. As blocked pores are what causes acne bumps, Beta Hydroxy Acid is often recommended for those suffering from acne – and also rosacea, as it’s a milder form of exfoliation compared to AHA and works well to reduce inflammation.
Same as AHA, BHA is an organic acid that’s either biosynthesized or extracted from the bark of a willow tree.
What other names can BHA hide under?
BHA usually appears as salicylic acid in the ingredients list.
BHA concentrations as low as 2% can improve skin thickness and collagen production.
Although BHA is not irritating like AHA, it can still cause burning, stinging, itching, and redness if the concentration is too high. BHA works best at a concentration of 1% to 2%.
Unlike BHA or AHA, the main function of which is to exfoliate, Hyaluronic acid (HA) acts as a lubricating agent. Hyaluronic acid is naturally found in our body, but our ability to produce it declines with age, which leads to dryness, fine lines, loss of plumpness and yes, wrinkles.
The molecules of Hyaluronic acid have a unique ability to attract and retain more than 1,000 times their weight in water, BUT while it sounds appealing in theory the water the molecules attract can be sucked out of your own skin – which is why some users reported dry feeling after using Hyaluronic acid serums.
Avoid Hyaluronic acid products with alcohol in them – it counteracts the effect of the acid.
What other benefits does HA have?
There is some evidence that suggests that Hyaluronic acid aids collagen production but if you are hoping that it will be your anti-aging hero then sorry, girlfriend – unless you are injecting HA (which many do) a topical application is unlikely to make any difference to your wrinkles. The molecules of Hyaluronic acid are simply too big to penetrate your skin.
So here were my top three types of acids that you’ll come most often in skincare. There are, of course, many more – out of interest see Ferulic acid, which is big in anti-aging right now (is there any science to it? I don’t know, but I’ll sure look into it). Azelaic acid (currently available only on prescription as rosacea treatment), and Retinoic acid, which is another anti-aging superhero everyone claims it is, also something I’ll be looking into in the future.
If you’ve successfully (or unsuccessfully!) used any of the above let me know about your experience in the comments!