Acids are great for” turnover” which basically means out with your old, dull skin and in with your new, healthier skin. I’ve mentioned acids before in several of my posts such as THE SKINCARE INGREDIENTS YOU SHOULD NEVER MIX and have recommended many products that include them, but it was brought to my attention that I haven’t actually explained all the different kinds and what they do. Here is a list where I breakdown all the basic info. of acids and who they’re good for.

Acids help with turnover. Start with low dosage. Test spot on arm and forehead (thickest part of skin) Use sunscreen. Acids specifically salyslic acid can be harmful to pregnant women.



AHA (alpha hydroxy acid)-  These acids are food based and water soluble. They can cause mild irritation and sun sensitivity.

  • Glycolic Acid- This acid is one of the most researched making it the most popular and most recommended. It’s derived from sugar cane and is the smallest hydroxy molecule so it can penetrate the deepest and fastest. It brightens skins by reducing hyperpigmentation, fades dark spots, and reduces fine lines. It’s also known to increase collagen production which means a deeper wrinkle reduction. It’s good for treating acne which makes it great for oily skin. It also increases hyaluronic acid levels which is a plus for dry skin and reduces photo damage for mature skin.
  • Lactic Acid- This is another popular AHA. It’s derived from sour milk. It’s a larger molecule which means it’s more gentle and makes it perfect for more sensitive skin because it also works on the surface of the skin instead of the cellular level. It causes less inflammation with the same results as glycolic acid. It’s good for dry skin, even rosacea, because it moisturizes and exfoliates dead skin at the same time. Great for encouraging collagen grown, fading hyperpigmentation and inhibiting melanin production. Low and medium (12%) concentrations have been discovered to increase thickness and firmness and reducing fine lines.
  • Citric Acid- Derived from fruits such as orange, lemon, and grapefruit. It’s an antimicrobial which shows up in acne products to fight bacteria. Good for lightening and reducing hyperpigmentation. Often added to products in small amounts to balance the pH and make sure it’s not too alkaline.
  • Mandelic Acid- Derived from bitter almond and wild cherry. Good for fine lines, acne, discoloration, skin elasticity, and strengthening collagen. A larger molecule better for sensitive skin. It’s known to help those with cystic acne because it helps regulate sebum (oil) production.
  • Malic Acid- Occurs naturally in the body as well as sour fruits, mainly apples. Good for removing dead skin cells, treating acne, improving fine lines, and promoting collagen production. Also found in products to adjust pH balance.

BHA (beta hydroxy acid)- Plant based derived from willow bark. Oil soluble and better for oily skin

  • Salicylic Acid- Great for oily skin and treating acne. It’s not for mature or dry skin unless spot treating because it can be irritating. It gets to surface skin as well as down to the pore and dissolves oil and breaks apart debris inside that causes acne. It exfoliates clogged pores by removing the top layer of skin. It corrects dark spots without irritation because of willow bark which has anti-inflammatory properties. Other AHAs can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in darker skin tones so this is a better option for anyone with darker skin trying to get rid of sun spots.

Retinoic Acid ( Vitamin A)- Only can be obtained by prescription (Tretinoin such as Retin-A).It reduces fine lines and wrinkles, improves firmness, helps with uneven skin tone, increases collagen, treats acne, repairs sun damage, and prevents premature aging. Retinol is found in over the counter products, but it has to be converted into retinoid acid before it can be absorbed into the skin. It makes retinol not as effective, but also not as irritating as retinoid acid.



Kojic Acid- Derived from mushrooms as well as can be created during the sake brewing process from fermented rice. Great to reduce sun spots, acne marks, and hyperpigmentation as it inhibits tyrosinase which produces melanin. Hydroquinone is another popular ingredient to lighten skin, but I recently found out that it cannot be used long term because it loses it’s efficacy and so it needs to be used in cycles (now I know why my Murad stopped working)!  Kojic is a better alternative as it’s safe to be used long term and more stable.

L-Ascorbic Acid- (Vitamin C) Wrote a detailed post about this, but in case you missed it. Decreases dark spots, hinders melanin production, fights free radicals, and increases collagen production.

Azelaic Acid- Derived from a naturally occurring yeast in the body to combat bacteria. Helps with lightening such as acne spots and hyperpigmentation, but also great for treating acne. Reduces the bacteria growth in hair follicles that result in acne. It also can be used to get rid of the bumps, lesions, and swelling due to rosacea.



Alpha Lipoic Acid- All antioxidants protect against free radicals such as pollution and UV rays. This is considered the most powerful antioxidant because it is both water and fat soluble which means it works well on both the lipid layer of the skin as well as the cell membrane while many others can’t such as vitamin C. It’s capable of regenerating other antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and also 400 times stronger than both of them combined. Anti-inflammatory benefits reduce redness and blotchiness which results in an even skin tone.  Reduces fine lines and wrinkles by eliminating aged collagen.

Ferulic Acid- Found naturally in seeds of fruits such as apples and oranges, but also in some vegetables, nuts, and grains. Fights against free radicals. Keeps vitamin C and E stable. Good for preventing sun damage and wrinkles.



Hyaluronic Acid- Can hold 1,000 time it’s weight in water. Plumps and firms skin and keeps it very hydrated. Great for all types of skin especially dry skin. Keeping skin moisturized helps diminish wrinkles and fine lines and maintains a youthful look.

As with any new ingredients, start with a low concentration and work your way up to prevent or ease any irritation. Test a spot on your arm and forehead (the thickest skin on your face) to check for a reaction. If you’re pregnant, check with a doctor because acids, specifically salicylic acid, can be harmful. Lastly, don’t forget to wear sunscreen as some of these cause sun sensitivity (although you should always wear SPF in my opinion ☺️).

Hope this has given you a better understanding of some of my past posts and makes it easier for you to pick some new skincare products containing these ingredients.




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