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Acids Explained

beautiful woman with cream

No longer scary, strong and only in peels, acids are now available across the skincare spectrum in everything from moisturisers to masks, and have rightly revolutionised skincare in the last decade. Here’s what you need to know…

Acid Reign

Acids improve skin tone and texture by sloughing off dead skin cells to reveal the younger, plumper cells underneath. They also help your skincare to work harder, meaning your expensive serum will absorb much more deeply after acid toning as it won’t be sitting on top of dead skin cells.

Get to know AHAs

AHAs are a family of naturally-derived acids that exfoliate by breaking down the bonds between skin cells, improving the skin’s ability to produce collagen, so that skin looks younger and feels smoother. The most popular AHAs include glycolic acid – which comes from sugarcane and the slightly gentler lactic acid – often derived from milk. These two work well alone or together and are a great option for those who want to tackle fine lines and reveal a brighter complexion.

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The BHA Lowdown

If you suffer from occasional pimples or oily skin then look for a BHA – salicylic acid is the one to put on your speed dial. Unlike glycolic and lactic, BHAs are oil soluble and able to go deeper, ridding skin of the dead cells that clog pores and trap bacteria to form spots, the only downside is that they can be a bit drying. If you suffer from occasional spots, try a treatment with salicylic acid that can be directly applied to the spot. If you have oily or acne-prone skin then an all-over product may be more suitable. It may sound counterintuitive to use an oil, but one loaded with salicylic acid will offer effective treatment while calming and balancing the complexion.

A Daily Dose

A lot of exfoliating acids come in toner form (sometimes termed resurfacers or exfoliators) to be applied after cleansing – morning and night if your skin can tolerate it, or once a day if you’re sensitive or starting out. “One of the key benefits of skin resurfacers” says skincare guru and facialist Sarah Chapman, “is that they will also clear the dirt from any blocked pores which can lead to blemishes, so they also help keep skin clear.” Sarah Chapman Skinesis Liquid Facial Resurfacer is a great option if you’re trying toners for the first time.

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Pick Up a Pad

For those who want a quick and easy solution, pre-soaked pads are perfect. Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel pads have become a cult product for good reason, Carrie Gross Co-Founder and CEO of Dr Dennis Gross Skincare explains “our Universal Daily Peel contains five acids in step one: glycolic, citric, malic, lactic and salicylic to promote cell renewal, fight wrinkles, smooth skin, exfoliate and build collagen and elastin.” A word of warning though – while acids reveal a more radiant complexion, they also increase sun sensitivity so be diligent with your daily SPF.

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