Sunday, 12 November 2017

A-Z of Beauty: Acids

Acids: everyone seems to be talking about them and skincare brands are churning them out faster than ever but what are they, what are they for and are they as scary as they sound?

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In fact, you're probably more familiar with acids in skincare than you are even aware of. They are often key ingredients in targeting specific purposes and issues in one's skincare routine; like Salicylic Acid, which is used in treating breakouts and, most likely, serves as a throwback to one's teen years. The reason only certain acids ring familiar is that the likes of acne-prone teens often have to consult medical professionals in order to deal with their skin concerns and they are usually prescribed more medical and scientific-sounding products. They're not adults with their own expendable income, looking to better themselves in a general sense but people dependent on parents and doctors to find products that will really work and target a specific issue. Until recently, these same buzzwords were not sold to adults in the same way. Instead, a lifestyle, a sense of luxury or the overall product was the sales pitch.

Now, however, as more people become more educated about skincare and information becomes more readily available, customers are a little more savvy and a lot more interested in more scientific-sounding products. They are no longer unsexy and unappealing but, rather, potential secret ingredients that promise to really fix everything and make us baby-soft and blemishless again.

So, who are these acids and what do they want from us what can they do for us?

Salicylic Acid

Starting with our old pal, Salicylic acid, this is an acid that has many benefits including being anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-acne, and exfoliating. It comes in all sorts of forms - from face washes to treatment creams to peels - and is suitable for people with oily and acne prone skin but can also be an option for people with normal/dry skin who have the occasional break out.

Glycolic Acid

Another familiar name is glycolic acid, which really seems to pop up everywhere nowadays, famously in Pixi's line of products. It is an alpha hydroxy acid that is derived from sugarcane and is a very small molecule that gently dissolves dead skin. This makes it a much more gentle option than an exfoliating scrubs (the devil!) and is key in achieving smoother, less textured skin but can also help with lightening dark spots and reducing fine lines.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid, meanwhile, is another exfoliating alpha hydroxy acid but is even gentler and has a moisturising element that makes it more suitable for people with sensitive skin who want the same benefits of glycolic acid but might not react well to it.

Hyaluronic Acid

Even though the name might bring images of burning or removing, acids are not merely used to exfoliate. Hyaluronic acid has become a bit of a buzzword in the serum world lately and this is because it actually binds moisture to the skin. It is humectant, meaning it helps the skin attract and retain moisture, which is why it is a step that is often in addition to your moisturiser, as it tries to permeate the skin further and really moisturise beyond the surface. It really is an invaluable ingredient in your routine, pretty much regardless of your skin type, as a result. Keep in mind, however, that not all hyaluronic acid products are made equal, as explained far better than I ever could by the lovely Liah Yoo in this video.

Ascorbic Acid

For brightening the skin and fighting hyperpigmentation, ascorbic acid - also known as vitamin C - is your pal! It is an antioxidant that reduces fine lines and fights free-radicals and is pretty much suitable to all skin types and desirable to anyone who wants brighter, happier skin, overall.

Retinoic acid

Retinoic acid, often referred to a retinoids, is your new best friend. It can help minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, increase the skin’s thickness and elasticity, slow collagen degradation, reverse sun damage and lighten brown spots caused by sun exposure! Sounds good right? However, if you are using retinoids MAKE SURE TO WEAR SUNSCREEN THE NEXT DAY. You should be doing this, anyway, no matter who you are or how much sun you get (unless it's, literally, none) but while retinoids do great things they can make your skin susceptible to sun damage. Don't avoid them for this reason but be prepared for it.

Of course, no ingredient is actually a magic fix and can't rid you of serious skin damage or deep wrinkles - medical or cosmetic procedures are the only things that can do that and, even then, have their limitations. However, employing acids in your skincare routine in your 20s and 30s will have an incredible effect in the long term.

There are many more acids and many more becoming trendy all the time. This is, in no way, an exhaustive list. However, if you are just getting into skincare and taking it more seriously, this is a good intro to the topic. Good luck on your skincare journey, I know how frustrating and confusing it can be but when you see results, it very much feels worth all that head scratching.

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