Which acid is right for my skin?

The term ‘acid’ when thinking of skin application can sound pretty scary but this category of active ingredients are incredibly beneficial for our skin health and appearance. There are various groups of acids available, and which I recommend depends on your skin type and concerns. These aids can be found in home skincare and professional skincare.

AHA’s - Alpha Hydroxy Acids

This is probably the most common group my clients have heard of, or are using when they come to see me. AHA’s include glycolic, lactic and mandelic acid. Glycolic acid is the most popular and can be found in lots of high street products. It is particularly useful for hyperpigmentation, anti-ageing and brightening the skin. One of the problems with high street products, I have found from experience is the formulation and percentage of active ingredients. Too often this results in underwhelming effects or irritation of the skin. Dry and peeling skin can be a common side effect from initiating treatment, which is why I try and add this in once a patient is already established in their routine or have resistant skin. Mandelic acid, derived from almonds, is a gentle acid which is useful in chemical exfoliation of the skin in patients with acne. I try and combine this with other acids for best results. The last common AHA is lactic acid, derived and is the most gentle AHA, which makes it fantastic for newbies. Our PCA Perfecting Peel is 20% mandelic and 10% lactic so suitable for a wide range of skin types.

BHA’s - Beta Hydroxy Acids

This group of acids are the must have for breakout prone and oily skin. This acid is lipophilic (loves an oily environment) which makes it perfect for penetrating through oily, blocked pores and assisting in unclogging them. In addition, it still has the benefits of chemically exfoliating the top layers of our skin to reduce the thickness of dead skin cells which can contribute to blocked pores. My personal favourite is salicylic acid, which is found in the Obagi Clenziderm home skincare (prescription only 2% salicylic acid) and our NEW Blue Peel radiance (20% salicylic acid). Always buy from a suitable provider so you can be given instructions on gradually introducing into your regime.

PHA’s - Poly Hydroxy Acids

The last group of acids is PHA’s. This group is my go to for reactive (also considered sensitive) skin types and rosacea. They work by very gently exfoliating but this acid helps to draw in moisture from the environment and trap it into the skin to improve skin hydration. This affect assists in strengthening and restoring the barrier function of the skin. My number 1 ingredient is glucanolactone and lactobionic, commonly found in Neostrata products and soon to be in the Obagi skin defence range.

My top tips for introducing chemical acids:

1) Pay for the expert opinion to choose the right acid, in the right formulation ( - that’s me!)

2) Don’t introduce too many products at once, unless you have resilient skin

3) Expect some irritation but know the difference between common side effects and reactions (my clients always have my contact details to hand to ask any questions!)

When I conduct a consultation, I always explain the pathophysiology of your skin and how each of the recommendations will help to improve your skin concern. I also explain any expected common side effects from initiating treatments.

Get in touch with your skin concerns and I will create a personalised skin care regime that works for you.


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