Everything you need to know about skincare acids


Sometimes, you look in the mirror and you realise that your dull, dry, depressing skin calls for drastic action. Consider facial acids your secret weapon – the big guns, in this painfully extended metaphor. But before you go splashing any old product on to your visage, swot up on what’s what in the world of skincare acids so you’ll know which products to pick up in duty free.

Hyaluronic Acid

I call this my ‘gateway’ skincare acid, because it’s the key ingredient in one of my all-time faves: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5. Hyaluronic acid is found in the skin naturally, but our body produces less of it as we age. It has the consistency of a viscous gel and it can hold 1,000 times its own weight in water, making it a very effective moisture barrier for every skin type. Add this to your daily beauty routine for youthful, plump and radiant skin.

Glycolic Acid

As seen in Alpha-H Liquid Gold, glycolic acid is part of the AHA family (alpha hydroxy acid) and works as a chemical exfoliator. This means that instead of using a face scrub, the acid breaks down the top layer of skin to reveal a fresher you. Despite this somewhat scary-sounding credential, it is suitable for all skin types including sensitive skin. Disclaimer: after using any AHA, you should up the SPF in your skincare for at least one week as these acids may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

Lactic Acid

Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid is not responsible for your post-workout muscle soreness. But that’s by the by. What we’re interested in is its beautifying properties. A milder AHA than glycolic acid, lactic acid moisturises your skin at the same time as exfoliating it. We particularly like Sunday Riley Good Genes, but if the price tag is enough to give you frown lines, why not try REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask. For best results, apply in the PM.

Salicylic Acid

Yep, the stuff of acne treatments and a billion teen skincare products. Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid), which means it penetrates deeper than AHAs thanks to its oil-soluble nature. It’s ideal for combination, oily or acne-prone skin, but it isn’t recommended for mature or dry skin unless you’re targeting a specific spot. Super Facialist Salicylic Acid Anti Blemish Purify & Refresh Facial Scrub is a firm favourite, as it smells delicious and isn’t anywhere near as harsh as those Clean & Clear products from your teen years.

L’Ascorbic Acid

AKA vitamin C in its purest form. Aside from all its immune-boosting goodness, vitamin C is also a powerful anti-ageing agent (alliterations, all the way). This stuff does so much more than your morning glass of OJ; it will leave you with skin that’s noticeably firmer, more even-toned and with diminished lines. Read all about our week with Clinique Fresh Pressed 7-day System.

Tess Harold
written by: Tess Harold
Born in Hong Kong, Tess currently lives in London where she is Editor at PretAirporter. Over the course of her career, she has worked for the likes of Stylist, The Telegraph, Prestige Hong Kong, Asia Spa and Harper’s Bazaar UK.