Skincare Acids Explained

The beauty and skincare industry is so incredibly huge that its hard to keep up with what the ‘right’ balance of product ingredients to use on your skin type is. Let alone the sheer amount of different kinds of products there are to start with, they all seem to shout “I CONTAIN ________ AND YOU NEED ME!”. The truth is that every skin type works best with a different combination of acids and ingredients, and while I am most certainly not a dermatologist or expert, I’ve done a bucket load of research trying to de-code all the skincare lingo and wanted to share the basics.


Acids Explained

The thought of using acids for sensitive skin can sound quite daunting, but a large amount of products out there contain them and there’s so many different types. They all do different jobs and, rather unhelpfully, are sometimes recognised by multiple names or acronyms. Here are some of the most common:

Hyaluronic Acid

This stuff is everywhere. It seems to have become the ingredient to get the best out of our skin. The acid is found naturally in our bodies, but our levels of hyaluronic acid decrease with age. It provides long-lasting hydration (HA can hold up to 1000x its weight in water) and has a plumping effect on the skin, restoring a dewy youthfulness. Most commonly found and effectively used in serum form, the acid can be used on all skin types.

Beta and Alpha Hydroxy Acids (BHAs/AHAs)

The purpose of both of these acids is to exfoliate the skin and, depending on the concentration of the acid in a particular product, may remove dead cells alone from the outer layer of the skin or may remove the outermost layer entirely (sounds a bit scary, right?). They both can be used to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, reduce the appearance of pore size, reduce inflammation and even out skin tone. The difference between the two is that AHA is water-soluble and BHA is oil-soluble. This means that while AHA can remove the outer layer of your skin so that new skin cells can generate faster, BHA will penetrate deeper into the pores. To sum it up, HealthLine suggests ‘If you’re primarily looking for dry skin relief or anti-aging benefits, try an AHA. If you want to tackle acne, look to BHAs’. Side note: in my experience, AHAs are often marketed as safe for all skin types, but are not good for extremely dry and sensitive skin.

Common AHAs include Gycolic Acid and Lactic Acid. BHAs are less commonly used, and the most well-known is Salicylic Acid.


As we age, our skin’s cell turnover slows down which makes skin look dull and feel rough. Most commonly found in ‘anti-aging’ skincare products, Retinol acts to reverse the effects of this by promoting cell turnover, therefore reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and improving uneven skin tones and blemishes. This is done by ensuring dead cells are removed faster, revealing the bright and shiny new ones underneath – aka visibly healthier and more radiant skin. It’s also worth noting that because Retinol acts as an exfoliant, it could increase sensitivity and irritation.

Turns out, you don’t need to be a science boffin to know how to use skin acids appropriately for your skin. Have you had any experiences with Acids, good or bad? Share your thoughts below!




To reiterate, I am not a skincare or healthcare expert. This post is for entertainment purposes only, and the information above is from my own research and experiences. Thanks for reading!





11 thoughts on “Skincare Acids Explained

  1. gingechanel

    I’ve just recently started investing in skin care acids and it took me so long to figure out what acid does what. This guide is great!

    Chanel |

    Liked by 1 person

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