Acids in Your Skincare Products: What They Are and Why They Work

Alexandra Duron

acids in skin care products

If you cringe a little when you hear the word “acid” used in the same sentence as “your face,” we don’t blame you! Yet even though it might make you think of a high school lab experiment gone wrong, acids in skin care products are actually pretty stellar ingredients. These complexion-boosting stars can unclog pores, minimize discoloration and hyperpigmentation, smooth fine lines and wrinkles and treat acne. Read on to see how the most common acids in our beauty products can get you one step closer to skin nirvana.

Glycolic Acid: An alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), glycolic acid is derived from sugarcane and grapes. It makes lackluster skin more luminous (in case you need a boost during the upcoming winter months), exfoliates, fights wrinkles and banishes acne and age spots.

MORE: Topical Antioxidants: What They Are and How They’ll Keep Your Skin Beautiful

Lactic Acid: Lactic acid is another popular alpha-hydroxy acid derived from fermented milk, fruit, veggies, and other plants, and can improve your skin’s texture and boost its hydration. Gentler than glycolic acid, it too exfoliates your skin, but also moisturizes, softens, smoothes wrinkles and can even help stimulate collagen production.

Salicylic Acid: Also called beta-hydroxy acid (BHA), salicylic acid exfoliates, removing dead, dull cells from the surface of your skin, and can clear up mild to moderate acne. Derived from the bark of a willow tree, it also helps improve skin texture and tone to leave your complexion even, smooth, and spot-free.

Kojic Acid: Kojic acid is extracted from mushrooms and is known for lightening and fading areas of hyperpigmentation. Though it can help get rid of those pesky dark spots, continuous use has been linked to developing contact dermatitis, an allergic skin reaction that causes a rash. Ditch it if you notice any splotches, itchiness or redness.

Hyaluronic Acid: A powerful age fighter, hyaluronic acid plumps and hydrates your skin by drawing moisture from the air—it may hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water!

MORE: The Health Benefits of Tea

L-Ascorbic Acid: A form of vitamin C, L-ascorbic acid is an antioxidant that can also help boost collagen production while diminishing the look of fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation and even scars.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA): An antioxidant, alpha-lipoic acid, absorbs easily and can help smooth your skin, fight inflammation and minimize redness after sun exposure. Plus, it helps repair past skin damage and is stronger than vitamins E and C combined!

Ferulic Acid: With its power to repair sun damage and fight the signs of aging, ferulic acid is another antioxidant that can give your complexion a serious boost. Found in food sources like brown rice, oats, and coffee (to name a few ), it can also help protect your skin against harmful UV rays when you smooth it on.

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