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Skin Notes
Why are we putting acid on our faces?
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Acids – typically prefixed with severe warnings, such as ‘Danger’, ‘May cause blindness’ and ‘causes burns to eyes/skin/respiratory tract’. In chemistry lessons you are always told to be careful when handling them, so why the merry f**k are we dousing our faces in them? And why on earth are beauty professionals and industry insiders so obsessed with them? Well as you’ve obviously gathered there are bad acids (sulfuric, hydrofluoric) and there are very very good acids that work tremendously on our skin. But it’s all a little bit confusing about which acid does what. Not any more.

Here is Powder’s very own Acid Index. Feel free to print this page out and keep it in your handbag for your next cosmetics beauty shop. You. Are. Welcome.

 

Glycolic Acid

What is it?

It's one member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) gang – but don’t let the ‘acid’ part put you off, it won’t burn away your skin and this type of acid is actually one of the gentler forms of AHA. It’s derived from sugar cane and gently exfoliates away any congestion build-ups as well as any radiance-snatching dead skin cells. The result? Clearer and brighter skin. Double win.

Who needs it?

Glycolic acid is a bit of a multi-tasker. If you’re acne prone, its exfoliating properties help reduce any dead skin cell blockages in your pores that lead to pimples. If discoloration, pigmentation or age spots are your bugbear, glycolic acid can help fade them away too. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also great if you’ve got some wrinkles creeping up, as once the dead skin cells are cleared out of the way, your new skin revealed below will leave you well on your way to looking more radiant and youthful. Sorted.

Where do we find it?

To scoff: Grapes, pineapples and cantaloupe melons. Fruity.

To smother: Pretty much everything - cleansers, toners, serums, moisturisers and facial peels.

When should it go on our face?

Night time is your best bet, as your skin is naturally doing its thing while you sleep by regenerating new skin cells. So, applying glycolic acid before bed (either in a cleanser or a topical cream or toner) will help boost this process. It’s worth noting that glycolic acid will make your skin more susceptible to sun damage though, so be sure to wear an SPF the next day.

Avoid it…

Glycolic acid comes in different strengths (normally labeled with a percentage) so start off with products with a lower concentration if your skin is sensitive (3 to 5% is a good start). If you’re after something a little stronger, 10% is ideal. And don’t forget that SPF!

 

Lactic Acid

What is it?

Another AHA, however lactic acid is gentler and works on the surface of your skin to dissolve dead skin build-ups – great for conquering acne for good – while brightening scarring and sun spots and drawing in moisture too. Over time, lactic acid can also encourage collagen production for skin that’s bouncier than Tigga on a space hopper. Not bad, right?

Who needs it?

Dry and sensitive skins rejoice – this buffs away dead skin but hydrates too so, your skin won’t be left feeling red-raw. It’s not quite as aggressive as glycolic acid either, so it’s worth a go if that left your face running for the hills.

Where do we find it?

To scoff: Lactic acid needs to be applied topically to work it’s magic.

To smother: You’ll find it in cleansers, exfoliating toners, serums, professional peels and body lotions. Fun fact: lactic acid naturally occurs in milk, which is why Cleopatra couldn’t get enough of it in her bath.

When should it go on our face?

Use this in your nighttime regime for best results.

Avoid it…

Like all AHA treatments, they need to go hand-in-hand with daily SPF protection for them to be worthwhile. Your skin is more sensitive to the sun (and therefore ageing) when using AHAs – so foregoing SPF is actually counterproductive to what lactic acid is trying to do.

 

Salicylic Acid

What is it?

If it’s not already, make salicylic acid your best mate. It breaks down the glue that sticks dead skin cells together and to your pores, as well as shimmying along excess grease too. It’s also an anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant, so it’s great at calming down angry skin (if we could do an emoji here it would be the fist pump!).

Who needs it?

It’s not just for those struggling with acne, even if you just have the odd spot or a few niggling blackheads it’s your man. It’s particularly good for adult acne as it gently cleans out pores without stripping skin, meaning wrinkles won’t crop up.

Where do we find it?

To scoff: Blueberries, apricots, green peppers and mushrooms are high in salicylic acid.

To smother: Look out for it in serums (which delve deeper in the skin) as well as moisturisers, cleansers and toners. You can also get a salicylic acid facial too to speed things along.

When should it go on our face?

Daily, but keep an eye on when your spots pop up. If you notice they’ve come over night, apply a salicylic serum or moisturiser before bed. If they crop up during the day, pop it on first thing in the morning.

Avoid it…

If your skin is very dry or super sensitive, as it can be a little too stripping for you.

 

Hyaluronic Acid

What is it?

It's a miracle moisture magnet. It can hold up to 1000x its own weight. It occurs naturally in your skin (and also your joints), but as you get older (like everything) production is depleted. Unlike the other acids on this list, hyaluronic acid doesn’t exfoliate, it’s purely a hydrator. It boosts moisture levels like you wouldn’t believe. It almost sucks moisture into the skin. And remember hydrated, plump skin = younger looking appearance.

Who needs it?

EVERYONE. That's the beauty with hyaluronic acid, everyone could do with a moisture boost. It floods skin with moisture and cushions the support structure of the skin which buckles when it’s stressed or older. The result is plumper, smoother and more supple skin.

Where do we find it?

To scoff:

Leafy greens, root vegetables and soy products. Plus, you know those fancy bone broths that keep popping up all over the place, like Pret? They're packed full of it! Oh and guess what? Whilst red wine doesn't directly contain it, it apparently encourages your body's own production. HOORAY - get the drinks in!

To smother:

Golly, it's pretty much in everything, but lots of brands are now bringing out hyaluronic acid high serums. Their sticky consistency goes on tacky, but dries within seconds.

When should it go on our face?

Anytime - morning or night, morning and night.

 

 

 

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