Acids aren’t new, in fact glycolic acid was brought into the world of cosmeceuticals in the 1990’s. Once formulated to treat a skin condition called Ichthyosis it has since evolved to help treat the signs of aging. It’s small molecular size allows it to penetrate the skin to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin–plumping up the skin and easing away fine lines and uneven texture. Glycolic acid actually helps to boost hydration levels in your skin because it helps any hydrators and serum to penetrate your skin better.
Perhaps the most readily available acid on the market is salicylic acid. You can find it in low concentrations in acne products and lotions aimed at helping to exfoliate and treat extremely dry and calloused skin. Due to its larger molecular size, salicylic acid works on the surface and into the pore to clear out debris, balance oil (sebum) production, brighten hyperpigmentation, exfoliate dead skin, reducing bacteria and inflammation. This is a great acid for treating acne and oilier, congested skin.
One of the most gentle acids available is lactic. This acid, also having a larger molecular size, works gently on the surface of the skin to dissolve away dead skin cells and brighten hyperpigmentation/the forbidden freckle. Lactic acid is a great first acid as its more gentle and can often be found in hydrating formulations to give the skin a fresh, plumped up glow.
Acids come in many forms from toners to lotions to serums to peel treatments. Peels are performed by a professional and are mild to medium strength which will usually lead to some mild flaking and tightness. Following a peel treatment with a peptide product and other nourishing serums will boost the results of your peel while at the same time diminish some of the possible irritation and flaking. Toners and lotions can be used a few times a week after cleansing but before serums, moisturizers or face oils. If your skin gets too dry and irritated or begins to produce too much oil then you should dial back your usage until your skin get used to it. Look for products without much alcohol or witch hazel as they can be more harsh than the acid and don’t really do much to increase the effectiveness of the product.