It’s true, acid exfoliants are a big deal in the beauty world. Nowadays you wouldn’t find a skincare product without one of the much-loved members of the AHA and BHA extended family. Having said this, acids are not to be used lightly and without caution, choose the wrong one for your skin type and it could provoke all manner of skin irritation. This is why we always suggest consulting a GP or dermatologist when considering adding an acid into your routine. Once you have found the right formula you will find your skin will be smoother, clearer and brighter.
There is no denying that acid exfoliants are confusing, especially when they come in a variety of skincare products. Which is why today we are going to clear things up a little and help you get a better understanding and in no time, you will be confident about using an acid exfoliant to your daily skincare routine.
What are acid exfoliants?
Acid exfoliants are potent chemical skin ingredients that work on the skin by loosening dead skin cells by removing the bonds in between skin cells. They work at sloughing away the build-up revealing brighter, healthy skin. There are two main types of acid exfoliants, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) Both of which work in similar ways on the skin and provide results that combat signs of ageing, congestion, blemishes, dull and uneven skin tone to name just a few. The large collection of acids in this family mean there is almost an acid for every skin type, from lactic acid for dry skin, to salicylic for the more blemish-prone skin type.
With the increase of their popularity over recent years you can expect to find these active ingredients to be blended into a huge number of skincare products, such as face wash, toners and serums. It is generally understood that if you are wanting your entire skincare routine to deliver the best results, then including an acid exfoliant will help optimal skin penetration to any nourishing serums, face oils and other treatments.
If you are wanting to learn more about the most frequently used acid exfoliants you can check out our dedicated guide about the skincare benefits of AHAs and BHAs over on our blog. Of course, not forgetting those of you with a sensitive skin type. Polyhydroxy Acids will help you combat any skin concerns without the known side effects of their more potent cousins, you can find out more about their skincare benefits in one of our most recent blog posts too.
How do acid exfoliants work on the skin?
The way acid exfoliants work on the skin is their ability to slough away the build-up of dead skin cells that can cause some skin concerns, such as spots, flaky patches of skin and a lacklustre complexion. Here are some examples of the main benefits of acid exfoliants;
- Acid exfoliants combat against a build-up of dead skin cells that can cause the skin to look dull and lacklustre
- Acid exfoliants slough away cells allowing other skincare products to have optimal skin penetration resulting in them working more effectively
- Acid exfoliants contain antioxidants giving the skin barrier extra protection from any free radical damage caused by daily environmental aggressors
- Acid exfoliants help with the cell renewal of the skin allowing it to remain brighter and more youthful looking
- Acid exfoliants combat congested and blocked pores, removing all traces of bacteria and debris that can lead to uneven texture and blemishes such as blackheads
- Acid exfoliants can help with the production of collagen and elastin in the lower layers of the skin helping to reduce any signs of ageing
- Some acid exfoliants are humectants meaning they are able to lock in moisture from surrounding air and keep the skin hydrated
There you have an overall view of the benefits you can expect to see when using acid exfoliants, we understand how daunting it may feel using skincare products containing acid ingredients. Which is why we will be sharing with you some advise on the correct way of using these products now.
Do you wash off chemical exfoliant?
Yes and no, this is really dependant on the type of product you are using that is enriched with an acid exfoliant ingredient. It is said that if you are wanting to see quicker results to the skin then opting for serums, face oils and overnight treatments allow you to have the ingredient on your skin for a longer amount of time meaning it has a larger impact on the skin. Other products, such as face washes and cleansers are the least effective due to how little time they stay on the skin. Acid toners are yet another product that can affect the skin, the potency of the acid is generally quite high in toner formulations and has the most impact on the effectiveness of the rest of your daily skincare routine.
Face Wash = rinse off
Face cleanser = rinse off
Acid toner = leave on
Face serum = leave on to absorb
Face oil = leave on to absorb
Overnight treatment = rinse off the following morning
Face Mask = rinse off as instructions describe
Considering the previous points covered in this post, ensuring you are using the correct acid for your skin type must take priority when adding an acid into your routine. You can find out which skin type you have on our blog about the 4 most common skin types. Here are some examples of the best acid exfoliants to use for which skin type;
Sensitive skin types:
Please ensure you consult a GP, dermatologist or medical professional for advice on introducing acid to your routine. Perform a patch test for 24 hours before applying any products to your skin
Dry skin types:
- AHAs e.g. Lactic acid
Note the advice above should be applied for dry skin types also.
Combination skin types:
- AHAs e.g Lactic, glycolic acid and vitamin C
- BHAs e.g salicylic acid
Remember to perform a patch test and to apply a daily SPF of 30 and above to prevent any sun damage from UV exposure
Oily skin types:
- BHAs e.g Salicylic acid
- AHAs e.g Glycolic and vitamin C
Use a daily SPF and ensure you do not overuse acid exfoliants as this will lead to the skin becoming stripped of oil and introduce an increased production of sebum
Do you wash off exfoliating serum?
You do not need to wash off exfoliating serums or similar skincare products. Serums generally benefit the skin the most when they are remaining on the skin for the longest amount of time. This is why washing off an exfoliating serum will result in it not being effective on the skin and treating any concerns you are wanting to address. Due to acid exfoliants making the skin more prone to sun damage we would also recommend applying an exfoliating serum in your evening routine therefore allowing the ingredients to penetrate the deeper layers without the worry of UV exposure. You may also find the serum is more effective when applied in the evening due to the lack of other free radicals that occur during the day, such as pollution, central heating and environmental aggressors.
What do you do after using acid exfoliants?
After using acid exfoliants you need to keep the skin’s natural barrier balanced and calm to avoid irritation. This is why using a skincare routine containing a cocktail of complimentary ingredients will give you the best results. Applying a gel-like serum enriched in hyaluronic acid or niacinamide will lock in moisture and keep the freshly exfoliated skin soft, supple and hydrated. As we have stressed before, a daily SPF is a must to keep your skin healthy and happy. Applying the occasional skin treatment, such as an overnight face mask or professional facial is great for an added boost in skin rejuvenation and TLC.
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