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The Ultimate Guide to Skincare Acids

Your Guide to Acids for Skincare

What are the benefits of using hydroxy acids (AHA/BHA/PHAs) in skin care.

TRUST US, hydroxy acids are game-changing for your skin. If you haven’t used them before, prepare to be amazed as they have the ability to work wonders for improving the look and feel of your skin. Acids improve your skin in a myriad of ways, doing an amazing job of smoothing, brightening, softening and hydrating. Attending to many skin concerns all at once, so if you’re wanting to target fine lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, blemishes or dull skin, then you’re in the right place. Just always ensure you’re following the instructions and using adequate hydrating and SPF products after.

best aha bha pha chemical exfoliator peel for wrinkles fine lines


What skincare acid should I use?


While most acids are beneficial for exfoliation and improving skin texture, some are in fact very gentle and hydrating - ideal for sensitive skin. Some acids are chosen for battling blemishes, and others again are more suited to pigmentation troubles or anti-ageing! So, how do you know which acid is best for your skin?

Find all the answers and more here, welcome to the ultimate guide to skincare acids


what acid to use for your skin type and concern


Acids for the skin are broken up into 3 categories:

  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) 
  • Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)
  • Poly Hydroxy Acids (PHAs) 

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

Alpha Hydroxy Acids are possibly the most well-known category. AHAs work by ​​gently dissolving the bonds between dead skin cells so that they can be easily removed and allowing new, healthier, softer skin to shine through.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid is super common and in many skincare ranges, but for good reason - it is amazing for visibly improving skin tone and texture, clearing congestion, rejuvenating the skin, and results are impressively fast. Derived from sugar cane, it is the smallest molecule of the AHAs meaning that it is better able to penetrate the skin, quickly delivering benefits below the skin’s surface. However this can mean that Glycolic can be irritating for some people, ensure skin is hydrated, use lots of skin barrier repairing products and always follow directions.

Good for: anti-ageing. It is the most effective hydroxy acid at stimulating collagen production and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Helps clear congestion, improving skin texture and reducing breakouts. It also improves the skin’s ability to retain moisture, making skin more hydrated over time. Great for dry skin types as well as to improve dull, textured skin.

Find it in: Resurfacing products, High Performance Exfoliator , Brightening Peel.


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Mandelic Acid

A gentle AHA originally derived from bitter almonds, it penetrates the skin at a slower rate than other AHAs. Meaning less chance of irritation, even if it still provides that chemical exfoliation ‘tickle’. That's not to say it has no power, Mandelic is still a fantastic exfoliant, especially for those wanting a brighter, clearer, more even complexion.

Good for: helping reduce and prevent blemishes due to its antibacterial properties, helping reduce and prevent pigmentation, stimulating collagen. Hormonal skin would benefit from this acid and those who cannot use acids such as Glycolic or Salicylic.

Find it in: Brightening Peel, High Performance Exfoliator.


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Lactic Acid

Another of the more gentle acids due to its larger molecular size, this one helps brighten and hydrate skin. Originally derived from milk sugar lactose, which is where the story of Cleopatra bathing in milk is said to have originated from. Nowadays, no need for such elaborate bathing rituals to achieve smooth, even-toned skin simply apply, leave for 10 minutes and rinse off! 

Good for: sensitive skin and also dry skin.

Find it in: Brightening Peel, High Performance Exfoliator.

Tartaric Acid

Is also rather gentle and has antioxidant properties. Used for exfoliation to improve texture and tone and helps to maintain the skin’s natural pH range that other AHAs need to deliver the best results. Usually found in tandem with other acids for this reason

Find it in: High Performance Exfoliator.  Multi Fruit Acid Peel

glycolic acid peel for acne

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

The only acid used for skincare in the BHA category is: 

Salicylic Acid

A favourite for blemish-prone skin as this acid focuses on clearing out and unclogging pores and targeting blemishes and congestion. This type of acid is oil soluble meaning it is able to get through the oil to remove the bacteria and debris lurking beneath, stopping spots before they have a chance to form. Calming and anti-inflammatory it also helps with the redness that often comes with those angry, red pimples. It also provides hydrating and calming properties that help achieve soft, soothed skin.

Good for: blemish-prone and oily skin. This acid is not for use during pregnancy.

Find it in: the Resurfacing range, Multi Fruit Acid Serum, Anti Blemish Face Wash, Skin Clarifying Kit and the High Performance Hydroxy Acid Exfoliator. 


best salicylic acid serum for blemishes acne


Poly Hydroxy Acids (PHAs)

This latter, and less well-known category features more gentle types of acids. PHA’s still exfoliate, albeit more gently. Breaking down dead skin cells with very minimal irritation thanks to their larger molecular size. Working on the outer layers of the skin, they are good for helping reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (aka those dark marks and spots you get after a spot has healed). 


A PHA that naturally occurs in fruit, honey and wine, this acid helps improve skin texture and tone, resulting in smoother, brighter skin. It also offers some antioxidant benefits and is actually a humectant, helping attract water to the skin. 

Good for: super-sensitive skin types and especially great for those who find traditional acids (AHAs and BHAs) too irritating.

Find it in: Brightening Intensive Correction products, Multi Fruit Acid Peel, High Performance Hydroxy Acid Exfoliator. 




Like Gluconolactone, Lactobionic acid is more gentle than the usual AHAs and BHAs and also works as a great humectant that helps hydrate the skin and keep it plump. 

Good for: super-sensitive skin types and especially great for those who find traditional acids (AHAs and BHAs) too irritating.

Find it in: Brightening Intensive Correction products, Multi Fruit Acid Peel, High Performance Hydroxy Acid Exfoliator. 


The final word on using Hydroxy Acids for chemical exfoliation.

While using acids in skincare can provide incredible results, remember that they are best used once a week until you’ve built up tolerance, or you risk irritating your skin or damaging your skin barrier if you over-use them. Be sure to read up about your skin barrier before using hydroxy acids. Also, sunscreen is imperative when chemical exfoliating and missing this crucial step could see your skin more pigmented and damaged than before. The lightweight Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+ is your best friend when routinely using chemical exfoliants. Lastly, patch-testing is key! Different acids work and don’t work for different people so it is always best to patch test any new product or ingredient before use.


Keep reading: Need to Know Ingredient Focus: Mandelic Acid

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