Dr. Julie Russak gave us a quick chemistry lesson about various acids for the skin. Here’s what we learned:
1. Different acids achieve different results. To treat acne, look for salicylic and beta hydroxy acid to decongest pores, as well as glycolic acid to encourage cell turnover. If you’re concerned with aging, try hyaluronic acid to plump and retinoic acid for a fresh glow. Struggling with hyperpigmentation? Ascorbic acid and kojic acid can help lighten and repair sun damage.
2. Aggressive acid peels should be left to the professionals, lest you want to risk serious burns and scarring. TCA (trichloroacetic acid) is extremely strong, so be wary. Everyone remembers Samantha’s unfortunate incident before Carrie’s book party in Sex and the City… enough said.
3. Professional peels should happen approximately every two weeks for a specific condition, and then every two to three months for maintenance. If you’re treating at home, resurfacing serums can be used as often as every evening.
4. If you like playing chemist and mixing your products, be careful. Products with low concentrations are generally okay to mix, but take care not to disrupt the skin barrier with excessive use.
With Dr. Russak’s tips in mind, we rounded up our favorite products with acids as an active ingredient:
As we get older, aging becomes more of a concern. That being said, our acne woes have all but completely disappeared. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90) not only clears pores, but also promotes collagen production. Despite trying a slew of serums on the regular, this one has remained in heavy rotation.
Acid near the eyes can sound scary, but that is far from the case with Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream ($68). The creamy formula moisturizes and smoothes with ferulic acid and retinol; no high school chemistry class eyewash required.
Since our oil glands tend to go into overdrive when it’s humid, pores are begging to be cleaned. First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Blemish Patrol Pads ($30) control oil and shine with salicylic acid, but simultaneously soothe with willowbark extract.
Although no one likes to talk about it, flaky scalps are a common ailment. SACHAJUAN Scalp Treatment ($45) treats irritation with rosemary oil, menthol, and salicylic acid. Plus, it’s much chicer than stealing your dad’s Head and Shoulders.
Sometimes skin needs powerful hydration, but who wants to glop on thick cream during the summer? Erno Laszlo Hydra-Therapy Refresh Infusion ($100) deeply hydrates with hyaluronic acid, but with a light and easily absorbable formula.
Acne on the face is annoying enough, but adding your back, chest, and shoulders is just icing on the cake. Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash ($8) cleans off dirt and sweat while treating those pesky spots with salicylic acid.
Brighter and firmer skin in two minutes is a bold claim. However, M-61 Fast Blast ($50) does that and more thanks to vitamin C and ascorbic acid. And don’t worry about irritation since there’s also plenty of seaweed and aloe to soothe.
-Casey Sharbaugh is the blogger behind www.comfortablycasey.com