Which One is Best for Your Skin?
We all know the three most common acids for skincare – glycolic, salicylic and lactic acid. But there is often confusion as to what acid treatment is best for your skin, what condition each of the acids treats, when and why you should use them. So here are the basics on these three acids for your skin:
Glycolic Acid – This is a natural ingredient derived from cane sugar, although synthetic versions are common. It’s classified as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and is best for dark spots and wrinkles. It works by inflaming the top layer of skin to promote exfoliation of dead skin cells and minimizes pigmentation to improve the look the dark spots. Glycolic acid comes in a wide variety of strengths, however, products with a strength lower than 10% are not very effective, although they do work when used on a regular basis. Much higher percentages are available from your skincare professional, but those should be used under their direction. Glycolic acid is found in face washes, face pads, scrubs, creams, serums and face masks and it is safe to combine products with glycolic acid. For Example: You can use a 3% glycolic acid face wash, followed by a 10% anti-aging serum.
Salicylic Acid – This is a plant-based acid and a derivative of aspirin (made from willow bark). It is classified as a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and is most effective when used to clear and control acne, eliminate oil and unclog pores. Used most commonly as a spot treatment (rubbing this product on the skin can irritate it) or in cleansers for daily use. Salicylic acid can also improve skin’s thickness for better barrier function, and it will promote the production of collagen.
Lactic Acid – This is derived from milk-based products and is best for improving the skin’s texture and hydration, making it an ideal acid treatment for those with sensitive or dry skin conditions.
Most famously, Cleopatra bathed in fermented goats milk to soften and smooth her legendary skin.
Lactic acid is especially helpful for treating Keratosis Pilaris (those annoying tiny bumps on the arms or legs that look like goose-bumps). It works by dissolving dead skin cells to reveal healthy, smooth skin, while retaining the skin’s natural moisture to leave it soft and hydrated. The hydrating and skin softening qualities of lactic are the key differences between the three acids. It’s also an ideal acid treatment for the décolleté area where there are less fat cells and thinner skin.