The new wave of skincare acids you need to know

·5-min read
 (Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

Acids have become a skincare staple for their brightening and skin-smoothing superpowers.

You’ve got your head around AHAs (like glycolic acid) and BHAs (like salicylic acid), which work to slough away dead skin cells, and you swear by a daily dose of hyaluronic acid — the holy grail of hydration. Now, a new wave of products are using lesser-known acids that also deserve a spot on your shelfie.

The winter months, when your skin sees less sun (sob), can be a good time to start experimenting with active ingredients such as acids and retinols because they can make your skin more sensitive to light. “It is still important to wear SPF daily when using acids, even in the winter as the skin will be more sensitive to sun exposure,” says Nicolas Travis, founder of beauty editor-adored skincare brand Allies of Skin.

If you’re new to acids, start by incorporating them into your skincare regime two to three times a week, Travis says, though many progress to using them on a daily basis. “I prefer using them at night as then there is no risk of sun exposure.” The golden rule? Only ever use one exfoliating product in a routine. “It’s very easy to overload on acids, so you don’t need an exfoliating toner with an exfoliating serum. Just pick one per routine.”

From azelaic to tranexamic and kojic, read on for the new-gen acid-based skincare ingredients to know.

Azelaic acid

Best for: brightening and keeping acne-prone skin in check

 (The Ordinary)
(The Ordinary)

A blemish-fighting powerhouse, azelaic acid is produced naturally by yeast that lives on the skin. “Azelaic acid has been shown to be an effective sebum reducer, skin soother, as well as having antibacterial properties, so it is very effective for anyone with breakout concerns,” says Allies of Skin founder Travis. “It has the advantage of being brilliant for brightening too, which makes it great for post-blemish marks.”

Try: The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% (£5.50). Concentrations of up to 10 per cent are available over the counter, while anything higher has to be prescribed by a doctor. It’s also considered safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

 (Allies of Skin)
(Allies of Skin)

Mandelic acid

Best for: sensitive skin

“Mandelic acid is the alpha-hydroxy-acid (AHA) with the largest molecular structure, so it penetrates the least into the skin, making it an excellent ally for sensitive skin types,” says Travis. “It also has natural antibacterial properties, so besides gentle exfoliation, it helps to reduce breakouts.” Look for concentrations of up to 10 per cent. It is gentle enough to be used nightly.

Try: Allies of Skin Mandelic Pigmentation Corrector Night Serum (£89) is an overnight treatment that’s supercharged with mandelic, lactic and salicylic acid, with bakuchiol (a natural alternative to retinol) and a cocktail of antioxidants and peptides to gently brighten and even skin tone. At £5.80, The Ordinary’s Mandelic Acid 10% + HA is a purse-friendly option that’s blended with super-hydrating hyaluronic acid.

 (The Ordinary)
(The Ordinary)

Succinic acid

Best for: banishing blemishes

The Inkey List launched its succinic acid targeted blemish treatment at the beginning of the year and it quickly achieved TikTok fame for its spot-busting powers. The non-drying formula helps to reduce inflammation and de-clog pores, while giving a gentle peeling effect, as salicylic acid also works to address blackheads.

 (The Inkey List)
(The Inkey List)

Naturally found in amber, succinic acid has been used medically in Europe for a while now thanks to its antimicrobial properties, explains Inkey List co-founder Mark Curry. “Studies have shone a light on its amazing skin reconditioning and antioxidant properties. We predict we will start to see this ingredient more and more within the beauty industry.”

Try: Apply a thin layer of Inkey List’s Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment (£6.99) to the affected area - it can be used up to three times a day. For best results, cleanse first with the Salicylic Acid Cleanser (£10.99).

Tranexamic acid

Best for: fading dark spots

 (SkinCeuticals)
(SkinCeuticals)

“Tranexamic acid has been shown to be an effective brightener; but unlike other acids, it does not exfoliate,” explains Travis. “Instead, it brightens and fades dark spots by inhibiting excess melanin production.” For best results, pair it with other brightening actives, such as niacinamide, koji acid and vitamin C. Use it morning and night.

Try: SkinCeuticals’ Discoloration Defense Serum (£95) contains tranexamic acid, niacinamide to target skin discolouration. Dr Murad’s Replenishing Multi Acid Peel (£49) contains a cocktail of glycolic, lactic, malic and salicylic acid, with tranexamic acid to resurface, smooth and brighten.

 (Murad)
(Murad)

Kojic acid

Best for: post-summer pigmentation

Kojic acid is an antioxidant that derives from fungi that, not unlike tranexamic, works to help prevent dark spots. Dr Lauren Hamilton, founder of Shoreditch-based skin clinic Victor & Garth, says: “It’s beneficial for anyone wishing to improve the appearance of discolouration such as post-summer pigmentation or post-inflammatory pigmentation which you might notice after a spot has healed over. It can be used daily and is effective at brightening the overall appearance of skin.”

 (Faace)
(Faace)

Try: Dull Faace (£24) is a cleanser/mask hybrid containing kojic acid to brighten and target pigmentation, with kaolin clay, green tea, turmeric, vitamin C and vitamin E. Apply as a cleanser on wet or dry skin before rinsing, or use as a mask and leave on for 2-10 minutes before rinsing.

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