Putting acid on your face sounds scary but as it turns out, acids are some of the most effective skincare ingredients you can use! Today I’m sharing my 6 favorite anti-aging skincare acids & why you might want to start using them!
Our skin responds well to acids because our skin is naturally slightly acidic. It’s even covered by something called the “acid mantle” which is a thin layer of sebum + sweat that protects our skin and keeps bacteria out.
The acids you’ve probably heard most about are Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs and you can easily recognize them because acid is in their names while some of my other favorite acids are a little harder to spot! Retin-A or Tretinoin is actually Retinoic Acid, Vitamin C is L Ascorbic Acid, there’s also Azelaic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid, and Beta Hydroxy Acid (Salicylic Acid).
Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid)
Let’s start with the queen of all anti-aging acids, Retinoic Acid or tretinoin (brand name Retin-A). This is the gold standard of anti-aging ingredients with over 40 years of research proving it works to increase collagen production, reduce sun damage, increase skin’s thickness, fade dark spots, and reduce wrinkles.
If your main concern is sagging skin, loss of firmness, fine lines/wrinkles, or sun damage then this is the acid for you! It doesn’t work overnight, but with continued use you’ll see your skin aging backwards in about 6-12 months. It’s available by prescription only here in the US because it makes changes in your skin at the cellular level, but it can also be irritating so easing into using it slowly is important, as is wearing sunscreen during the day.
I used to go to my dermatologist for a prescription for generic tretinoin and then have it filled at a pharmacy but now my favorite way to get my tretinoin is with Curology! It’s an online service that was developed by dermatologists to take the hassle out of getting prescription acne and anti-aging medications.
And it’s so much better than my old rX because it’s a custom formula made just for me & my skin issues! I was matched with a licensed medical provider and we worked together to come up with my formula. I’ve been using Curology for 2 years and now I’m a Curology Ambassador.
Over my 2 years on Curology I’ve been able to bump up my strength of tretinoin as my skin adjusts and swap out one of the other ingredients (niacin amide) to include Azeliac Acid which is another great anti-aging acid that calms and fades redness, helps to reduce skin texture, and it’s anti-inflammatory so it helps my skin stay calm. Adding Azeliac acid has really reduced the redness in my skin to the point that I don’t automatically reach for foundation every day!
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Azeliac acid is the active ingredient in many prescription acne and rosacea medications, and it also helps with melasma. It’s well tolerated so you don’t need the long break-in period and it’s been shown to work almost as well as hydroquinone on fading discolorations when combined with tretinoin. I’ve only been using Azeliac acid for a year but it’s made a huge difference in my skin already! There’s 5% Azeliac acid in my Curology so I don’t buy a separate product, but some other good azelaic acid products are:
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin C is a staple in my morning skincare routine to fight free-radical damage, protect my collagen, support collagen production, reduce dark spots, and brighten my skin. The most effective form of Vitamin C (& the only form I’ll use) is Ascorbic Acid. This is a water soluble form of Vitamin C that needs to be formulated with other antioxidants and at a low pH to be effective in your skin. Because of the formulary restrictions, there are only 3 or 4 Vitamin C serums I recommend. They’re listed below with shopping links but they’re all at a pH of 3.0-3.5, they have 15-20% L Ascorbic Acid, and they all contain vitamin e and ferulic acid to make them stable and 16X more potent!
Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum: http://bit.ly/1yRFcMa
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Maelove The Glowmaker: http://bit.ly/2nxv143
Alpha Hydroxy Acids
There are lots of different Alpha Hydroxy Acids but Glycolic, Lactic, and mandelic are the most popular. AHA’s are chemical exfoliants that dissolve the glue that keeps dead skin cells from sloughing off & help to reveal smoother, more hydrated looking skin. They help increase collagen production, reduce fine lines & wrinkles, fade spots, brighten, and moisturize. The AHAs also need to be formulated at a lower pH to work so it’s not a good idea to cocktail them with other serums. It’s important to use sunscreen daily if you use AHAs anywhere in your skincare routine as they can make skin more photosensitive.
Glycolic Acid is the most widely used and most effective because it’s the smallest molecule so it penetrates the skin easier. It’s got the most research of the AHAs but is also potentially the most irritating. I’ve never been able to use a daily glycolic acid because of irritation but I do use a weekly mixed acid peel that contains glycolic along with lactic, mandelic and salicylic acids.
The AHA I use daily is Lactic acid. It’s better for me than glycolic because it’s gentler and less irritating, plus it increases ceramide levels in the skin so it’s more hydrating. Using it daily gives me that lit from within glow and it’s great for people with dry and dull skin.
Inkey List Lactic Acid Serum: http://bit.ly/2XPsYpc
Mandelic Acid is an even milder AHA that’s great for beginners or those with really sensitive skin!
Colleen Rothschild Mandelic Acid Radiance Serum: http://bit.ly/2rmStRL
Hyaluronic acid doesn’t really act like a typical acid and there’s no danger of irritation when using it or combining it with other acids. Hyaluronic acid is a “natural moisturizing factor or NMF” that’s abundant in our skin and joints. I think of it as a hydrator because it’s a humectant which draws & holds water to the skin. It can hold 1,000X its weight in water. It doesn’t penetrate the dermis but sits in the top layers helping to plump up the skin. The effects of HA are immediate but not long lasting. I don’t use a separate HA serum because there’s HA in all of my other products including the acids I’ve already talked about here. But if you’re interested in a separate HA product, here are a few of my faves:
Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum: http://bit.ly/2XNixCi
Beta Hydroxy Acid aka salicylic acid is an oil loving acid that’s great for keeping pores clean, helping them look smaller and clearing acne. It’s a chemical exfoliant like the AHAs but since it’s oil loving it works to exfoliate inside the pore rather than on the surface of the skin. It’s also anti-inflammatory and pH doesn’t seem to be a factor in effectiveness. It’s best for people with acne or enlarged, clogged pores caused by oils or dead skin cells. I’ve tried BHAs and saw a slight difference in my pores but because my pores are enlarged from sun damage it didn’t help that much so I don’t currently use one.
If you want more in depth information on the Retinoids, the AHAs, or Vitamin C, you can check out my Anti-Aging Ingredient series which has dedicated videos on each of those + others.
I’ll also link my current Skincare Routine video so you can see how I incorporate acids into my skincare, and I’ll link my video on How to Layer Skincare, and How to Start Using Acids Without Irritation.
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