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Do You Need Strong Skincare Acids?

April 28, 2022

Do You Need Strong Skincare Acids?

Do You Need Strong Skincare Acids?

Episode Description:

Skincare acids are among the most popular ingredients right now, thanks to their ability to exfoliate chemically, as opposed to scrubbing away dead skin manually. But do you need strong skincare acids? Let’s take a look.




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How Skincare Acids Work

Skincare acids work by ungluing the bonds that keep dead skin stuck to your skin’s surface. This helps your old skin to shed normally and reveals the smooth, baby-fresh skin hiding beneath. With such dramatically effective results, it’s no surprise that there are new products containing skincare acids released daily.

It’s pretty easy to find products containing all levels of concentrations (from 1% to over a whopping 30%).But do you need your acids to be so high?

Great question, but let’s start with a more basic one. 


What Is a Strong Acid? 

The strength of an acid depends on two things - the percentage in the formula and the pH level. These two things have the biggest impact on the potential to cause irritation and sun sensitivity. 

  • For at home products, generally concentrations lower than 10% at final formulation (pH > 3.5) are as high as I would recommend going. 
  • When applied by trained professionals concentrations at around 30 - 35% at final formulation and a pH higher than 3 are safe. 

Do You Need Strong Skincare Acids?

Differences between acids 

What separates one acid from another is the strength and level of skin penetration. 

  • Most Gentle = Phytic and lactic acids 
  • Self-Neutralizing = Salicylic acid 
  • Acids Needing Neutralization = Glycolic acids 

Does A Higher Percentage Mean I’ll Get Better Results?

In a nutshell? Not necessarily.

While skincare acids can seem like a game changer with almost immediate results, don’t go too hard too soon. This is becausestrong acids can disrupt your skin’s protective barrier and often cause your skin to dry out. This is all due to the way acids function, by accelerating the rate of skin cell turnover. Long term, this can cause the skin to thin out because it cannot keep reproducing itself so quickly indefinitely. 


What Happens If You Overdo It?

If you overdo your skincare acids (either using something with too high a concentration or using it too frequently), you might cause some pretty nasty effects on your skin. Skincare acid overuse can result inover-exfoliation, with consequences ranging from severe irritation, dryness, redness and unwanted breakouts.


Do You Need Strong Skincare Acids?


Does this just affect sensitive skin types?


This affects all skin types, but someone with very sensitive skin might suffer a faster negative response.

My Top Tips For Getting the Most Out of Skincare Acids 

Here are my top tips to getting the most out of skincare acids without any negative effects.

1.Start gently. If you’re keen to introduce acids into your skincare routine, start off slowly. No matter your skin type, start out using acids in your skincare routine once or twice a week. Depending on how you handle it, either decrease or increase your usage from there.

2.Acids and Vitamin C. If you’re already using Vitamin C serums, be careful because  they both have exfoliating effects. Depending on the acids you want to use, they can makeVitamin C inactive and ineffective. If you do want to use them together in the correct routine, the correct order is Vitamin C, BHA then AHA.

3.Which Acid? Not all skincare acids are alike. The two most common, AHA and BHA have similar effects but workquitedifferently. They can also work in combination though, with moisturisers like Some By Mi’s30 Days Miracle Cream containing the greatest hits of skincare acids.

4.Manage expectations. With many acid-containing skincare products with concentrations in the double digits, it’s important to know which level is right for you. To be safe, start off with lower concentrations.


Do You Need Strong Skincare Acids?


My Top Acid Safety Tips

1 It’s very important to only apply acid at night and never use it on holiday when you’re exposed to the sun. 

2 You can also try an acid in a wash formula, which will limit the time that the acid is in contact with your skin. Try COSRX Salicylic Acid Cleanser.

3 Never start on the forehead. If any product drips, it will end up in your eyes. 

4 Some acids, like salicylic acid, become stronger if you layer them. 

5 Glycolic acid needs to be neutralized to turn off its effects. Its very important to know how to turn off products like this, as well as the expected side effects to help you get the best results from the treatment. Make sure you read the label. 

Gentle K-Beauty Acids:

SOME BY MI range is a great option for those with combination and oily skin. 

COSRX AHA / BHA Clarifying Toner contains White willow extract, apple waterand glycolic acid. These help to gently peel and remove dead skin. It also contain Sodium lactate, a pH controlling agent known for its cleansing action and ability to inhibit bacteria development.

COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid contains 4% betaine salicylate, a gentle form of BHA. 

ISNTree Clear Skin BHAhas a pH of 3.5 - 4. It contains Betaine Salicylate (0.9%), which reduces blackheads by preventing the formation of clogged pores and encouraging the growth of fresh skin.


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"The current trend these days in skincare is to go higher and higher with all types of ingredient percentages. But when it comes to acids, more is not necessarily better."

- Lauren Lee, Host of the Korean Beauty Show Podcast & K-Beauty Expert on Korean Radio

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