The Basic Guide To Exfoliating With Acid

Writer: Farah Karim

You’ve probably heard how important it is to exfoliate your skin, or it’s already in your skin care routine. When it comes to exfoliating, most of us think of scrubbing our skin with microbeads or a DIY sugar scrub. But if your face isn’t used to the physical abrasions, you can try something  gentler but just as effective: Acids.

No, not the kind of stuff that burns through your skin the moment you touch the substance. The acids used for cosmetic purposes are gentle and would benefit your skin by a whole lot.

Source: The Skincare Edit

Why exfoliate with acids?

Rather than using the power of small, tiny particles to get dirt out of your skin, acids are chemicals that work together with your skin by peeling the top layer away. Your skin renews itself every day and this can cause build up of dead skin cells, resulting in dry skin, clogged pores, uneven skin tone, blackheads and premature ageing. It’s like giving your skin a restart whenever you swipe a cotton pad of acid on it.

This clean slate will leave your skin in a better condition to absorb the products you apply after. It also improves your skin’s function as a protective barrier and balances your skin’s pH level, corrects the function of your sebaceous glands and encourages the growth of good bacteria on your skin.

But don’t go too far! Stripping your skin of its natural oils too often could be damaging and can lead to further dryness, irritation and even breakouts. Meanwhile, picking the wrong type of acid can be detrimental to your skin. Read the labels carefully and make sure you’re investing in a bottle that won’t cause your skin to be raw and angry.

Source: Keiko Lynn

What types of acids are there?

There are over a dozen different types of acids in the market so it can get confusing to pick one that’s right for your skin. But fret not, we are here to help. Here are some of the most popular options available in the market:

AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids)

These group of acids include gycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric acid. For those who want an even skin tone and a brightening effect, products with AHAs can help with just that. They work by kick-starting the production of collagen and lowering your skin’s pH level from 5.5 to around 3 which sends a message to your skin to speed up cell renewal which leaves with a radiant glow on your skin. It also works to combat issues at the surface of your skin such as acne, rough texture and bumps.

BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acid)

Instead of just working on the surface of your skin, BHAs will fix your problems from the inside. It penetrates your skin’s pore lining and is effective against acne prone and oily skin since it’s an oil soluble active. The most popular type of BHAs is salycylic acid. You’ve probably heard of this name before and it’s because this acid works wonders on the pores and blackheads. It has an anti-inflammatory effect similar to AHAs. But the downside is that this acid can make your skin dryer and if you’re allergic to aspirin, it might even cause breakouts since it’s derived from salicin.

PHA (Poly Hydroxy Acids)

The lesser known of the three, PHAs include lactobionic and gluconolactone acid. If you can’t handle the strength of AHAs or BHAs, then PHAs might just be the alternative for you. Because of their large particle size, it will take longer for it to penetrate the skin which is also gentler at the same time. This acid feels less tingly than the other two and are more likely to be less irritating for those with sensitive skin.


Source: Mishibox

Targeted for people with sensitive, acne-prone complexion, COSRX is a brand that caters to all skin concerns at a decent price. Their AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner exfoliates and cleanses while preventing the appearance of whiteheads, blackheads and blemishes. With no parabens, artificial colourants and fragrances, there’s a reason why people always go back to this brand.

Name: COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

Price: RM55.90

The Ordinary

Source: Calyxta

Don’t be fooled by its intimidating colour, because this is one of The Ordinary’s most raved products ever. Their AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution exfoliates the surface’s top most layer for a brighter and even skin tone. To apply, just leave it on your face for no longer than 10 minutes and rinse off with lukewarm water. It’s basically a DIY facial in one bottle.

Name: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Price: AUD$14.30 (RM42.30)


Source: Amazon

Mizon’s exfoliating toner has somewhat of a cult following in Korea because of how good it is. The mixture of AHA and BHA in one toner gives you the benefit of both acid as it exfoliates away dead skin cells while unclogging your pores and leaving your complexion smoother, clearer and more even.

Name: Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner

Price: USD$25 (RM103)