If you're a skincare newbie, acid may initially sound like a scary thing to incorporate into your skincare routine—especially if you have sensitive skin. But they're powerful ingredients that fight off annoying ailments like hyperpigmentation, sun spots, fine lines, dryness and more. Admittedly, there are a lot of acids, and each of them works differently, so how are you supposed to know which one is right for you and your skin at this stage of your life? We enlisted board-certified dermatologist Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, to break down the most beneficial acids for every decade.
In Your 20s
The top skin complaint Imahiyerobo-Ip gets from her 20-something patients relates to acne. I'm a victim of adult acne that didn't hit me until I was 23, so I relate to this on so many levels. "It's a myth that acne is something only teenagers deal with," she tells me. "Furthermore, many people inadvertently worsen their acne through the inconsistent use of prescription acne medicines and by using harsh products that strip the skin of natural oils."
YOUR GO-TO ACIDS
Salicylic acid: "When used to treat acne, this acid will dry up blemishes. As an antibacterial, the acid will work as an exfoliator to remove discolored and damaged skin cells to improve skin tone. At high concentrations, it can be used as a chemical peel that can help clear major breakouts in no time."
Azelaic acid: "If you suffer from redness, especially related to rosacea and acne, azelaic acid could benefit you. This acid is derived from grains and soothes irritated skin. Azeliac acid is also a power fighter of hyperpigmentation. The best news is that it is perfectly safe to be used during pregnancy; it works like a charm to fight acne and melasma."
Lixir's nifty nighttime skin booster contains both salicylic and azelaic acids, as well as a hit of lactic acid.
As well as a tonne of antioxidants from goji berries, red raspberry seed and prickly pear, this blue-toned night treatment from Herbivore contains a naturally occurring source of salicylic acid.
In Your 30s
Many women begin to notice subtle signs of aging in their 30s, like fine lines and wrinkles. Things like hyperpigmentation, melasma and sun spots may also appear.
YOUR GO-TO ACIDS
Retinoic acid: "Derived from vitamin A, retinoic acid is well known as an anti-aging powerhouse. This acid causes skin cell turnover and provides benefits of increased collagen production, clean pores, accelerated skin cell shedding and evened-out skin tone. Your skin may take a short time to adjust to this acid, and you might experience flaking."
Glycolic acid: "This is one of the best acids out there, going beyond the top layer of skin to help loosen up the bonds that hold dead skin together. Glycolic acid will shrink pores, lighten spots, even out scars, lessen wrinkles, and keep the texture of your skin smooth and bright. Gentle enough for beginners with proven anti-aging properties, this would be a great starting place if you want to incorporate acids into your routine."
A foaming—but not stripping—formula, Dr. Dennis Gross's cleanser leaves skin feeling super fresh.
In Your 40s
"At this point, exposure to environmental pollutants starts to take a toll on the skin, and antioxidants are very important. In addition, some women develop more sensitivity to skincare products," says Imahiyerobo-Ip. She recommends the following:
Lactic acid: "Gentle and effective, lactic acid will benefit those with sensitive skin. It exfoliates and softens lines and wrinkles in a much less irritating way than other acids."
January Labs' swipe-and-go formula is the easiest way to add a dose of lactic acid into your regimen.
Few things brighten the skin quite like Sunday Riley's C.E.O. serum.
In Your 50s+
"In your 50s, physiological changes slow skin-cell turnover, and as a result, you may notice significant skin dryness and loss of elasticity," explains Imahiyerobo-Ip. "Expression lines may become etched into your skin, and you may also notice rough, scaly precancerous lesions developing."
YOUR GO-TO ACIDS
Hyaluronic acid: "This acid is a moisture booster and can add volume when injected. A key in many moisturisers and fillers, hyaluronic acid is synthetically made to replicate a natural structural component of skin. When used as a cream or serum, hyaluronic acid ensures skin will feel softer, and you'll notice improvement in the appearance of fine lines."
"Look for a product like SkinCeuticals H.A. Serum that combines this with vitamin C to assist in effective penetration," explains Imahiyerobo-Ip.
This hyaluronic-infused serum from Elemis is so hydrating that you can forgo moisturiser afterwards.
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