Before we start talking about acids you should put on your face or chemical exfoliation, let's make one thing clear: Using these facial acids will not result in a skin-graft, beef carpaccio–esque complexion à la Samantha Jones after her chemical peel. (Yes, I'm still haunted by that image.) OK, most of the acids we'll cover are meant to slough off the dead surface skin and reveal new, brighter skin, the formulations are much gentler and meant to be used on a daily, or weekly basis, both for immediate results and preventative care. No chemical burns in sight!
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get down to the nitty gritty details concerning facial acids.
Step one: Why should you be using them? For starters, acids are the answer to antiaging in the sense that they help keep your skin from sagging, smooth and prevent fine lines and wrinkles, help tighten and plump your skin, and help reverse and protect from environmental damage. Cool, right?
(Editor's note: We here at BRIDES don't love the term "antiaging"—women, let's embrace our natural beauty at any age and remember you don't need crazy procedures etc. to be beautiful! But beyond their ability to help you hold on to a youthful glow, acids are just good for the health of your skin, which is something we can all get behind.)
Step two: How do facial acids work? To understand acids, one must first understand the difference between the two big categories — alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids. The most significant difference between the two? AHAs are water-soluble and work on the skin's surface, while BHAs are oil-soluble and work both on the skin's surface and in the pores — AHAs are generally used by people with dryer skin with some sun damage, and BHAs (most notably, salicylic acid) are great for oily, acne-prone skin.
The skin naturally sheds the dull particles to leave smoother, healthy skin cells — the hydroxy acids do everything from smoothing wrinkles to improving skin's elasticity, and hydrating to brightening. Some even promote collagen and elastin production.
Beyond AHAs and BHAs, a number of other acids have more targeted effects. Take hyaluronic acid, for example. It's a powerful humectant — it isn't used for exfoliation, rather, it's one of dermatologists' number-one resources for hydrating dry and dull skin. Here, we'll outline all the most popular and effective facial acids and chemical exfoliants, along with some lesser-knowns that might be just the thing to get your skin that bridal glow you've been searching for.
Some things to keep in mind:
It's imperative that you wear SPF after incorporating acids into your beauty regimen, as they make you more prone to burning.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn't be using acids (scroll down to the end of this article for a list of non-harmful enzyme peels you can swap for instead).
Everyone's skin is different, and everyone will react differently to different strengths and types of acids. Always do a spot test before applying to your entire face and work your way up to a daily routine. Some people's skin may only be able to handle exfoliation a few times a week, while others can use facial acids twice a day. If you see redness or flaking, talk to your dermatologist about the products you're using. With that in mind, some acids (like retinoids) might cause mild irritation at first while the skin is acclimating. This is not a regimen to begin one week out from your wedding! Begin testing acids at least four months before the big day to ensure good reactions.
Talk to your dermatologist before combining different types of acids, as some do not work well in conjunction with others.
Read on to find out which acid is right for you! Happy exfoliating!