Acids are the new must-have addition to your makeup routine – Here's why
And if even I find all the -oxys, -oxides and peptides bamboozling, despite a 20 minute one-to-one with a dermatologist, I’ve no idea how the average Jo(anna) keeps up.
Take the tidal wave of acids recently launched and often marketed as “peels”. These have been declared by everyone who knows anything about skin to be the must-have addition to your cleansing routine for 2018.
But putting something on your face that sounds as though it could remove the enamel from your bath can be quite a leap of faith. The reality however, is that acids are milder than you might imagine.
Essentially liquid exfoliants many of which are simply swept over the skin with a cotton pad, they are a far gentler way to whisk away dead cells and deal with clogged pores than the old-school, grainy face scrubs of your teenage years, which can cause microscopic tears in the skin’s barrier.
A gentle peel is actually one of the best things you can do for your skin, returning radiance and glow within a fortnight. If you’re not sure where to start, check out my selection here. Glossier,
This Works and REN are great starting points if you’re new to acids, while Paula’s Choice and Dr Dennis Gross are brilliant when you’re ready to bring out the big guns.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the small print. AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) stimulate skin renewal by breaking the water bonds attaching dead skin cells to healthy skin to whisk away the top layer of cells, which makes them great for dealing with fine lines, dull skin and mild, newly arrived sun damage.
Made from plant, milk or fruit sugars, they boost collagen production for firmer skin, too. Anything marked glycolic, citric or lactic acid falls into this category. Just make sure you are using a daily sunscreen throughout the year if you add these into the mix as they make you more sensitive to UVA and UVB damage, which is very ageing.
BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) are also exfoliating, but they work at a deeper level, penetrating skin to help exfoliate inside enlarged or clogged pores. They are antibacterial, so help even out oily skin prone to lumps, bumps and breakouts.
Rather than causing irritation, BHAs are anti-inflammatory and help reduce redness. Look for salicylic or benzoic acid on labels to say bye-bye to blemishes.
PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) are functionally similar to AHAs but have larger molecules, making them extra gentle on the skin. They’re more hydrating, too. Keep an eye out for gluconolactone and lactobionic acid. Finally, Hyaluronic acid. It’s the “acid” I get asked about most.
But it isn’t an acid in the exfoliation sense of the word. It’s a water binding molecule that we make less of as we age and when applied topically helps plump and hydrate the skin.
I actually did a double-take when passing a mirror the first time I used Swisscode Pure Hyaluron.
It looked as though I had borrowed someone else’s (much younger) forehead for the evening.
Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Exfoliating Moisturizer (£66; 020 8740 2085, spacenk.com)
REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic (£25; 0800 112 4339, renskincare.com)
Swisscode Pure Hyaluron (£90; pureswissboutique.com)
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Lotion (£11; 0345 070 8090, boots.com)
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel (£23; 0203 608 9813, paulaschoice.co.uk)
This Works Evening Detox Spray-on Exfoliant (£28; thisworks.com)
Glossier Solution Exfoliating Skin Perfector (£19; glossier.com)
Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Liquid Glow with 6% pure Glycolic Acid (£19.95; nipandfab.com)
Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Pads (£39 for 60; 0117 316 1888, elemis.com)