Acid Serums For Skincare: How Do They Work?

The term acid does not conjure up an image of perfect healthy skin. But, when used correctly, certain acids can be the key to glowing skin. You may already use acids in your skincare routine without knowing. Anything that clocks in below a seven on the pH scale is considered acidic, and plenty of common skincare ingredients fall into this category.

How do I use acid serums for skincare?

Acids are generally used for exfoliation. Shedding your skin of thousands of dead cells at a time, acid serums reveal the more clear, bright, smooth surface underneath the layer of dead skin. Sometimes this shedding is even visible to the naked eye. Pretty cool, right? Who says science and beauty don’t mix?

It can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to implementing acids into your skincare routine. The acid you use depends heavily on your skin and your skin concerns. Whether you want to get rid of acne, reduce visible signs of ageing, treat scars and discolouration, or simply achieve even-toned, glowing, smooth skin, there is an acid out there for you.

Equipped with the right knowledge, you can implement face acids into your skincare routine in a way that will maximise their benefits and lead to enviable skin.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a cult favourite- and for good reason. It works a little differently than other facial acids because it’s used as a humectant rather than an exfoliant. It can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water, meaning it helps your face attract and hold water, giving you a gorgeous hydrated, dewy appearance. No wonder so many skincare enthusiasts are adding a hyaluronic acid serum to their skincare routine!

Ascorbic Acid

This acid is extremely well-known, but often under a different name- ascorbic acid is essentially vitamin C. Consistently recommended by dermatologists and other skincare professionals, this holy grail product can prevent signs of ageing, act as an antioxidant, and treat melasma. Ascorbic acid can become unstable, so it is important to use one that has been formulated and packaged correctly.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is the most common AHA used in skincare. Derived from sugar cane, it has the smallest molecule and can penetrate the deepest, making it exceptionally effective.

This anti-aging agent works by regenerating collagen, reducing fine lines and dark spots and preventing acne. The downside? Due to its ability to penetrate so deeply and exfoliate so well, it can cause irritation and increase sun sensitivity. It’s best to patch-test this before going all-in.

Salicylic Acid

Another popular product in the skincare community, salicylic acid is an extremely well-known treatment for acne. This acid unclogs your pores, exfoliates your skin, and prevents breakouts without irritating or inflaming the skin.

Used in higher concentrations, it can be used by professionals in skin peels and can treat acne scarring, melasma, sun spots and age spots and even in removing corns and warts.

Azelaic acid

Yet another acne wonder treatment, azelaic acid serum kills bacteria, clears pores, fades scars and helps reduce hyperpigmentation. This acid, derived from yeast, is even used to treat rosacea.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is gentle, ideal for people with sensitive skin. It is created from fermented milk, and has been used for thousands of years in some form (Cleopatra took milk baths regularly because Ancient Egyptians discovered that the lactic acid worked wonders for skin!

Kojic Acid

Kojic acid is formed in the process of fungus fermentation, usually the fermentation of rice. It is very effective- but can be very irritating to the skin.

Used in decreasing hyperpigmentation and dark spots, reducing signs of ageing, and giving skin that radiant glow, kojic acid is extremely common in Asian skincare products.

Mandelic Acid

Extracted from bitter almonds, mandelic acid serum penetrates your skin slowly, meaning it is less irritating than other acids and therefore better suited to those with sensitive skin.

Mandelic acid gently exfoliates your skin and increases firmness, as well as regulating the production of sebum.


It goes without saying that acid needs to be used carefully in skincare. To reap the benefits of adding acid to your skincare regimen, it needs to be used at the right concentrations. Various acids have quickly risen in popularity, becoming some of the most well-loved and trusted skin treatments of skincare enthusiasts worldwide.

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