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  5. Are Face Acids Good For Your Skin?

It may sound horrifying. But the truth is that all acids are not dangerous. There are some that are popular in the dermatological world for their ability to address a number of skin issues. “Incorporating them in your daily skincare regimen can prove to be extremely beneficial,” says SkinKraft’s chief dermatologist Dr. Harish Koutam, an accredited member of Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (IADVL) and Cosmetic Surgeons of India.

However, Dr. Harish points out that if you have sensitive skin, you must conduct a patch-test before using any face acid. “If you don’t see any reaction, start with applying a few times a week before gradually incorporating them into your daily skincare regimen.”

So which are those acids that are actually good for your skin and how do they work? We are here to answer all of these questions.

1. Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is the smallest of the alpha-hydroxy family of acids. It works as an excellent exfoliator by interacting with the topmost layer of your skin to remove dead skin cells and reveal new, younger looking skin. The best part is that it penetrates deep through the layers of your skin, making it more effective in addressing your skin issues.

Research suggests that glycolic acid can stimulate collagen production in the skin (1). Collagen is a fibrous protein found naturally in the dermis and epidermis. Years of UV exposure can break-down this protein, resulting in saggy skin. Glycolic acid prevents this by enhancing its production in the skin.

Glycolic acid is also a good humectant. It draws water from the atmosphere onto your skin, allowing it to stay soft and hydrated.


  • Exfoliates and removes dead skin cells
  • Treats fine lines and wrinkles
  • Treats mild to moderate acne
  • Locks-in moisture

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use It?

Glycolic acid is usually well-tolerated by most skin types. If you have sensitive skin, conduct a patch-test before applying the product to your face. 

2. Salicylic Acid

If you have acne-prone skin and have ever bought an off-the-shelf anti-acne cream or face pack, salicylic acid was probably one of its ingredients. This beta-hydroxy acid can work wonders for you if you have oily or acne-prone skin. Dermatologists use this acid in peels, as creams and other topical medicines. These are used to treat mild to moderate acne (2).


  • Treats acne
  • Controls sebum (oil) production in the skin

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use It?

Salicylic acid is extremely strong and penetrates through the deeper layers of your skin. This makes it unsuitable for sensitive skin types. 

3. Lactic Acid

As the name suggests, lactic acid is derived from sour milk and is as moisturizing as milk. Lactic acid helps improve skin texture and keeps the skin soft. It works as a great exfoliant and is milder than glycolic acid. If you have sensitive skin, lactic acid can help soothe dry patches. It is also used to treat hyperpigmentation and sun spots, making your skin appear brighter and more even.


  • Exfoliates skin and removes dead skin cells
  • Good option for sensitive skin
  • Improves pore appearance
  • Treats hyperpigmentation and sun spots

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use It?

Lactic acid is usually recommended for people with dry/sensitive skin types to improve hydration.

4. Citric Acid

Lemon with salt

Another one from the hydroxy acid family, citric acid is derived from citrus fruits and addresses a host of skin issues. It is effective in neutralizing your skin’s pH levels, which is usually disrupted by exposure to UV rays, dirt and harmful beauty products. This can prevent several skin issues.

Citric acid possesses antibacterial properties that can be useful in killing acne-causing bacteria (3). Its exfoliative properties can reduce the appearance of dark spots, tan and pigmentation. Studies suggest that citric acid can dry out excess sebum that may clog pores and cause acne breakouts. This makes it an effective way of treating mild to moderate acne.


  • Balances pH levels
  • Antibacterial properties
  • Reduces sun damage
  • Treats acne

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use It?

If your skin is sensitive, citric acid may not be the best option for you. If your skin is dry, flaky or prone to rashes, this acid can cause irritation.

5. Azelaic Acid

Woman applying cream to forehead acne

Azelaic acid is naturally found in some food products like wheat, rye and barley. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can kill acne-causing bacteria and reduce swelling (4). Azelaic acid also works as an excellent exfoliator by removing the topmost layer of your skin. This can help reduce the appearance of acne scars. It is sold in concentrations of 20% or less and can be found in the form of creams, lotions and gels.

Another property of azelaic acid is that it can prevent and reduce pigmentation in the skin. Tyronaise is responsible for producing melanin that contributes to darkening of your skin. Topically applied azelaic acid prevents pigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase activity. 


  • Treats inflammatory acne
  • Reduces scars left behind by acne
  • Reduces pigmentation spots

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use It?

If you have acne-prone skin, azelaic acid is a good topical remedy for you. However, sensitive skin types should avoid using azelaic acid. It may cause skin dryness and irritation.

6. Ferulic Acid

This plant-based antioxidant is a popular ingredient in anti-aging products. Ferulic acid works well in stabilizing Vitamin C as an antioxidant (5). It prevents the degradation of Vitamin C while improving its photoprotection properties. Studies suggest that ferulic acid is capable of offering two times the amount of photoprotection when used in combination with Vitamin C and E.


  • Fights free radicals
  • Fights signs of aging
  • Increases efficacy of other anti-aging ingredients
  • Reduces the appearance of sunspots

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use It?

Ferulic acid is generally safe for all skin types. However, if you have sensitive skin, conduct a patch test before using ferulic acid on your face. It can cause redness and peeling of your skin.

7. L-Ascorbic Acid

L ascorbic acid is nothing but pure Vitamin C. And as we all know, Vitamin C has a lot to offer in skincare. L ascorbic acid combats a host of skin issues from acne to hyperpigmentation and dryness. It does this by inhibiting tyrosinase activity that prevents the over production of melanin (6). Melanin is responsible for the tanning of your skin when exposed to UV rays.

It also enhances the production of protein fibres (collagen and elastin), keeping the skin firm and elastic. Topically applied L. ascorbic acid can reduce the appearance of pigmentation spots, sunspots and tan. Over-the-counter L ascorbic acid is sold in concentrations ranging between 5 percent to 15 percent. Higher concentrations may result in skin irritation.


  • Fights signs of aging
  • Wound-healing properties
  • Reduces signs of aging
  • Hydrates skin

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use It?

Topical ascorbic acid is considered to be safe for most skin types. Conduct a patch test if you have sensitive skin before applying the product to your face.

8. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is known for its water-binding properties. It helps keep your skin replenished and improves skin-barrier functions. Hydrated skin makes the skin appear firm and radiant. This may reduce the appearance of signs of aging (7) (8).

Hyaluronic acid also creates a plumping effect on the skin. This can help reduce the appearance of loose skin.


  • Moisture-retaining properties
  • Reduces signs of aging
  • Wound-healing properties
  • Hydrates skin

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use It?

Hyaluronic acid is usually safe for all skin types. However, it may cause allergic reactions. If your skin reacts to topical hyaluronic acid, visit your dermatologist. 

9. Kojic Acid

Kojic acid is used in a number of skin lightening products. It works by blocking tyrosinase activity, which is responsible for the production of melanin. This may reduce and prevent the development of age spots, sun spots, tan and pigmentation (9).


  • Sun damage
  • Scars


Kojic acid may make your skin prone to sunburn. This is because it inhibits tyrosinase activity. If you use topical kojic acid regularly, it is recommended to wear sunscreen before you step out in the day.

Who Should/Shouldn’t Use It?

Since it removes the top layer of your skin, kojic acid may irritate sensitive skin types. Conduct a patch test before applying the product to your face.

10. Mandelic, Malic & Tartaric acid

These are the three lesser known face acids with properties like exfoliation, rejuvenation and acne treatment. Mandelic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that is derived from almonds. When used in combination with other alpha-hydroxy acids, mandelic acid can increase their pace of exfoliation. This speeds up the skin-rejuvenation process, making it appear brighter and more youthful.

Tartaric acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid derived from grapes. It is used with other hydroxy acids to increase their efficacy. Malic acid, an alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy hybrid increase the efficacy of other hydroxy acids like lactic and glycolic acid. It is usually recommended in combination with other members of the hydroxy family.

Can AHAs And BHAs Be Used Together?

Alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids belong to the same family of face acids. Alpha-hydroxy acids are considered to be safer to use for all skin types because they do not penetrate through the deeper layers of the skin. Beta-hydroxy acids should be used in lower concentrations on sensitive skin types.

When combined, these two hydroxy acids can work wonders for your skin if used in the right concentrations. However, consult your dermatologist before using these two face acids together.

Which Face Acids Should You Not Use Together?

A. Salicylic Acid With Any Other Face Acid

Salicylic acid may have drying effects. Using any other face acids along with salicylic acid may result in skin irritation.

B. Salicylic Acid And Niacinamide

Niacinamide is a form of Vitamin B3. Using these two together may cause skin irritation.

C. Lactic Or Glycolic Acid With Ascorbic Acid

Using lactic or glycolic acid with ascorbic acid may reduce the efficacy of Vitamin C.

D. AHAs With Retinol

This combination can dry up your skin and cause burning sensations. 

So while all the above mentioned face acids can be extremely beneficial for your skin, conduct a patch test before beginning to use any new product. Also, consult your dermatologist if your skin issue is severe. Let us know if our recommended face acids worked for your skin.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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