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Acids do amazing things for the skin, with benefits for everything from acne to aging. In their chief role as exfoliators, they accelerate the essential cell turnover process to bring healthy, new cells to the surface faster. Getting dead cells out of the way doesn’t just make skin look fresher; it allows moisture into the skin, enhances the absorption of other products and reduces the appearance of fine lines. 

Dead cells absorb light, making skin look dull. Exfoliated skin reflects light, creating a more luminous, youthful appearance.

 They all have exfoliating properties. Beyond that, each has its particular strengths, including smoothing, tightening, firming, thickening, and brightening. 

Glycolic Acid is a rapid rejuvenator

The most popular of the acids is also the most powerful. With the smallest molecules of any AHA, glycolic penetrates the skin quickly, making for some serious cell turnover, plus a big boost for collagen and elastin. Glycolic acid (GA) is a potent exfoliator that improves the structural integrity of the skin far into the dermis. GA also has anti-inflammatory, keratolytic and antioxidant effects. This A-list acid brings smoother, clearer, brighter skin to the surface rapidly.

What does it do? Decongests pores, smooths fine lines, spurs collagen production and promotes a radiant glow.

Lactic Acid combines moisture and exfoliation

While all acids will help hydrate the skin by sloughing away dead cells, lactic acid is unique in that it’s a humectant. It doesn’t just clear the way for moisture to enter the skin, it draws in and retains moisture. It’s one of the mildest acids, making it excellent for sensitive or mature skin. It leaves skin soft, smooth, hydrated and supple. It’s often combined with other acids to balance more potent formulas.

What does it do? Smooths the appearance of fine lines, softens rough skin, hydrates, and plumps skin.

Kojic acid is for brightening

Derived from fungi, kojic acid is second only to hydroquinone when it comes to brightening. It inhibits the production of tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for melanin synthesis, helping to fade dark spots and discoloration. It also delivers some antioxidant protection and inflammation reduction. It’s ideal for combatting melasma, hyperpigmentation and age spots.

What does it do? Fades dark spots, prevents new pigment formation, evens and brightens tone.

Salicylic Acid peels out acne and blackheads

A beta-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid is oil-soluble, so it can get deep into the pore to flush out oil and bacteria. It’s a prolific keratolytic agent, meaning it peels the cellular debris from pores to eliminate impactions and blackheads. Salicylic acid is the principal metabolite of aspirin, which accounts for the soothing, anti-inflammatory effects that make it beneficial for fighting both acne and signs of aging.

What does it do? Decongests and peels cellular debris from pores, reduces sebum, calms inflammation, reduces the appearance of pores, minimizes fine lines and boosts the performance of other skincare ingredients.