What is hyaluronic acid?
We don’t like to pick favorites, but hyaluronic acid (HA) has a special place in our hearts. A fun fact about this super-hydrating ingredient is that it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. If you're prone to dryness—or if you just want glowy, bouncy skin—this one’s for you.Hyaluronic acid is skin's most important glycosaminoglycan. To put that in less science-y terms, it’s a key player in keeping your complexion fresh, balanced and protected.
Humectant HA works overtime to keep water molecules right where your skin needs them: on the surface, for maximum hydration. If you're nerdy about skincare, you probably already know about transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Hyaluronic acid prevents this common problem by slowing water's evaporation rate from the skin.
One reason hyaluronic acid is so universally loved is because it's suitable for all skin types—yep, even sensitive skin—so everyone can benefit from its moisture-binding magic.
Want to know how hyaluronic acid can enhance your routine? Let us count the ways...
Benefits for skin
Hydrating: Using hyaluronic acid is the beauty equivalent of chugging from one of those extra-large water bottles. It's a lifesaver for dry, dehydrated skin. Our tip? For even more hydrating action, layer HA under a rich moisturizer.
Plumping: If aging skin if one of your concerns, here's some good news: hyaluronic acid is really good at boosting collagen production. It's one to have in your arsenal for conquering fine lines and wrinkles.
Restorative: Glowing, fresh-from-a-facial skin can be achieved at home—you just need clever ingredients in your routine. Including a HA-based product in your lineup will smooth away dead skin cells and restore radiance.
Acne-calming: A lot of blemish-busting skincare products don't prevent breakouts—they actually trigger them by drying skin and upsetting the microbiome. A hyaluronic acid serum keeps the delicate skin barrier in balance, making angry eruptions less likely. Furthermore, research conducted in 2017 suggests that HA can also help to keep oiliness in check.
What is salicylic acid?
Blackheads, whiteheads, under-the-skin spots, oily T-zones... they happen to the best of us. If you're struggling to keep acne-prone skin under control, it's time to get to know salicylic acid (SA).
What makes it a must-have? Well, it's a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), meaning it's a key player in the chemical exfoliation game. Unlike water-soluble alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) exfoliants—which include popular choices like glycolic acid and lactic acid—beta hydroxy acid is oil soluble. That means it can penetrate deeper to fight congestion, remove dead skin cells and improve skin texture. Bye bye, blackheads.
Salicylic acid is an organic compound found naturally in willow bark and several fruits and vegetables. Go for products with safe but high concentrations of 0.5% - 2% SA for effective at-home oily skin treatment.
There's research to indicate BHAs are also gentler on sensitive skin types: a 2010 study found that 2% salicylic acid was less irritating than 10% glycolic acid. However, whenever you're using any skincare acids, we recommend taking it slowly to build up your tolerance. Oh, and don't forget SPF!
Benefits for skin
Unclogs pores: Salicylic acid exfoliates both on the skin's surface and deep into the pore lining.
Calms inflammation and redness: Antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities mean that salicylic acid soothes blemish-prone skin while removing common acne triggers.
Reduces sebum: You'll enjoy a more matte complexion when using SA. Removing excess oil from pores occurs naturally during its exfoliation process.
Busts blackheads and whiteheads: While its bacteria-fighting properties calm cystic acne, salicylic acid works best against blackheads and whiteheads because it dissolves them from pores.
The difference between hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid
Now that we've covered both of these superstar ingredients, you'll know that they have different actions in skincare products. Hyaluronic acid hydrates and increases skin's ability to retain moisture, while salicylic acid exfoliates and detoxes pores.
Can I use hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid together?
Yes! You can combine these ingredients to reap all the benefits. Sensitive skin types will particularly benefit from using both hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid in their skincare routine, as any irritation or dryness caused by SA will be countered by soothing HA.
We recommend applying SA products first, then following with HA products, a moisturizer (to lock moisture in further), and sun protection.
Why Éclat Hyaluronic Acid serum is the best choice for your skin
If you're on the hunt for a new hyaluronic acid serum, why not try ours?
You'll boost skin elasticity, hydration levels, and cell turnover with this advanced formula. It's powered by plant-based, multi-molecular 2.5% HA that gets deep into skin's lower layers and draws water to the surface. We also add powerful antioxidants like vitamins C (ascorbic acid) and E, organic aloe vera, and green tea. They smooth fine lines and wrinkles and balance out skin tone.
It's vegan, cruelty free, and developed with dermatologists to be suitable for all skin types.
Why choose Éclat's salicylic acid products?
We love using salicylic acid in our formulas to support problem skin conditions.
With powerful (but non-drying) exfoliating properties, our Salicylic Acid Cleanser prevents blemishes and removes makeup. It's powered by nanonized salicylic acid, which can go deeper into skin to dissolve dead skin cells and other acne triggers. Plus, added niacinamide and green tea calm inflammation and regulate oiliness.
Our Acne Cream is powered by salicylic acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to clarify zit-prone skin and stimulate cell turnover. We believe in the power of nature, so we also include mattifying safflower oil, which is scientifically proven to control sebum production and tighten pores.
Hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid are two of the skincare community's most-loved good guys. Whether your skin type is oily, dehydrated or somewhere in between, it's sure to benefit from these ingredients' smoothing, clearing, anti-aging powers.
Retinol. Or is it retinyl? But you've also seen the term “retinoids", and now you don't know where to begin when it comes to this ingredient that you've seen and heard about everywhere.
If you're reading this, chances are you've already done some research into retinol and are ready to reap its anti-aging benefits. But with an overabundance of information and a myriad of terminology that you're not familiar with, it's hard to get clear answers.
Want to add this active to your routine but don't know where to start? Read on, because we're about to break down everything you need to know about retinol.
There's a lot to say about retinol, but in short, it's a skincare active derived from vitamin A. This vitamin is naturally produced in the body, and its main function is to help cells regenerate.
In the skincare world, it's known by many names—retinyl, retin-A, retinol—but these names aren't exclusive. In fact, these are all names for different types of retinol that are derived from retinoids. Retinoids make up the base structure of all retinol subtypes, and while their benefits aren't identical, at their core they all have the same goal: rejuvenation.
Retinol is a key player when it comes to boosting cell turnover, so if you want smooth skin, any retinol product will get the job done. But what are the differences between its many forms, and how exactly do they work?
"Retinoids work by increasing collagen production as well as increasing the rate of skin cell turnover," says Shari Marchbein, M.D., a board certified dermatologist based in New York.
The beauty industry has a bad habit of referring to all retinoid derivatives as "retinol", but they all play different roles when it comes to your skin's health.
Probably the most famous of all retinoids, retinol is the derivative you're most likely to see when browsing your favorite beauty aisle. It's a specific type of retinoid, and it's popular because of its slew of anti-aging benefits. It speeds up cell turnover, improves skin texture, and defends against signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles—plus, it strengthens the skin barrier.
Sounds pretty great, right? If you're wondering why you've not included this in your beauty regime sooner, it's because retinol can be harsh on skin, especially if yours is sensitive. Don't get us wrong, all retinoids have the capability to cause unwanted sensitivity and side effects, but retinol sits bang in the middle of the scale when it comes to the ability to irritate.
With side effects a common occurrence, retinol needs to be approached with care, but we'll get to this later.
If you're looking for something a bit gentler, retinyl, or retinyl palmitate, is your best port of call. Out of all retinoid derivatives, this form is best for sensitive skin and those who aren't looking for the hardcore punch that stronger retinoids offer.
Retinyl isn't as straightforward as retinol, as it requires a conversion process. We know it sounds complicated, but it's not as confusing as it sounds. When retinyl is applied, enzymes in the skin break it down and convert it into retinoic acid, which is what your body needs if pristine skin is the goal.
This conversion process is what makes it more kind on skin, and it's rare to experience the same kind of side effects that harsher retinoids can cause. But there are two sides to every coin—retinyl's effects aren't as immediate as say, a direct retinoic acid's, so you'll probably need to wait a bit longer until you start to see its glow-boosting effects.
Everyone's skin reacts differently, and we always recommend a patch test no matter how gentle an ingredient may appear, especially when it comes to retinoids.
On the scale of results to side effects, retin-A takes top prize for both. It's considered one of the harshest—and most efficacious—retinoids out there, and it's clear to see why.
Some forms of retinol are only available by over-the-counter, like retin-A—commonly referred to as tretinoin or tret—and prescription retinoids require a recommendation from a doctor or board-certified dermatologist.
This prescription retinol is most often used as an acne treatment due to its pure retinoic acid composition. It requires consistency and patience, and the side effects can be quite formidable (think peeling, burning and overall skin irritation). But with patience comes great reward: users who stick it out will enjoy smoother skin, better texture, faster cell regeneration (hello, glow!), and a host of other benefits.
On the list of acne-fighting ingredients, this is a sure winner, but its prescription form means that it's one of those skincare products that requires constant professional supervision, and it's definitely not for everyone. If you suffer from sensitive skin, we'd recommend sticking to one of the gentler retinoid derivatives.
Now that we've covered the most popular retinoids, it's time to delve into the fun stuff: skin benefits! As discussed earlier, how your skin responds to retinoids depends on your preferred form, but the list of benefits is pretty extensive.
In its lesser-known days, retinol was geared toward more mature users, as its main job includes combating fine lines and wrinkles, firming sagging skin, and fading age-related dark spots. But it's recently remade its debut in the skincare world as an active for any skin type, age and concern due to its myriad of rejuvenating benefits.
Here's a list of retinol's best benefits:
Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
Improves uneven skin tone and texture
Exfoliates dead skin cells
Boosts collagen production
Honorable mentions include clearing clogged pores, balancing sebum, and brightening dull skin—retinoids fade hyperpigmentation, too.
Introducing retinoids into your routine
Creams, serums, gels, cleansers. Retinol is one of those ingredients that comes in many forms, so finding the right product for your skin type shouldn't be too hard... right?
New brands and products crop up everyday, and navigating how to slot retinol into existing skincare routines can feel more like work when it should be fun—after all, who doesn't like getting their hands on a shiny new skin booster? So you can stress less, read on to find out how and when to use retinol.
If you've never used retinoic acid before, or if you're new to using retinol products, “low and slow” is the recommended approach for introducing these actives to your routine. Start by using a retinoid once a week, then gradually increase the frequency over a few weeks to build up your skin's tolerance. Once your skin has acclimated, you'll be able to use it once a day.
Application depends on the type of product you pick but, for serums and creams specifically, there are a couple of steps you can take to minimize side effects.
Start by applying a pea-sized amount in a thin layer to the desired area. You can apply it as a spot treatment to combat specific skin concerns like dark spots or acne but, for best results, apply it to your whole face to reap its anti-aging benefits.
There are some ingredients retinol doesn't play well with, and you should avoid using it with other powerful actives like vitamin C, as this can increase the chances of skin sensitivity.
While it provides indisputable skin benefits, retinol is known to cause skin irritation, and not all skin types are able to tolerate it. It's important to find the best products for you and introduce them to your routine gradually.
If you have super-sensitive skin, it's best to seek out a product with a low concentration in a gentle format, like a cream. Finding a product that adds soothing ingredients (like aloe vera or anti-inflammatory plant extracts) which can buffer some of its harsher effects is a bonus.
Why not give our Retinol Cream a go? It features a gentle 2.5% pure retinol concentration, and we've added soothing extracts like sea oak and centella asiatica to calm the complexion while it gets to work. If that's not enough to convince you, our addition of hydrating hyaluronic acid helps to double retinol's collagen boosting effects.
Or you can look for a gentle cleanser with a mild retinol form, like retinyl palmitate, if that's more your style. For more specific skin concerns like dry skin, look for hydrating formulas (like a hyaluronic acid serum) that add retinol for more hard-hitting hydration.
With this in mind, it's important to note that pregnant women should talk to a doctor before adding a more heavy-hitting active like retinol to their routine. To sum up, (almost) anyone can use retinol, but if you're ever in doubt, seek out professional advice.
What age should I start using retinol?
Retinoic acid is lauded for its ability to combat signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles, so you're likely to see it featured in anti-aging serums and creams. It also has an extraordinary ability to boost collagen—plumping skin and bringing it back to its youthful prime. But as we've mentioned, it's able to address a slew of non age-related skin concerns.
If your goal is to prevent signs of aging before they appear, it's never too early to add it to your beauty cabinet. If you've noticed that your skin has started to sag, or if that one stubborn wrinkle now has a friend, finding a good retinol product will set you in the right direction.
Derms and beauty gurus alike recommend using retinol before bed, as skin can shed cells faster at nighttime when it has time to rest and repair itself. Retinol also increases sun sensitivity more than any other skincare ingredient out there, and using it in the daytime can often have unintended consequences.
That's why it's not only recommended, but imperative, to use a sunscreen in the morning, even if you're not applying retinol in the daytime.
In terms of steps, you'll want to apply it as one of the last steps in your skincare routine, after cleansing and moisturizing. There are ways of getting the most out of your retinol depending on your specific skin type and concern.
If you have oily skin, use a Salicylic Acid Cleanser to clear any gunk out of pores before applying retinol. For those with acne prone skin, using a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide will help to prime skin for retinol's blemish-fighting abilities—why not try our Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser?
As you can see, there aren't a lot of rules when it comes to incorporating retinol into your routine, but the most important one to follow is using an SPF product in the daytime (and we mean a proper SPF, not that day cream with an SPF of 15 ).
We know that approaching retinoids can be overwhelming, but we hope that this guide helps you to find your perfect retinol product and incorporate it safely into your routine with minimal side effects.
If you're still searching for your perfect fit, give our Retinol Serum a try. Like its cream counterpart, it features a 2.5% pure retinol concentration, so if you prefer thinner textures over a heavier feel, you'll love this quick-absorbing serum.
Our formula is buffered with antioxidant green tea, which combats redness and irritation, while added phospholipids "feed" skin ceramides to repair its barrier. And don't forget the sunscreen!
We've all experienced it before. The burn. The itch. The peel. That's right, you've got a sunburn. But how exactly do sunburns occur? And with a choice of mineral and chemical sunscreens, what's the best sun protection? We're about to break it down for you.
A sunburn is an inflammatory reaction that occurs on the skin's surface when the sun's rays damage melanin. For any sun care newbies, melanin is the pigment that gives your skin its natural color.
Everyone's skin is different, which is why some people turn bright red while others develop more of a golden glow.
But did you know that all sunburns are created equal? All types of burn—from tanning to blistering—contribute to premature aging, wrinkles, and skin cancer. In fact, any sun exposure can lead to cancer down the line.
Sun damage is no joke. That's why using a mineral sunscreen or chemical sunscreen is an absolute must, no matter the climate or season. So, what is sunscreen, how does it work, and what's the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreens?
Sunscreen: the basics
Depending on locale, it's known by different names: sunscreen, sun cream, sunblock, sun protection, or SPF (sun protection factor). All sun protection products do the same thing: act as a barrier between UVA and UVB rays and skin cells.
Sunscreen comes in many forms, including creams, sprays, oils, sticks, gels, and liquids. Some types are better for daily use, while others are more adept at blocking the sun's rays for long periods of time (think sunny, sweltering beach days).
If there's one thing you'll always want in a sunscreen, it's broad-spectrum protection. As we've mentioned, there are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. Broad spectrum sunscreen protects against both.
It's common to see varying SPF ratings on different sun protection products, ranging from as little as 15 to as high as 70+. You may have seen products touting an "SPF 100" badge, but don't be fooled—no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays.
Impressively, SPF 50 sunscreens can block a whopping 98% of UV rays. With this in mind, we recommend choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 50.
Now we've covered the basics, you may be asking yourself, if all sunscreens do the same thing, then what's the difference between mineral sunscreens and chemical sunscreens, and does it matter which one I use? We've answered all your burning questions below.
Mineral sunscreens, also called physical sunscreens, are a form of sun protection that utilizes minerals to block harmful UV rays. Most mineral sunscreens include either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, but heavy hitters will have both.
While these sunscreen ingredients may sound scary, mineral formulas are considered by most professionals as being safer than chemical sunscreens. But we'll get into the nitty-gritty of chemical sunscreen later.
How it works
Mineral sunscreen blocks sunrays from reaching the skin's surface by acting as a physical barrier against sun exposure. It deflects and scatters harmful UV rays before they reach skin.
While it's impossible to see this process in action, (after all, it's not visible to the naked eye), there's an easy way to imagine how it protects skin cells. Think of yourself as a diamond—and when the sun's rays attempt to penetrate skin, they're reflected back, almost like a mirror.
If you're interested in how sunscreen works, Dianna Cowern (known on YouTube as Physics Girl) has a pretty nifty video demonstrating its ability to block harmful, skin cancer-causing UV rays.
Now that we've covered how mineral sunscreen works, it's time to discover the science behind it.
Let's talk mineral filters
As you might have guessed already, "sunblock" gets its name from the minerals that block the sun's rays, but there's a lot more to it.
Popularly known as "mineral filters", zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide full-spectrum protection and are generally considered safer—and kinder to sensitive skin—than chemical filters.
While there are other types of filters on the mineral sunscreen market, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the only two mineral filters approved by the FDA.
But, are they the same? The answer to this is no, they're not! Both protect against both types of UV rays, but zinc oxide is more adept at protecting against UVA rays, while titanium dioxide is better suited to shield skin from UVB rays.
For those unfamiliar with these types of radiation, UVA rays contribute to premature skin aging like wrinkles (aka photodamage). UVB rays are what cause sunburn, and are the leading cause of skin cancer.
So, at the very least, you'll want to opt for a mineral sunscreen that has titanium dioxide. For full spectrum protection, we always recommend mineral sunscreens with both types of filters.
By now you probably already know that chemical sunscreens are a form of SPF that use chemical rather than mineral filters. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UVA and UVB rays once they reach skin—so your sun cream takes the brunt of the force, not your skin.
While chemical sunscreen has the same functionality as mineral sunscreen in that it provides similar amounts of sun protection, it's regarded by the scientific community as less safe than mineral sunscreen. This is mainly due to the types of filters used in chemical sunscreen, but we'll get to that later.
How it works
As mentioned, most chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun's UV rays when they reach the skin. Essentially, they absorb harmful UV wavelengths and convert them into harmless wavelengths.
More specifically, the active ingredients (or chemical filters) in chemical sunscreens undergo a chemical reaction when introduced to UV rays—it's this chemical reaction that's responsible for the above mentioned UV ray conversion from harmful to harmless. By the time these rays reach skin, you'll still feel the sun's heat, but it won't cause damage.
While this might sound pretty great, there are some downsides to chemical sunscreens that are still being studied, which brings us to the filters used in chemical sunscreens...
All about chemical filters
The active ingredients in chemical sunscreens are called chemical filters, and while the FDA lists 14 chemical filters to look for in SPF protection products, there are a few that are more popular (and more effective) than others.
The four types of chemical UV filters you're likely to see in chemical sunscreen are avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and octinoxate. The important thing to note is that all four filters operate in the same way—by sponging harmful rays before they reach the skin.
However, recent studies suggest that chemical sunscreens can actually cause more harm than good in the long-run. This is because the different filters in chemical sunscreen can be absorbed through skin into the bloodstream.
While this means that chemical sunscreen products are less suitable for sensitive skin, there are deeper implications. Studies have found that some of these filters, including octocrylene, break down over time and turn into different compounds, like benzophenone.
Exposure to chemical compounds like benzophenone can increase your risk of cancer, which begs the question of whether chemical sunscreens are safe or not. The current FDA investigation on the implications of these chemical filters is still ongoing and, until a decision has been made, they've deemed only two filters as 100% safe in sunscreen: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
So, in the showdown of mineral vs. chemical sunscreen, which is the best?
The clear winner: mineral sunscreens
Considering the ongoing investigations into the safety of chemical filters, and the unquestionable efficacy of mineral filters, the obvious winners in this sunscreen battle are mineral sunscreens.
They're the gentler choice if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. Plus, when used frequently, mineral sunscreens are a powerful protector against skin cancer.
While there aren't any downsides to mineral sunscreens in relation to UV protection or cancer links, one of their main cons is their tendency to leave white residue behind after application. For those who use sunscreen in their regular skincare and makeup routines, a white cast can quickly turn a good skin day into a terrible one.
Not all mineral sunscreens work the same, and some are created to prevent white casts altogether, which is why it's important to choose the right one for you.
Why choose Éclat mineral sunscreen?
As evidenced above, mineral sunscreens are your best bet for skin-safe sun protection, and you'll want to pick one that has both types of mineral filters.
Our SPF 50 mineral sunscreen is powered by both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for broad-spectrum UV protection.
We formulate with nanonized mineral filters, which have smaller particles than traditional mineral filters. They absorb into skin without leaving a pesky white cast behind.
While our mineral filters may absorb into skin, they don't enter your bloodstream like chemical filters do. They still work the same way as non-nanonized particles, but this process removes the possibility of a white cast.
Our formula is suitable for all skin tones and types, and it has a matte, non-greasy finish that works well with makeup. It's enhanced with skin-boosting botanicals like licorice and oat extracts for all-day hydration. Studies also suggest that licorice can increase SPF's ability to protect skin from UV radiation.
Mineral sunscreen is the clear winner in the face-off between mineral and chemical sunscreen. We recommend choosing an SPF product with both types of FDA-approved mineral filters, and an SPF of 50.
It's also important to wear sunscreen whenever skin is exposed to UV rays (that's right, even on cloudy days). Many scientific studies state that daily SPF usage prevents premature aging and photo damage—so make sure you don't skip it!
No matter your preference, there's no doubt that your skin will benefit from sunscreen's photo-protective properties.
There's no ingredient more revered in the skincare world than the humble direct acid. Skincare experts and enthusiasts agree that direct acids are the bread and butter of healthy, dewy skin due to their seemingly never-ending benefits. Whether you have sensitive skin, acne-prone skin or something in between (we're looking at you, combination skin), there's a direct acid for you.
To any beauty newbies, acids can be daunting, and perhaps might even sound a bit dangerous. Surely putting acid on skin can't be good, right? While it may seem counter-intuitive, there's a lot more to direct acids than their name, and we promise they're not as scary as they sound.
So, what are direct acids, why are they so popular, and what can they do for your skin?
Decoding direct acids
Simply put, direct acids are a class of acids that are applied to skin to achieve a specific effect. And while there are many direct acids with different functions and benefits, there is one function that encompasses them all: exfoliation.
That's right—above all else, direct acids' primary task is to exfoliate skin. Specifically, they fall into the category of chemical exfoliation. There are two types of exfoliation in skin care: physical and chemical. While the latter can sound intimidating, it's actually more gentle and beneficial to skin, especially for those who are sensitive or blemish prone.
There are some major differences between these two types of exfoliation though, and one reigns supreme at shedding cells.
Physical exfoliation is where dead skin is manually sloughed away, whether that's with a physical or textured ingredient, like walnut grains or microbeads, or with a washcloth, loofah or other skincare tool.
The problem with physical exfoliation is that it's easy to over-exfoliate. Physical ingredients like microbeads can cause microtears, disrupting the skin barrier and irritating it to a point where it becomes red and inflamed (we beg you, step away from that apricot face scrub).
Facial exfoliation requires finesse. That's why it's best to save the physical exfoliation for less sensitive parts of the body, like the arms, legs and chest, where skin is thicker and more resilient.
Unlike physical exfoliation, chemical exfoliation is achieved when ingredients like acids or enzymes loosen dead skin cells, dirt, and debris and lift them from the skin's surface.
Many professionals recommend chemical exfoliation for its additional skincare benefits and gentleness, touting it as one of the safest methods to brighten your complexion and fight skin fatigue. It's hard to dispute these statements once you dip your toe into the world of direct acids and see what they can do for you.
Now that we've covered some of the basics, it's time to delve into the differences between the 3 types of direct acids used in the cosmeceutical industry: AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs.
The A, B, Ps of hydroxy acids
AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs: Odds are you've heard your favorite skinfluencer use these acronyms, but what exactly do they stand for?
By definition, all direct acids are a type of hydroxy acid, and hydroxy acids (HAs) fall into three different camps: Alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, and poly hydroxy acids.
Alpha hydroxy acids
These types of HA are best for combating more visible skin concerns and signs of aging that affect the epidermis. Since they have water-soluble molecules, their exfoliating abilities shine when it comes to tackling hyperpigmentation, textural irregularities, dark spots, and even fine lines and wrinkles.
An alpha hydroxy acid is more powerful than a beta hydroxy acid, which is why it's important to approach them with care.
Dermatologists agree that alpha hydroxy acid concentrations in skincare products shouldn't exceed 10-15%. It's also important to limit sun exposure when you first start to use AHAs, and daily SPF application is a must since direct acids can increase sun sensitivity (why not try our SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen?).
Beta hydroxy acids
When it comes to oily skin, clogged pores, and sun damage, beta hydroxy acids are your best port of call. Their oil-soluble molecules can go where other hydroxy acids can't, penetrating the deeper layers of skin. They're especially apt at tackling stubborn skin concerns like acne and sebum overproduction.
Although BHAs are considered the better choice for sensitive skin types, it's still important to use them in quantities that are suitable to your skin type. Even the gentlest beta hydroxy acid can create skin irritation if the concentration is high enough.
As we mentioned earlier, direct acids can increase sun sensitivity, so it's important to use daily SPF with BHAs as well, even if you're only using them in your nighttime routine.
Poly hydroxy acids
PHAs are the black sheep of the direct acid family. Their larger molecules can't penetrate as deeply or work as hard as AHAs and BHAs—in short, there are more effective HAs out there, so we recommend sticking to the beginning of the hydroxy acid alphabet.
Now that we've covered everything you need to know about direct acids, let's dive into specific acids, their benefits and how they work.
What it is: Alpha hydroxy acid
Good for: Hyperpigmentation; Fine lines; Acne; Uneven tone
One of the most popular acids out there, glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane and has the smallest molecules of all AHAs, resulting in its impressive ability to sink into skin and exfoliate at a deeper level.
And while it's a great tool for fighting acne, it also has the ability to boost collagen production deep within the dermis. This acid has a higher likelihood of irritating sensitive skin types, so start low (percentage-wise) and take it slow.
Our Glycolic Acid Peel Pads are formulated at a science-backed 10% concentration to gently shed dead skin and encourage cell turnover. We've enriched our formula with vitamin E and aloe vera to soothe and nourish skin during exfoliation.
What it is: Alpha hydroxy acid
Good for: Dullness; Discoloration; Acne
One of the less common acids out there, mandelic acid is an ideal choice for sensitive skin types that need an efficient AHA. With larger molecules than glycolic acid, it penetrates skin at a slower rate for more gentle exfoliation. It's derived from bitter almonds and has natural anti-microbial compounds, so it's particularly adept at combating acne and improving skin texture.
What it is: Alpha hydroxy acid
Good for: Dullness; Photodamage; Dryness
Tartaric acid has been around for centuries, where it's primarily been used as a natural preservative in foods and cosmeceuticals, but it's only recently started to make a name for itself in the world of direct acids.
Technically an AHA, it doesn't have the conventional exfoliating abilities of other acids (although it does exfoliate). Instead, it's used to stabilize the pH of formulas that include more heavy-hitting AHAs. It's found mainly in grapes, and has hydrating and antioxidant properties that can help to combat dull skin and photoaging.
What it is: Alpha hydroxy acid
Good for: Hyperpigmentation; Uneven texture; Age spots
Lactic acid is derived from, you guessed it, lactose! It's also found within sour milk. Although lactic acid has powerful exfoliating benefits, it's best known for its anti-aging effects on skin, like reducing uneven texture, fading age spots, and shrinking pore appearance.
Generally gentle on more resilient skin types, those with sensitivities should look for lactic acid concentrations of 5% or less to prevent redness or inflammation.
What it is: Beta hydroxy acid
Good for: Oiliness; Acne and breakouts; Pore size and clogged pores; Sebum and oil overproduction
The most popular BHA, salicylic acid is touted as one of the best solutions for congested pores and oily skin. At first glance, it doesn't make much sense to use an oil-soluble acid to combat oiliness and pore problems. Surely oil + oil = oil overload, right?
But oil-soluble ingredients like salicylic acid actually work best on clogged pores, as they rebalance skin and regulate its sebum production. SA is also a well-known solution for acne and stubborn blemishes, since it has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Salicylic acid products come in a range of concentrations and form factors, so finding the right salicylic acid solution for you shouldn't be too challenging.
Our Salicylic Acid Cleanser features micronized molecules that penetrate deeper than traditional SA molecules for greater purifying and brightening benefits. Our salicylic acid is gentle too, so it's a great choice for skin that's easily irritated.
The non-acid acids
We've covered direct acids, but there's another class of skincare acid that doesn't fall into this camp: the non-acid acids. These are ingredients that are technically acids in the traditional sense, but their functions and benefits are different.
What it is: Antioxidant
Good for: Dull skin; Photoaging and photodamage
Ascorbic acid, or l ascorbic acid, is just the fancy name for vitamin C. This antioxidant acid comes from citrus fruits (primarily oranges), although it can also be synthesized in a lab. It's one of the most potent antioxidants in the cosmeceutical industry due to its ability to reverse signs of photoaging and protect against photodamage caused by UV rays and free radicals.
It also has powerful exfoliating and skin-illuminating properties, which is why you'll likely see it in brightening serums and creams.
Our Vitamin C Serum boasts an impressive 20% concentration. It's formulated with super soothers and hydrators like aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, and jojoba oil to calm inflammation (perfect for sensitive skin!). Our formula reaches deep within the dermis for quick rejuvenation and restoration.
Remember to always wear SPF while using this antioxidant as, like its direct acid counterparts, it can increase sun sensitivity.
What it is: Antioxidant
Good for: Ingredient stability; Photodamage and photoaging
Found naturally in many grains, fruits and vegetables, this "acid" is actually an antioxidant, similar in function to vitamin C but not as strong. In fact, it's considered more of a sidekick than a main character in the beauty industry, since its primary function is to boost the stability of antioxidants and actives.
It increases the effectiveness and shelf life of other ingredients, which is why you're likely to find it in the INCI lists of your most-loved products. You'll spot it in most of our formulas, too, including in our bestselling serums and creams.
What it is: Fatty acid
Good for: Dryness and dehydration
Oleic acid isn't your traditional acid—it's a fatty acid that's found naturally in skin, but it's also in many fruits and vegetables, most notably vegetable oils. These include oils like jojoba, coconut, olive—pretty much any vegetable oil out there.
Oleic acid is a super-nourishing hydrator. It's able to "feed" the skin's lipids and repair its delicate barrier.
What it is: Humectant
Good for: Dryness and dehydration; Barrier restoration and repair; Fine lines and wrinkles
HA isn't actually an acid at all, but a humectant! It occurs naturally in the body, but can be depleted due to a slew of factors, like living in a humid climate or not drinking enough water.
Hyaluronic acid can hold 1,000 times its weight in water and works by pulling moisture from the air to the skin's surface, thereby pulling it down to the dermis for deep hydration. It can plump skin and fill deep-set fine lines, which is why it's one of the most popular hydrators out there.
Éclat Hyaluronic Acid Serum features 3 different HA molecule sizes (yes, that's a thing!) that penetrate the skin at different levels for unrivaled hydration and moisture binding. Or, if rich textures are your thing, give our Hyaluronic Acid Cream a try. Its added antioxidants and fatty acids are sure to leave skin feeling baby soft.