Acids in Skin Care: The Difference Between Glycolic, Lactic and Salicylic Acids

Long gone are the days of scrubbing your skin with jagged walnut shells—acids are the modern way to exfoliate skin.

Skincare acids come in two primary forms: alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), which can be used singularly or in combination. Both AHAs and BHAs work to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles; make skin feel firmer, smooth out rough texture and even out skin tone. And the results are instant and long term.

The primary difference between AHAs and BHAs is that the former is water-soluble and the latter is oil-soluble. What this means is that AHAs work on the skin’s surface to exfoliate dead skin cells, while BHAs work on both the surface and within the pore to help clear it out.

Here, we explore three types of acids commonly used in skin care that have been proven in scientific studies to significantly improve skin.

Glycolic Acid: The Smallest-Sized Alpha Hydroxy Acid

Glycolic acid, derived from sugar cane, is one of the most popular and powerful alpha hydroxy acids in skin care. It possesses the unique ability to smooth fine lines, slough off dead skin cells and bestow a radiant glow. It works by gently “un-gluing” dead skin cells and dissolving sebum on the surface of the skin in order to reveal the newer, healthier skin cells below. This also allows fine lines and bumps to smooth out, softening in appearance and becoming less visible.

Glycolic acid has the smallest molecular size of all other AHAs, allowing it to penetrate more readily and deeply into the skin; hence, its potency. Glycolic acid will ultimately change skin texture when used regularly, making it softer and more radiant. It’s even known to encourage the production of collagen and elastin, two essential proteins that give skin its bounce and structure.

Glycolic acid can also potentially improve such common skin ailments as blackheads, enlarged pores, discoloration, psoriasis and keratosis pilaris, a condition that produces small bumps on the skin.

There are very few downsides associated with glycolic acid, as it’s even deemed safe for sensitive skin. Some tingling and redness may occur during and after use, but that’s typically a sign it’s working: it means it’s penetrating the skin and beginning to slough off dead skin cells.

Furthermore, studies have shown that contrary to popular belief, glycolic acid won’t make the skin more sensitive to UV rays, but rather the opposite. Glycolic acid can actually protect against sun damage. Sun-burned skin was shown to be less irritated and inflamed after being treated with glycolic acid. Another study conducted on participants of Asian descent found that glycolic acid effectively and significantly reduced comedones (clogged pores), papules (inflamed pimples without visible pus) and pustules (pus-filled pimples).

Lactic Acid: The Alpha Hydroxy Acid for Sensitive Skin

Lactic acid, derived from fruit, milk and other vegetables, is a powerful AHA that’s gentler than glycolic acid. Like glycolic acid, it also loosens the “glue” that holds dead skin cells together on the surface of your skin, and it treats fine lines and bumps by removing dead skin cells to make skin smoother and more glowing. Unlike glycolic acid, lactic acid is a larger molecule that doesn’t penetrate as readily into the skin. It works especially well for dry or sensitive skin, as it also has moisturizing properties while being less irritating in general.

In studies, lactic acid has proven to reduce photo damage, hyperpigmentation and overall “roughness” of skin, leaving behind a smoother, more even-toned complexion. Yet another study found that like glycolic acid, lactic acid also boosts the collagen in skin, allowing for a more elastic feel and youthful appearance. Lactic acid has also been shown to be a good treatment for melasma, discoloration of the skin that often appears in brown patches on the face.

Salicylic Acid: The Beta Hydroxy Acid for Clear Pores

You may’ve noticed salicylic acid (derived from willow tree bark) as an active ingredient in many anti-acne treatments. Unlike glycolic and lactic acids, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid. It, too, works by effectively loosening the cement-like substance that connects dead skin cells and makes your complexion look dull and unrefined.

As we mentioned earlier, the main difference between salicylic acid and AHAs is that it’s lipophilic (oil-soluble), which means it can work inside pores and help reduce sebum. Salicylic acid is especially good at unclogging pores by dissolving the sebum and dead skin cells that cluster together to form comedones, like blackheads. Moreover, it has anti-inflammatory properties, causing inflamed lesions to reduce in size and redness during application. Because of its peeling nature, it works best on blackheads and whiteheads rather than those painful, deep lesions that come from cystic acne.

A con of salicylic acid is that it can be irritating, particularly if used too often. It also can be damaging to sensitive skin, and it’s not recommended for use if your skin is dry or if you are pregnant. Common side effects include redness, dryness and peeling. It can interfere with blood thinners as well, so be careful if you are on that type of medication.

Studies attest to the efficacy of salicylic acid, noting it as a powerful and effective peeling agent that aids in treating acne and other skin conditions like hyperpigmentation. It has even been used in the treatment of freckles and so-called liver spots.

Professional and At-Home Chemical Peels

Chemical peels are potent treatments that harness the benefits of alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids to improve the appearance of skin. They are available either through a professional (administered by a dermatologist, nurse or licensed aesthetician) or through at-home products.

In short, chemical peels work like this: a chemical solution with a mix of various acids is applied to the skin, essentially exfoliating the surface containing dead skin cells and unveiling the fresh, healthy cells underneath and regenerating new skin. Depending on how potent the treatment is, the process can even damage skin, triggering skin’s natural healing mechanisms and stimulating collagen production.

Chemical peels are used to diminish the appearance of acne scars, crow’s feet, hyperpigmentation (discoloration), wrinkles and sagging while improving the signs of aging and sun-damaged skin.

So how about the potency? In the ‘90s, professional chemical peels were known for causing major peeling, redness, bloodiness and pain for weeks after the procedure. But these days, skincare practitioners customize the peels carefully to suit your skincare concerns and lifestyle. The goal isn’t so much to cause visible damage as it is to instill the skin’s layers with nourishing ingredients that help soften the look of fine lines, enhance tone and support collagen stimulation. Professional treatments can take between a week or three to heal.

For weekly maintenance, you can use high-performance at-home chemical peel products to reap the same benefits as their professional counterparts. Although home products are considerably more gentle, their advantages are the same and the effectiveness is instantly visible. Plus, peels make all your other skincare products work more efficiently!

Why Using the Best Face Serum for Anti-Aging Is the Most Important Skincare Step

When skin care became a regular part of your daily routine, you probably learned to adhere to three general steps: cleanse, tone and moisturize. But these days, the almighty face serum has secured itself as an essential skincare staple, particularly for those seeking to take preventative and proactive measures against the telltale signs of aging: fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, sagging and dryness, to name a few.

Typically lighter and more fluid in texture than a moisturizer, serums have become an indispensable addition to anti-aging rituals thanks to their high-performing actives. For this reason, serums are an excellent way to strengthen and supplement your overall skincare routine so it’s more comprehensive and tailored to your unique needs.

If you’re not yet convinced, here are the top reasons why using an anti-aging face serum is important and the best ingredients to look out for.

Serums offer higher concentrations of actives than moisturizers and creams

Because they’re usually designed to treat specific conditions, serums contain a higher ratio of actives, high-performance—oftentimes clinically proven or vastly studied—ingredients that typically serve to improve a condition like fine lines, wrinkles, dehydration, sagging or hyperpigmentation. This means you see visible transformation more dramatically and more quickly than using your run-of-the-mill cream.

Serums enable you to target specific skin conditions

Think of it this way: a standard moisturizer’s primary role is to hydrate; it’s secondary role is to treat with additional ingredients, like protective antioxidants. A serum, on the other hand, prioritizes treating skin conditions, whether it’s anti-aging, brightening, hydrating or alleviating dullness.

Even better? Say you want to address fine lines and hyperpigmentation. You can mix and match your serums depending on what your skin needs at any time, whether you want to switch them up from day to night, day to day, between seasons or during and after a vacation.

Generally speaking, you can layer two to three serums as long as you wait at least a minute or two for each to absorb into the skin. However, make sure you do your research and avoid combining actives that don’t mesh well together, as it will cause irritation or damage. Some ingredient pairings you should keep an eye out for include:

• Retinol and alpha hydroxy acids
• Certain forms of Vitamin C, such as L-ascorbic acid, have been shown to cause irritation when mixed with retinol or alpha hydroxy acids, or become less effective
• Retinol and benzoyl peroxide

Note that these combinations aren’t are bad mix 100% of the time—so it’s important you do your research and reach out to the brand for more information.

Serums penetrate deeper into the skin

You’ll notice that most serums are more thin, watery and lightweight in texture. There’s a term used by cosmetic chemists called “viscosity” which, in simple terms, describes the thickness of a formula. Despite the prevalent myth that your skin “drinks up” everything you apply on it, skincare ingredients don’t always have an easy time getting through to work their magic. In fact, when a solution is too thick, the vast majority of it can simply sit on top of skin, essentially blocking other ingredients from entering. This is why serums are typically lighter and water-based—the formula contain smaller molecules that can actually penetrate skin and go deeper.

A note to bear in mind: More and more, brands are developing oil-based skincare products that are labeled as “serums.” Oils have a larger molecular weight, so it should be the final step of your skincare regimen to prevent it from impeding other ingredients from soaking through. Do not apply oils immediately after cleansing and toning.

Serums contain fewer bad ingredients

Because serums are potent fixer-uppers, they are concentrated with actives and complementary ingredients that work in synergy to boost performance or create a pleasant, usable texture. This means serums tend to have fewer ingredients that do not serve a function. Standard moisturizers and creams, on the other hand, are often formulated with controversial ingredients like silicones, thickeners and parabens, which can cause irritation for some. The downside of this is serums tend to expire more quickly, but that means you’re reaping the benefits of the actives at their most potent state.

Most Popular Face Serum Ingredients

When looking for the best face serum for you, you’re likely to run into these ingredients. Take a moment to learn about each and how they can help your unique skincare concerns:

Bioengineered epidermal growth factors (EGF)
All our bodies contain growth factors, which are specialized “signal molecules” that communicate with other cells and “tell” them to multiply or repair themselves. The growth factors that exist in your skin are called epidermal growth factors—and they diminish with age. Studies have shown that topical application of bioengineered EGFs (EGFs from sources like barley that simulate those made in human skin) can dramatically reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and skin texture.

Vitamin B3, also called niacinamide in its active form, is one of the eight B vitamins. When taken internally, these vitamins are essential for good health. Vitamin B3 also has some scientifically proven benefits for your skin. A 2005 study showed that vitamin B3 can improve the appearance of skin aging, including improving wrinkles, yellowing and skin elasticity. Another study from the State University of New York College of Medicine demonstrated vitamin B3’s anti-inflammatory effect on acne.

Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that’s often used for its anti-aging properties. There are several types of vitamin C used in skin care, some of the most common of which are L-ascorbic acid and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. L-ascorbic acid is water-soluble, while tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is soluble in lipids, or fats.

In a 2012 study, Chinese volunteers applied a solution of L-ascorbic acid to half of their faces for two weeks. Researchers found that 75 percent of volunteers were happy with the results, noting that L-ascorbic acid improved the appearance of fine lines and skin roughness. Another split-face study by Dermatology Associates of San Diego County found that applying a solution of L-ascorbic acid and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate to half of their faces drastically reduced wrinkles after 12 weeks.

Vitamin E has been used in skin care for many years. It is a powerful plant-based antioxidant that is necessary for healthy skin. There are several benefits of applying vitamin E topically. Research from Northwestern University School of Medicine suggests vitamin E can protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Research from the University of California School of Medicine also showed that vitamin E, when combined with vitamin C, had a photoprotective effect on the skin.

Ferulic acid is a strong antioxidant found in plant sources. A 2008 study showed that ferulic acid, when combined with vitamin C and phloretin, protected skin from the UV rays that can cause damage such as photoaging and skin cancer. Another study from Duke University found that ferulic acid also protected skin when combined with vitamins C and E. Ferulic acid improved the chemical stability of the other two vitamins.

A study conducted in China also found that a mixture of ferulic acid, ginkgo biloba, lipohydroxyacid (LHA), niacinamide and thermal spring water effectively whitened skin for sufferers of hyperpigmentation due to sun damage.

A synthetic form of Vitamin A called retinol has long been used in skincare for its anti-aging properties. In 2007, the University of Michigan Medical School conducted a study on the effects of applying retinol topically on elderly volunteers. Researchers found that after 24 weeks, fine wrinkles were drastically reduced. Retinol was also found to improve skin damaged by UV radiation in another study.

Peptides are parts of proteins that are made up of amino acids. The peptides used in skincare are synthetic. A 2004 study from France found that a collagen-like peptide reduced the appearance of wrinkles for study volunteers. A 2017 review published in the journal Cosmetics summarized the scientifically researched benefits of topically applied peptides, including wrinkle reduction, UV protection, skin firmness, elasticity and skin tone.

Alpha hydroxy acids (abbreviated AHAs) are naturally derived from milk or plant sources. Two of the most common types of AHAs are glycolic acid and lactic acid. AHAs are often used to exfoliate skin and stimulate collagen production. A 2006 study conducted in Japan found that applying AHAs for six weeks rejuvenated skin that had been damaged by the sun. An Australian study on a skin cream containing AHAs, as well as vitamins B3, C and E, improved skin elasticity and decreased the appearance of wrinkles.

Salicylic acid is a compound extracted from plant sources such as white willow bark and wintergreen leaves. Several studies have shown the effectiveness of salicylic acid in treating mild to moderate acne. A 2013 study from China showed that antioxidant-optimized salicylic acid improved acne for 95 percent of study participants. An earlier study showed that salicylic acid was more successful at treating acne than benzoyl peroxide.

Ceramides are lipid molecules that occur naturally in your skin. Ceramides used in skincare are synthetic or extracted from plant sources. As an ingredient in face serum, their power seems to lie in their anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties.

In a review published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, a panel of dermatologists recommended moisturizers containing ceramides for acne patients. A 2011 study found that ceramides were an effective treatment for atopic dermatitis. A 2008 study also found that ceramides can effectively treat eczema.

Hyaluronic acid is a substance that occurs in your body naturally—mainly in your skin, joints and eye sockets. Its claim to fame is its astounding ability to hold 1,000 its own weight in water.

Hyaluronic acid has an anti-aging effect on skin. A 2011 study found that applying cream containing hyaluronic acid reduced wrinkles and increased skin hydration and elasticity for study volunteers. A 2016 study on the effectiveness of anti-wrinkle creams found that “The regular use of hyaluronic-acid containing anti-wrinkle creams for over three months showed clear and positive effects on wrinkle-depth and skin-tightness.”

Green tea extract is a concentrated form of green tea that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is a potent antioxidant, meaning that it fights against potentially damaging free radicals. Green tea extract’s antioxidant properties make it a gold-star ingredient in skin care. A study from the Medical College of Georgia found that green tea extract can actually rejuvenate dying skin cells. Green tea extract has also been shown to protect skin from UV radiation.

Green tea extract also has a moisturizing effect on skin. In a 2013 study, researchers applied a 6 percent solution of green tea extract to the forearms of volunteers. After 30 days of daily application, skin roughness decreased, while moisturization increased.

Bisabolol, also known as alpha-bisabolol and a-bisabolol, might sound like a scary chemical, but it’s actually a component of German chamomile. This ingredient is used in face serums because of its ability to calm and soothe sensitivity. It’s also well known for its strong antioxidant properties and its ability to help other ingredients penetrate your skin. A 2010 study from Korea found that bisabolol effectively whitened skin that had darkened due to hyperpigmentation. It is also sometimes used to naturally enhance the fragrance of beauty products.

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Demographic information is information that may or may not be unique to you in the sense that it refers to selected population characteristics.  Such information may include, but is not limited to, zip code, telephone number(s) (including mobile phone number(s) and carriers), birth date, gender, salary range, education and marital status, occupation, industry of employment, personal and online interests.

Behavioral information is information pertaining to how you use our website, the areas of our website that you visit, what services you access, and information about your computer hardware and software, including your IP address, geographic location, browser preference, operating system type, domain names, times that you access the internet, and other websites you have visited.

Indirect Information is information which is provided to us by a third party or web technology information that we automatically collect from you when you visit our website.  This includes information collected from the use of cookies, Web beacons or JavaScript.

No Information Collected from Children.  We will never knowingly collect any Personal Information from children under the age of 13.  If we obtain actual knowledge that we have collected Personal Information about a child under the age of 13, that information will be immediately deleted from its database.  Because it does not collect such information, we have no such information to use or to disclose to third parties.

No sensitive health information is collected.  We do not collect information about past, present or potential future medical conditions or Treatments.

Credit Card Information and Bank Account Information.
We may, in certain instances, collect credit card number(s), bank account information and related information, when you place an order on our website.  When the credit card or bank account information is submitted to us, such information is encrypted and is protected with SSL encryption software.  We will use the credit card information or bank account information for purposes of processing and completing the transaction you requested.  Such information will be disclosed to third parties as necessary to complete the requested purchase transaction.

Use of Cookies, Web Beacons, and JavaScript

Cookies.  “Cookies” are a feature in your browser software.  If enabled, cookies store small amounts of data on your computer about actions you take on the pages of our website.  Cookies assist us in tracking which of our features you visit most often, and what content you viewed on past visits.  We may use cookies to keep track of the number of return visits, accumulate and aggregate statistical information generally pertaining to our website, and deliver specific content to you based on your past viewing history.  You can disable cookies, although our website may not function properly for you.  Your browser preferences can be modified to accept or reject all cookies, or request a notification when a cookie is set.  You may read more about cookies at http://cookiecentral.com.  In order to use all of the features and functionality of our website, you need to accept cookies.

Removing Cookies.  You have the ability to accept, decline or remove cookies, at any time, by modifying your browser settings.  Please see http://cookiecentral.com for more information.

Web Beacons.  We use electronic images known as Web beacons (sometimes called single-pixel gifs, clear gifs or action tags) which allow us to collect information about your visit to our website, measure and improve the effectiveness of advertisements and track delivery of advertising.  Web beacons collect only a limited set of information including a cookie number, time and date of page view, as well as a description of the page on which the Web beacon resides.  We may also use Web beacons in email messages sent to you.

Disabling Web Beacons.  Because Web beacons are the same as any other content request, you cannot opt out or refuse them.  However, they can be rendered ineffective by either opting out of cookies or changing the cookie setup in your browser.

JavaScript.  We may also use JavaScript.  JavaScript is a computer language that enhances the functionality of websites, particularly with respect to pictures.  We use it to analyze and improve our website’s functions.

Disabling JavaScript.  You may deactivate JavaScript through your browser settings or activate it the same way.  If you disable JavaScript, you will not be able to use some of the functions of our website.

IP Addresses.  Your Internet Protocol (“IP”) is a unique Internet “address” which is assigned to you by your Internet Service Provider (“ISP”).  We automatically collect your IP address.  We may use this information for research on our users’ demographics, interests, and behavior, to better understand and serve you.  This information may include the URL that you just came from (whether this URL is on the website or not), which URL you next go to (whether this URL is on the website or not) and your computer browser information.  While the IP address does not identify an individual by name, it may, with the cooperation of the ISP, be used to locate and identify you.  Your IP address can reveal what geographic area you are connecting from, or which ISP you are using.  Finally, other websites you visit have IP addresses, and we may collect the IP addresses of those websites.

How We Use Information Collected

Providing Services and Products.  We use the information we gather on our website to provide you with the services and or products you have requested.  This may include passing your information on to a third party to provide such services or products.  Although our contractual arrangement limits how this party can use your information, we do not control the privacy practices of third parties.  If you have any questions or wish to remove your information from the third party databases, you will need to contact that party directly.

Improving Our Website.  We use the information we gather to respond to any inquires you make, operate and improve the functionality of our website, and deliver the products and services advertised on our website.  Our services include the display of personalized products, content, and advertising, relating to your experience and interests.

We may use Your Personal Information for any legal purpose in Our sole discretion, including but not limited to; membership, registration, log-in, or order fulfillment purposes.  We may also use Your Personal Information to contact You by phone, U.S. mail or email.

Disclosure of Information to Others

We disclose your information to third parties throughout the world, or combined personal, demographic, behavioral or indirect information, in the following ways:

Product and Service Delivery.  We share your information with third parties who help us in the delivery of the products and services you have requested.

Website Functionality.  We share your information with companies and individuals we employ to perform technical functions on our behalf.  Examples include third parties who host our website, analyze our data, provide marketing assistance, process credit card payments, and provide customer service.

Third Party Products and Services.  We share your information with third parties who will provide you with their opportunities, products or services.  This includes your personal and non-personal information, and includes your interests and preferences, so they may determine whether you might be interested in their products or services.

Anonymous information.  We share aggregated anonymous information about you, combined with other persons using our website with third parties, so that they can understand the kinds of visitors that come to our website, and how those visitors use our website.  This includes demographic information and behavioral information.

Legal Process.  We disclose your information if legally required to do so, or at our discretion, pursuant to a request from a governmental entity, or if we believe in good faith that such action is necessary to: (a) conform to legal requirements or comply with legal process; (b) protect our rights or property, or our affiliated companies; (c) prevent a crime or protect national security; or (d) protect the personal safety of users or the public.

Acquisition or Merger.  We may disclose and transfer your information to a third party who acquires any or all of our business, whether such acquisition is by way of merger, consolidation or purchase of all or a substantial portion of our assets.  In the event we become the subject of an insolvency proceeding, whether voluntary or involuntary, we or our liquidator, administrator, receiver or administrative receiver may sell, license or otherwise dispose of, such information in a transaction approved by the court.

Security

We endeavor to safeguard and protect your information.  When you submit information on our website, such information is protected both online and offline.  We have security measures in place to protect against the loss, misuse, and alteration of personal information under our control.  The servers in which we store your information are kept in a secure physical environment.  The servers have industry standard firewalls.  Access to such servers is password protected and access by our employees is limited.  Currently, we use Secure Socket Layer software (“SSL”) to protect data and to secure any transactions.  SSL encrypts information including credit card number(s), and names and addresses, as they are transmitted over the Internet.  Please be advised that, although we take commercially reasonable technological precautions to protect your data, no data transmission over the Internet can be guaranteed to be 100% secure; therefore, we cannot and do not warrant that your information will be absolutely secure.  Any transmission of data at or through our website is at your own risk.  However, access to your information is strictly limited and not accessible to the public.

Changes to Privacy Policy.

We reserve the right to make material changes to the substance of this Privacy Policy.  We will post those changes through a prominent notice on the website, so that you will always know what information we gather, how we might use that information, and to whom we will disclose it.

California Resident Rights

California law permits California residents who provide personal information in obtaining products or services for personal, family, or household use to request certain information regarding third parties to whom their information was shared once a calendar year.  If applicable, this information would include the categories of customer information and the names and addresses of those businesses with which we shared customer information for the immediately prior calendar year.  To obtain this information from us, please send an email message to info@formulyst.com with “Request for California Privacy Information” in the subject line and in the body of your message. We will provide the requested information to you at your e-mail address in response.  In addition, California Residents have the right to know how we respond to their web browser “do not track” signals or other mechanisms.  We do not respond to such signals or other mechanisms.

Contact
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or requests you have regarding our services or this Privacy Statement.  We can be reached by email: info@formulyst.com.