Acid: Yesterday’s skin staple today
Acid reflux, acid rain, acid rock — those four little letters, A-C-I-D, are associated with a wide array of unpleasantness. Yet in the world of skincare, acid is nearly akin to a miracle in its ability to fight the cruel signs of aging. Why? Because it works.
Even the most respected anti-aging treatments come with their own special brand of misunderstandings, and acid peels — both over-the-counter and under — are no different. So let’s peel back the light of day and clear up some commonly held misconceptions about the use of acids in skincare.
First and foremost — acid peels don’t necessarily have to peel. In fact, today’s acid-based exfoliating formulas often leave skin glowing as opposed to the dry, peeling, and flaky side effects of acid treatments of the past. By combining multiple alpha and beta hydroxy acids at lower strengths, doctors are able to reduce the peeling associated with using one type of acid at a higher concentration, reducing downtime while still offering up the same glowing results.
It’s also a misnomer that acid-based exfoliation treatments are too damaging for those with sensitive skin. Acids dissolve the upper layer of cells to trigger repair, making them a much better option for those with sensitive skin than, say, retinoids which repair skin by kick-starting inflammation. Formulas combining the acid with an amino like arginine can even help slow the product's penetration into the skin, further staving off any uncomfortable irritation.
Acid treatments are only as potent as the free-acid compounds that they’re comprised of. Too many and your skin burns and turns red; too few and very little happens. An ideal treatment is likely to tingle for a few seconds upon application — that’s the acid penetrating the skin. The good news is that this tingling is indicative of the immediate refreshed result you’ll notice afterwards. The trick is in finding a product with the ideal pH level for your skin.
This is not to say that acid peels are the answer to every aging ailment. On the contrary, one looking to treat deep wrinkles might want to consider fillers and lasers instead or consult with their doctor on a combination of in-office treatments. Skin gets the most benefit from over-the-counter acid treatments when it’s still in its 20 - 30’s age range, after that doctors can prescribe a retinoid and regular peels to treat the signs of aging.
So in the spirit of what’s old is new again, revisiting the merits of classic acid-based exfoliation treatments could be just the thing to treat the signs of dry, damaged, and aging skin — revealing a smoother, brighter surface and a younger, more refreshed you.