Let’s Talk Acids and Their Uses


Surprise surprise—they’re not just for exfoliation

Acids have been a buzzword for a while now. And while they might seem intimidating if you’ve never used one before, or assume their role in skincare is solely for peeling dead skin off your face, don’t worry. There are a ton of acids out there with a lot of more uses than just shedding old skin cells! From oily skin to dry skin, here are some acids we use in our skincare that you should add to your skincare routine:


Mandelic acid


Derived from bitter almonds, Mandelic acid has gained popularity as an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) variant that is gentle on the skin. It is larger in molecular weight as compared to Glycolic acid and this allows it to be gentler as it penetrates more slowly into the skin. As an exfoliant, Mandelic acid helps with acne and hyperpigmentation by removing layers of skin debris and working its magic of clearing the pores and increasing cell turnover so you can have a brighter and clearer complexion!


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Glycolic acid


An AHA widely used in various popular skincare products, glycolic acid is a very small molecule (which means it’s easier to get into the skin)—but does the most massive things. Besides ridding dead skin cells to give you glowing skin, glycolic acid also helps to eliminate the buildup of oils, prevent clogged pores that could lead to breakouts, regenerate collagen, lighten pigmentation, reduce fine lines…the list goes on. It’s no wonder it’s a staple in most anti-aging products!



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Hyaluronic acid


As wonderfully summed by dermalogica.com, you shouldn’t let the ‘acid’ in hyaluronic acid fool you. This gel-like water-holding molecule helps to bind and retain up to 10x moisture, giving your skin a dewy, hydrated look. In an interview with Bustle, Arielle Panarello, a medical aesthetician at Union Square Laser Dermatology, shares that this moisturising acid helps to strengthen the skin, while also boosting skin vitality and vibrancy. This also means it acts as the perfect ingredient for reducing the effects of premature aging, such as fine lines, dullness, and dry skin.



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Polyglutamic acid


Similar to Hyaluronic acid, Polyglutamic acid (PGA) is also a humectant - meaning it draws moisture to your skin which also reduces the loss of it. If this anti-aging ingredient doesn't sound familiar to you, it's time to get to know its benefits as this new acid in town has already been lauded as the hydrating hero that your skin needs. Laboratory studies have found that PGA is able to absorb moisture up to 5,000 times its own weight (by comparison, Hyaluronic acid holds up to 1,000 times its own weight in water) and has also shown to help maintain skin elasticity. If you are looking to improve skin texture and reduce the appearance of wrinkles (dramatically), we suggest adding this acid to your routine.



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Lactic acid


Yet another hydrating acid, this AHA delivers a boost to your skin’s natural lipid barrier and is a widely popular one used in skincare. Lactic acid actively helps to diminish fine lines, brighten your skin, as well as reduce acne breakouts and fade post-blemish dark spots. If you have oily skin, you’ll also be happy to know that this acid happens to have renowned oil-control properties that keep pimples away.



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Citric acid


Like its namesake, citric acid is an AHA derived from citrus fruits and commonly used to slough off dead skin cells to encourage cell regeneration. It’s also an antioxidant that combats early signs of aging such as small wrinkles and mild pigmentation, and helps to brighten the skin—perfect for those looking to keep yourself looking youthful and energetic!


"Aside from being an exfoliant and antioxidant," says Dr. Nikki Paderna, Board-Certified Dermatologist. "Citric acid is added in skincare in low concentrations to adjust its pH level, preventing it from becoming too basic or too acidic. This ensures that the product is mildly acidic which aids in keeping the skin barrier healthy and intact. So if you doubt the pH level of a toner or cleanser, check the ingredients list to see if Citric acid is included and if it's somewhere in the middle or at the end of the list. If it is, then the product is most likely pH-balanced."



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Linoleic acid


Hailing from the Omega 6 family of fats, this essential fatty acid is required by our bodies to make ceramide 1 lionleate—ceramides play a vital role in the formation of the lipid bi-layers, which keeps your skin strong. Linoleic acid is also used as an emollient and thickening agent in cosmetics and skincare, and is anti-inflammatory, reduces acne, and helps your skin to retain moisture. For those with dry skin or sensitive skin, or habitually suffer from rosacea or eczema, Linoleic acid will do wonders to bring hydration back to your skin.



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Acids may be the last thing on your mind when skincare shopping—consumers usually look out for friendlier, layman terms like ‘hydration’, ‘moisturizing’, ‘for oily skin/dry skin/sensitive skin’ and more, but understanding a few common acids and their purposes will help you make smart decisions when buying skincare. Instead of buying 3-4 products to tackle a problem, all you need is one good product with the right combination of ingredients!


At the brands that we partner with, such as The Moisturizers Co. and Avant Skincare, they don’t forcefully include acids in their skincare, only when they are suited for the product they are manufacturing.


The Moisturizers Co. chose to focus on using Calendula extracts and other gentle yet powerful natural botanicals in their Ultra Moisturizing Repair Gel to gently target dry or sensitive skin, while their (our favourite!) Ultra Pore Refiner Anti Blemish Night Cream utilizes a blend of Witch Hazel and AHAs (lactic acid 0.5%, glycolic acid 0.5%) to gamely tackle pore-clogging sebum and oily skin.


Avant Skincare chose to focus on delicate and rare ingredients such as Centiol Sensoft in their Satin-Soft Imperial Polyglutamic Acid DUO Moisturiser to balance skin's pH, while Trehalose in the R.N.A Radical Anti-Ageing & Retexturing Face and Eye Cream aims to nourish and strengthen skin's moisture barrier and brighten the complexion for mature and sensitive skin.

Find the product that matches your skin type here.







About us: We are Skintelligence, a team focused on a 'skin-first' approach to beauty through artificial intelligence. We match products to you based on your unique skin type and needs. Results are highly accurate and personalized with AI and machine learning. It's fun, convenient, and it works. Try it here.


As featured in Her World, CLEO, FEMALE, Shape, Nuyou, Singapore Women’s Weekly, Daily Vanity, Layers of Skins.



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