The Benefits of Acids for Skin (Which Is Best for You?)

As harsh as the word sounds, acids are actually a much gentler way to exfoliate and drastically (not to mention instantly) improve the appearance of your skin. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, acids were mainly used in chemical peels at the doctor’s office, essentially removing the top layers of skin to promote healing and collagen production. Patients would suffer from redness and irritation for days before seeing results. These days, we’re lucky enough to incorporate acids into our daily skincare routines—without any of those scary results and with all the lovely benefits. Read on to learn more about the three popular acids and what exactly they do for your complexion.

Beta Hydroxy Acid vs. Alpha Hydroxy Acid

Before we get too deep into the world of acids, it’s important to know how to classify acids. The ones we use commonly in skin care can be either alpha or beta hydroxy acid.

Wanna get technical? Alpha and beta refer to the relationship between hydroxy half of the molecule and the acid half. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) have one carbon atom in between the two sections while beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) have two.

While both acids work to loosen the bonds that hold together the top layer of dead skin, there is a crucial difference: AHAs are water soluble while BHAs are oil soluble. This means BHAs can get down into our pores because they can mix with the oils our skin naturally produces. So while AHAs can only work at the surface level, BHAs can get deep down. Each has their own merits.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic Acid is a beta hydroxy acid, which is one reason it’s fantastic in helping with acne-prone skin. So what happens when we reach for a product containing salicylic acid? On the surface, the acid helps unglue the bonds that keep our dead skin in place, gently exfoliating for a brighter complexion. Because it is oil soluble, it can penetrate your skin and deep-clean your pores. Part of its deep-cleaning process involves dissolving the debris which clogs our pores and leads to blemishes.

You may have heard that salicylic acid can be drying in large concentrations, which is true. However, in small doses, this drying effect is actually a good thing! Wondering how? Well, drying the skin involves controlling sebum production, as our skins oils help retain water and keep skin moist. While a large dose of salicylic acid may break down too much sebum, a healthy dose will actually help reduce oily skin. This can help you clear out excess oils and prevent future acne. Sounds like a win-win!

Wondering where salicylic acid comes from? Although it is naturally present in fruits such as strawberries, it’s also prepared in a laboratory and used in aspirin.

Find it in: 8CELLENT Vitality Duo Essence

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is the gold standard for AHAs. Why is it so popular and loved? Glycolic acid has a very small molecular size (smallest in its class), which allows it to penetrate deeper than other acids to tackle complex concerns. Like other AHAs, glycolic acid begins by helping break apart the bonds that stick dead skin cells to our epidermis.

Age and dryness can slow down your skin’s natural shedding process, so a boost of exfoliation can help reveal the radiant, glowing skin underneath. Texture and evenness is really important to healthy skin, and exfoliation is best route to slough off dead skin from problem areas. But what makes exfoliation by glycolic acid different? The gentle factor. A small dose of glycolic acid can help speed up the skin-shedding process without rough abrasives.

Find it in: 8CELLENT Vitality Duo Essence, Vitality Complex Serum and Vitality Complex Cream

Lactic Acid

In low concentrations, lactic acid works to help restore water to skin. Acting as a humectant, it retains moisture from its surroundings and helps keep it in our skin. At higher concentrations, lactic acid is a mild exfoliant. Just like glycolic acid, it helps break up the surface layer of dead and dull skin from radiant skin below.

More perks: lactic acid is part of the collagen synthesis process, so it can help push that process along. By doing so, lactic acid helps with visible aging concerns. If you find glycolic acid a bit too harsh or drying, using products with lactic acid can help deliver the same benefits without the drying.

Find it in: Vitality Complex Serum and Vitality Complex Cream


Cohn, Lindsay. “Benefits of Glycolic Acid to Know About.” Reader's Digest, Reader's Digest, 15 Feb. 2018,

Pereira, Dayle. “The Many Ways in Which Lactic Acid Benefits Your Skin.” Be Beautiful | Get All Personalized Beauty, Fashion, Makeup and Lifestyle Tips, 27 June 2017,