Lets Talk About ... Acids

Since getting into a proper skincare routine and not making do with a splash of water and a touch of moisturiser when I remember my skin and feel guilty, every single person without fail I have spoken to looks at me like I'm mental when I mention putting acids on my skin.

Not that I'm often talking about my skincare routine, but sometimes I have to do something to break up the constant tech and football talk. No shade to anyone who enjoys those things, but sometimes they do get a little mundane, and I really am just a little shit at work. I've been spending the entire day telling the lads 'it's not coming home' just to wind them up. Hours of fun.

I digress. Acids are like a bugle for the skin. You cannot ignore a bugle. Your skin cannot ignore acids.


But not all acids were created equally. Now, I'm not an expert, and neither am I a scientist, but I have done some extensive research both online and on my face, and I can definitely direct you in the right places to find out more in depth knowledge if you so wish. But surface level stuff - essentially what the most common ones are, what they do, and which products I enjoy - I can definitely do. And I honestly preach the gospel of acids to everyone now. I wouldn't be without them, and I notice a definite difference in the clarity and brightness of my skin.

On with the post!


 AHAs, or Alpha Hydroxy Acids, are the ones I find most commonly spoken about, and the ones that are really pretty easy to pick up in places like Boots and M&S. Never underestimate the M&S beauty department. AHA is an umbrella under which several acids fall, but the one's I have personally used are glycolic and lactic. 

Glycolic is found in products like PIXI Skintreat's Glow Tonic, a cult product that you have almost definitely heard of, even if you haven't tried it out. NIP + FAB also do a range of exfoliating pads with glycolic in them, although their 'extreme' version also contains salicylic and lactic acid, alongside 5% glycolic - the same percentage as the Glow Tonic. Glycolic is also the only acid that makes you sun sensitive, so even though you should be wearing an SPF anyway, if you use glycolic acid you must be vigilant with applying a good SPF.

My skin isn't really agreeing with glycolic acid at the moment, and so I have pushed aside my beloved pads and the Glow Tonic (although I have found it excellent for exfoliating my feet), and picked up lactic. Lactic is a little gentler - AHAs are good at exfoliating the skin and stimulating collagen - it doesn't penetrate like glycolic does, and instead eats gently away on the surface of the skin, making it softer and brighter. Good stuff all round.

Mandelic is an acid I've heard about, but not forayed into yet. Still an AHA, it's a good choice for oilier skins, is fat soluble, and also antibacterial. If I get to try some, I'll report back and update this post with how I got on.




BHAs - Beta Hydroxy Acids - are for you if your skin concerns contain blemishes and acne. I say acids plural, there's actually only one BHA, and that is salicylic acid. 

It helps you skin with the shedding of it's dead cells (mm, delicious), and is just great for breakouts and blemishes and generally congested skin. The main reason why you would reach for this over an AHA with oilier, breakout prone, and acnaic skins is because it's oil soluble, and therefore can penetrate oily pores and exfoliates them. It's all very scientific.

What you need to know is: salicylic acid is bloody great at helping oily skins with breakouts and/or acne. It's also great for if you get the occasional spot and can't help yourself but pick at it: when you've done the damage, get you to the nearest available acid and hold a pad soaked with it on the spot for a while, before adding oil, and repeating a few times when the oil has sunk in. Trust and believe, it'll help.

I'm leaving PHAs (polyhydroxy) out from here only because I don't have any personal experience with the angels, but there will be a section down below with all the links you could possibly want, with cleverer people than I who can tell you a lot more about this 'next generation AHA'. I'll also stick in a couple of PHA recommendations, but the product links will be very glycolic, lactic, and salicylic focused. I believe Glossier Solution is a pretty affordable option that contains PHA, but I wouldn't go near it with a barge pole. Way too much alcohol, you might get along with it, but I wouldn't risk that risk.


  • My personal favourite right now is REN's Ready, Steady, Glow Daily AHA Tonic. As the name suggests, an AHA that is gentle enough to use every day. It's lactic, so my skin is happy with it, the packaging is a total dream with that 'nail salon' push pump, and you get a generous 250ml for £25.

  • A good, affordable glycolic option is PIXI Skintreats Glow Tonic. £18 for 250ml, it's a little more expensive than the REN, but a good jumping off place if you're newer to acids and just want to dabble. If that's you - I would suggest going in cautiously a couple times a week, and building up to more frequently. As ever, it's a case of listening to your skin and seeing what it needs. PIXI also have a travel size version - £10 for 100ml - if you're a) travelling or b) don't want to make a bigger financial commitment.

  • The OG acid - the one you really only need if you have more mature skin that needs a little more zazz and oomph, and you have the budget - is Biologique Recherche's Lotion P50. Hard to get hold of (Liberty stock it and Embassy of Beauty ship it to the UK), there are several different versions that tackle different skin complaints. If your skin needs something more, check out the full range here.

  • The Ordinary do a whole range of pretty affordable acids, and they're all singular, so you can pick and choose what you want to target. With Cult Beauty and ASOS stocking them, along with the Covent Garden store, they're also not completely impossible to find.

  • Another great (and fairly affordable) pad option is First Aid Beauty's Facial Radiance Pads, coming in at £24 for 60 pads and easily available on ASOS. They contain glycolic and lactic acid, perfect for gentle exfoliation to keep your skin bright and glowing.

  • A good, gentle enough for daily use, salicylic option is Clinique's Clarifying Lotion 1.0 (£18 for 200ml or £28 for 400ml). A good option for younger, oilier skins that just need to be kept clear, but don't necessarily need the exfoliating power of an AHA, or for skins that just don't get along with glycolic.

  • NIP+FAB do, like said above, a pretty good range of different acid pads that are widely available in Boots and Superdrug. I believe they're also on offer on the NIP+FAB website at the time of writing too! Within the range I've used the Extreme Night Pads (£14.95 for 60, ignore the words extreme and night), the Glycolic Daily Cleansing Pads (£13.59 for 60), the Glycolic Fix Radiance Shot (overnight treatment, £19.95 for 30ml), and the Teen Skin Rescue Breakout Pads (contain salicylic acid, £9.99 for 60). But do get yourself to Boots or onto the website and check out the full range, they have something for nearly everyone who gets on with glycolic, and several different options too.

  • Alpha H Liquid Gold is also beloved by users of glycolic acid, and is currently one a two for one offer at Cult Beauty. Making it £33.50 for two (100ml each), this is used as a night treatment and many swear by it for a good, mid priced option.

  • Another firm favourite of acid lovers, especially for travel, is Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel. Not so much a budget option, but more of a splurge, there are several different options and prices range from £16.50 for five treatments, up to £136 for 60 treatments. They are, however, a big boy option, and contain five different kinds of AHA and BHA, so if you're going on holiday (each treatment is packaged separately) or just need a bit more and have the budget, these are pretty good.

  • Lixirskin also have a couple different options for acid night treatments, but they are a pretty affordable, easy to find brand that offer a PHA option, with the PHA/AHA 10% Night Switch Treatment (£20 for 15ml). This one is also glycolic free, containing lactic acid and lactobionic acid, and so is a good option for those like me who can't tolerate glycolic.

  • Finally in this little roundup, a real splurge-type option - the Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads. Not for the faint hearted, and there are definitely more affordable options out there, if you have the budget and the need these come in at £65 for 50 pads, but do contain PHA, AHA, and BHA. Very effective, if you were looking at Glossier Solution because it has a mix of all three acids, it might be worth looking at Zelens instead.

Just a few options to look at? I wanted to make sure I covered most of my bases, and had something for pretty much every price point, but the list above is by no means a comprehensive list. Other companies to have a gander at include Sunday Riley, who have an AHA option in the form of Good Genes (although because it's so high in lactic acid they're currently reformulating for the Europe/UK market), and a BHA option in the form of their UFO oil treatment.

Paula's Choice are more affordable than Sunday Riley, but have some good, single acid options for targeted treatments. You can also check out this link to Cult Beauty, and have a gander around their acid selection to find out what might suit you and your current skin needs.


A good place to start if you are new to this acid toning business and just want some simple, no nonsense advice is Caroline Hiron's blog, and I'll list a couple of her resources that I go back to time and time again if I want a refresh on my knowledge.


Also worth taking a look at:

Again, not a comprehensive list, but one that gives good additional information, and one I will continue to add to as I do further research and reading and learning. If you've read any good acid related articles, let me know so I can add them here!


The acid that suits everyone, but I didn't mention in any of the above sections because I didn't want there to be any confusion: hyaluronic acid.

Not exfoliating, but hydrating, if you don't have a hyaluronic acid in your regime, I highly suggest you look into one of the different options available to you. Trust me. Hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1000 times it's weight in water in one molecule, making it excellent at helping to rehydrate the skin. If you use a hyaluronic acid, and then add hydrating products on top, your skin will reap the hydrating benefits.

Every single skin type can suffer from being dehydrated - and in the case of oily skin, having well hydrated skin can help with oil production - and it just makes you look a duller, and a lot more tired. Stick some hyaluronic acid on, rehydrate yourself, look bouncy and fresh and feel great! Not rocket science, just delicious. 

Many brands are now adding in hyaluronic acids to their serums and treatments and moisturisers and gels - Neutrogena have a bloody good line in the form of the Hydro Boost products (all affordably priced, includes masks, cleansers, a serum, and moisturisers) - but you can get products dedicated to the hyaluronic acid.

The Ordinary offer a couple cheap options - Hyaluronic Acid 2% for £5.90 (30ml) and their Natural Moisturising Factors & HA for £4.90 - and these are a good starting point. However, with anything, the more you spend the more complex the formulas are, and the more types of hyaluronic acid the products will contain.

NIOD's Multi Molecular Hyaluronic Complex for £25 is a good, complex option that contains 12 forms of HA in a comfortable formula, and you can't really go wrong with Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Booster Face Serum (£24.99 for 30ml). As ever, skincare is really about trial and error, and the more products you try the more you will know which ones are right for your skin and your regime. Honestly, you can't go wrong with a moisturiser or serum containing HA if you don't want to add in a step just for the bugger. I'm really enjoying Vichy's Aqualia Thermal Hydrating Face Serum (currently on offer for £18.75) right now - it's a wet feeling serum that sinks in beautifully and leaves my face feeling soft and hydrated.

The easiest way of getting some hyaluronic acid onto your face, however, is in a spritz. This also works well if you are perpetually dehydrated and need to keep topping up during the day, as you can just throw them in your bag and crack on with life. PIXI have a good option in the form of their Hydrating Milky Mist (£18 for 80ml), and Superdrug have some good, cheaper choices that I'm happy to shove in my bag and not worry about. The B. Hydrated Hyaluronic Acid Spritz is only £7.99, and the Calm Skin Destress Refreshing Facial Spritz is even cheaper at £2.99.

And there we have it. A rundown on different types of acids, some product recommendations, some further reading, and bonus hydrating. A good all rounder.

Do you use toning acids? Have you discovered any benefits, or are you still looking into the right one for your skin type?

Love, Cordelia