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Skincare Acids Explained, From AHAs To BHAs to PHAs – Here’s How To Use Them

Skincare Acids Explained, From AHAs To BHAs to PHAs – Here’s How To Use Them

If you’re are newbie, acids may initially sound like a scary thing to incorporate into your skincare – especially if you have sensitive skin. We know the beauty buzzwords like acid don’t necessarily scream dewy, glowy, healthy skin. But they can work wonders to transform a dull complexion into just that. They are kinda secret to glowy-as-hell skin. 

Acids are powerful ingredients that can fight off annoying ailments like sun spots, hyperpigmentation, dryness, fine lines, and more. They are here to stay, so if you have yet to discover their amazing skincare benefits, it might be time you hopped on board. To help demystify these complex-sounding ingredients, we caught up with Prudvi Kaka, Chief Scientific Officer, DECIEM, to find out how to decide which acids are right for you, where exactly they should fit within your skincare routine and how often we should be using them. Keep scrolling for the most basic guide to using acids in your skincare routine.

Are Skincare Acids Safe To Use In Summer?


“We always recommend avoiding direct sun exposure and using sun protection when using acids in your routine as they have the potential to increase photosensitivity,” says Dr. Prudvi Kaka. Direct Acids such as AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) are safe to use in the Summer as long as they’re used alongside sun protection, protective clothing, and with limited exposure to the sun after use. 

How To Choose An Acid For Your Skin Type?

A quick google search and you’ll likely be left overwhelmed by the sheer number of acids available – especially when it comes to choosing the right one for you. First, decide what skincare issue you’re addressing. Rather than thinking about your traditional skin type, think about what you want to target. For example, for fine lines and pigmentation, choose a glycolic acid. For acne, choose a salicylic acid. Each acid has a specific target. Overall, there are four main types of acids you need to know about namely AHAs, BHAs, PHAs, and moisturising acids. Keep reading to know about ‘em all.

All About AHAs, BHAs, PHAs, And Moisturising Acids


More commonly known as AHAs, alpha hydroxy acids work on the surface of the skin. They are more renowned for their ability to exfoliate the skin for a brighter finish and smoother texture. They’re great for dry, sun-damaged skin as they boost natural moisturising factors. They are also great for reducing signs of aging as well as pigmentation. Glycolic acid is the AHA that will spring to mind for most people, but lactic acid and mandelic acid are also popular choices.


Beta hydroxy acids also known as BHAs not only work on the skin’s surface but also penetrate inside the pores because they are oil soluble. It’s recommended for folks with oily, acne prone skin and enlarged pores. If you’re prone to breakouts and blemishes, we’d recommend giving salicylic acid a try, thanks to its ability to diminish excess oil and unclog pores. 


Likely the least common acid of the bunch, polyhydroxy acids is the friend of peeps with sensitive skin types or anyone looking for help with hydration and skin repair. They help the skin to retain moisture while giving a more gentle exfoliation. 

Moisturising Acids

Meet the most beginner-friendly acid of the bunch: moisturising acids. Great for all skin types, they help to lock in hydration or create a moisture barrier on the surface of the skin, depending on the size of the molecule. Hyaluronic acid is one of the most popular acids on the market, and you’ll likely find it on the ingredient list of some of your favourite skincare products already.

How Should You Incorporate Acids Into Your Summer Skincare Routine

When incorporating acids in the summer, one of the key factors to consider is increased photosensitivity, meaning skin is much more prone to the possibility of sunburns, one of the leading causes of early signs of aging. “We recommend avoiding prolonged sun exposure, ensuring adequate use of sunscreen, and covering the skin with clothing to prevent direct sun exposure while using direct acids and it’s best to continue with these measures for at least a week afterward,” says Prudvi Kaka. With skin tolerance in mind, we suggest incorporating Direct Acids into your routine 1-2 times per week and building from there.

Are Acid Concentrations Something We Need To Be Mindful Of?

“There are two factors that determine an acid’s efficacy, one being the molecular weight and the other concentration,” says Prudvi Kaka. An acid with a high molecular weight, such as Mandelic Acid, will have a milder approach to exfoliation and require more time to bring about the same effects on the skin as acids with low molecular weights, such as Glycolic Acid. The concentration of an ingredient, too, directly impacts the effectiveness of a formulation.

For new acid users, one must take into consideration the condition of their skin. If one has sensitive skin, it is best to find an alternative to acids to target overall anti-aging rather than exfoliation. However, for those with skin more tolerant to acids, it is best to begin with an acid with a high molecular weight and at a low concentration for a more gentle approach. 

The Ingredients To Prioritise During The Summer Months

Changes in the season can bring about changes in the skin, such as increased sebum production, which could lead to skin congestion. For example, during the summer months, ambient temperatures and humidity levels are high, leading to increased production of sweat and sebum. This increases the chances of one developing signs of skin congestion. Niacinamide is a suitable ingredient for anyone looking to address signs of congestion, visible shine, and textural irregularities. With that said, it is very important to take note of conflicts when it comes to Niacinamide we do not recommend combining Niacinamide with Direct or Ethylated Vitamin C, and Vitamin C Derivatives due to the formation of a salt complex that has the potential to reduce the integrity of both compounds. If you wish to combine both products into a regimen, we recommend using them on alternate days and/or nights. 

Bring on the ~glow~

Featured Image: Instagram

10 Jun 2022

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