When you think of exfoliation, what comes to mind first? Probably scrubbing a gritty product into your skin to physically remove the top layer of your skin. The skin on your face is so delicate, and most of the time, physical exfoliants aren’t gentle enough and can even create micro tears on your face. Chemical exfoliation through acids is the perfect way to keep your skin looking bright and radiant, and it doesn’t require you to do any rough scrubbing. Meet some of the most common acids and how they can give you a fresh, glowing complexion.


This is a gentle type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), making it perfect for those who are new to using acids in skin care. It is able to exfoliate your skin by loosening up the bonds between dead skin cells, revealing fresh, new skin underneath. Since it does all of its work on the top layer of your skin, it’s best for treating hyperpigmentation, dark spots, wrinkles and fine lines. Over time, this will smoothen out your skin and reveal a clear, even complexion.


Hyaluronic acid can actually be found as a naturally occurring sugar in our skin. It works like a magnet to pull in moisture, lock it in and keep your skin hydrated. This acid doesn’t exfoliate your skin, but it pairs really well with the other acids to keep your fresh skin moisturized. When using this acid and fully hydrating your skin, it can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and leave you with supple, dewy skin.


If you have acne-prone skin, you may already be familiar with some of the benefits of salicylic acid. This is classified as a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), meaning it is able to penetrate to the deepest levels of your skin. Not only does this exfoliate and help generate new skin cells on the surface, it reaches deep and is able to clear out your pores too. This is great for combatting whiteheads and blackheads, as well as oily skin. It’s a pretty potent ingredient in skin care, so make sure you’re listening to your skin’s needs and looking out for irritation. 


Glycolic acid is an AHA like lactic acid, but this is a bit stronger and more effective. This exfoliates and renews the top layer of skin, completely reversing almost all signs of aging. Because it’s able to penetrate a bit deeper than lactic acid, this is able to stimulate the production of collagen in your skin, making it more bouncy and elastic. Like salicylic acid, be careful to not overuse this acid to prevent irritation and redness, and be sure to give your skin some hydration after using this. 


This acid isn’t an AHA or BHA like the others, but it is another gentle leave-on exfoliant. This refines the texture of your skin, reduces the appearance of acne scars and smooths out any bumps you may have. It can also help those who have acne and rosacea with its ability to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation and redness.


You probably know this acid by its other name—vitamin C! This acid is gentle enough to work for all skin types. It is great for reducing dark spots, hyperpigmentation and sun damage. It’s full of antioxidants to boost your skin’s glow and overall health. It also provides a barrier of protection from pollutants like car exhaust and cigarette smoke.

While putting acid all over your face may sound scary, these products have the potential to do wonders for your skin. As with any new skin care product, just be sure to test a patch on your hand or wrist before applying on your face.

Jewels ~ Malabella Jewels

Written + Captured by Christy McDermott

Follow Christy on Instagram or visit her site for more tips + tricks!

Christy McDermott is currently a senior from Penn State studying journalism. In her free time, she loves to create art and write for her blog. Some of her passions include fashion, traveling, skin care + expressing her creativity.

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