Your skin is constantly hard at work, providing an essential barrier to environmental damage and protecting what lies within. Even more importantly, though, it’s often the first thing people see, so any problems, whether they be ageing or acne, can be a deep source of concern.
At first, an acid might seem too harsh for our delicate dermis, but there are actually five key acids that should be playing an important role in your skincare regime.
# 1 Hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid is different from the other acids we use in cosmetic dermatology, such as glycolic or salicylic acid which exfoliate the old skin layer, revealing ‘newer’, fresher skin beneath. Hyaluronic acid naturally occurs in the human body and gives the skin its plump and hydrated appearance.
Hyaluronic acid is extremely vulnerable to free radicals and environmental damage and as we age our capacity to regenerate it reduces, a major factor in skin ageing.
Top tip: many cosmeceutical skincare products now contain hyaluronic acid but it is a large molecule that cannot ‘cross’ the skin barrier. Treatments like Restylane Vital, made of low density hyaluronic acid, are injected superficially into the dermis, improving the appearance of fine lines and poor skin texture. However, topical products containing hyaluronic acid can create a film of moisture to provide an instant, short-term improvement appearance to the skin; products like the Glo Hydrating Serum or the SkinCeuticals B5 Hydrating serum are recommended.
# 2 Retinoid acid
Retinoic acid is an acid form of vitamin A. When vitamin A in the form of retinol is applied to the skin it is converted into retinoic acid, stimulating the skin’s stem cells, known as fibroblasts. These fibroblasts produce collagen and hyaluronic acid which are essential for good skin health – even a sensitive skin condition such as rosacea will benefit from retinoic acid as it increases skin resistance.
Top tip: it is very important to get the right concentration for your specific skin concern. I always put my clients on some sort of retinol and my choice is the ZO Skin Health or the ZO Medical ranges. If I had to choose one single product, it would be ZO Retamax. It never stops amazing me the incredible results you can get.
# 3 Glycolic acid (including alpha-hydroxy acids)
Glycolic acid is naturally derived from sugars, such as sugar cane. As this acid has the smallest particle size of all of them, it has the best penetration capacity into the skin.
Its main effect is to break the adhesion of the very top layer of dead skin cells, leading to the formation of a new layer and skin that appears more even and glowing. It also has some impact on the production of collagen.
Top tip: glycolic acids aren’t as irritating to the skin as retinoids, causing much less inflammation. NeoStrata has a large selection of glycolic products, in addition to the ZO Glycogent, which is a great exfoliator.
# 4 Salicylic acid (beta-hydroxy acid)
Salicylic acid is an ingredient of aspirin and is an important topical for patients with acne-prone skin. It sheds the top layers of the skin, reduces skin inflammation and, as it penetrates the pores and the oil glands, it is also fantastic to remove black heads and white heads, reducing skin congestion and break outs. Salicylic acid has also been used to increase skin thickness and resistance (as it improves the skin barrier function) and to produce collagen.
Top tip: for patients with oily skin and skin prone to break outs, open pores, black/white heads and congestion, I always recommend the ZO Skin Health TE-Pads or the ZO Medical Cebatrol, after the skin has been cleansed with ZO Oilacleanse. ZO Medical Vitascrub is also a great mechanical exfoliant (similar to a microdermabrasion), combined with salicylic and lactic acids.
# 5 TCA (trichloroacetic acid)
For patients that present pigmentation problems or that have skin texture concerns, like fine lines and wrinkles or superficial acne scars, TCA should always play an important part of the overall skincare plan.
TCA is a non-toxic acid that will completely exfoliate the top layer of skin over a few days, exposing a completely new, undamaged skin – with less pigmentation marks or age signs. This type of treatment is considered a ‘skin resurfacing’ and it is a great treatment option for patients with melasma.
Top tip: this is not a treatment to be done at home – these are chemical peels conducted in clinic which can exfoliate the top layers of skin cells, exposing a completely new skin layer. My two preferred treatments are the ZO Three-Step Peel, a form of modified TCA that self neutralises when it passes the dead skin cell layer, and the ZO Controlled Depth Peel, a more profound treatment that penetrates deeper, producing more dramatic results, however requiring a longer recovery time.
If you have any more questions about the benefits of skin acids or you are interested in any of the products mentioned here, call 020 7043 0748 to book a consultation at Dr Joney De Souza Skin and Laser Clinic.