There’s been a shift in how we’re approaching our skincare routines—and it’s partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a recent report, close to 40% of female skincare devotees are using more products than ever before since spending more time at home, and 22% of those intend to stick with their new routines when things eventually go back to normal. Rational theory suggests that these figures should be somewhat mirrored by men and non-binary individuals—to varying degrees—even though there aren’t the studies to prove it yet.
The new demand is specifically linked to nailing the perfect baseline routine, along with an increased focus on targeted treatments—like chemical exfoliation, which has emerged as the best way to fight another pandemic-era special, maskne. But, the question of which dead skin-sloughing acid to use and when can be a confusing topic, particularly if you’re new to the category and have dry, blemish-prone, or sensitive skin.
“The term ‘acid’ can be off putting for some people because, much like the term ‘alcohol,’ it conjures up thoughts of irritation, tightness, and dehydration, but there are both fatty alcohols and hydrating acids which can actually help condition the skin,” explains Jacob Tomás del Rosario, Youth To The People’s Director of Field Sales + Education.
He adds that some of the most common exfoliating acids also happen to be the most hydrating ones:
“Lactic acid is an AHA—or alpha hydroxy acid—famed for its hydrating properties, and mandelic acid is another super gentle AHA hydrator.”
By design, all AHAs are water-soluble, which makes them less drying than their oil-soluble BHA counterparts. A good example, again, is lactic acid, which draws in moisture from its surrounding environment whilst gently loosening and dissolving dead skin, and salicylic acid, (a BHA), which penetrates pores to dissolve congestion and sebum.
Another important factor to consider in the name of chemical exfoliation versus hydration is an acid’s molecular structure, which del Rosario likens to different grades of sandpaper:
“Mandelic acid has the largest molecules of all the acids which makes it great for sensitive skin as it works on sloughing away dead cells on the skin’s surface, whereas salicylic acid has the smallest [molecular structure] and works at a much deeper level,” he explains. Glycolic acid has the lowest molecular weight of all the AHAs, which makes it the most potent and therefore best suited to more intense treatments.
For chemical exfoliation newbies, del Rosario advises starting with an extra-gentle formula—like YTTP’s new Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant—before gradually adding in something stronger, like YTTP’s Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner a few nights a week.
“With the Unity Exfoliant you’re getting a 360-degree approach to exfoliation, because it contains mandelic acid and salicylic acid, as well as gluconolactone—a polyhydroxy acid with large molecules—which helps support overall general hydration, ” he says, adding that although the product is designed to be used everyday, those with especially sensitive skin might want to err on the side of caution initially and opt for it every other morning.
“Knowing your skin and your skin density is a big part of how often you can exfoliate, and there’s no wrong, right, or universal answer—it’s just how we’re each made biologically,” says del Rosario to close.
You can determine if your skin is thick, thin, or medium via a quick at-home pinch test. For an easy how-to guide, check out this article.
Written by Elsa de Berker for Youth To The People