How to Choose the Right Face Acid for Your Skin

The word acid doesn’t conjure up pleasant images, does it?

Yet in the skincare industry face acids are now a popular daily treatment for many skin complaints.

Once upon a time, the only place that you would really hear of these acids being used was in the dermatologist’s office.

Fast-forward a few years and now these acid-infused products are widely available.

And are considered by many to be the most effective over-the-counter treatments for acne and skin discoloration.

If you’re thinking of adding a face acid to your beauty regime but aren’t sure which one is best for your skin then read on to find out more about the different types of face acids and what they do.

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Mandelic Acid

What is it?

Mandelic acid belongs to a group of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA). This one, in particular, is derived from bitter almonds. 

What is it good for?

Fine Lines and Wrinkles – It strengthens collagen which is associated with youthfulness, and it increases cell turnover to produce a brighter complexion.

Acne – Mandelic acid works to regulate the production of sebum which is one of the worst offenders for breakouts.

What’s more, it’s also an effective treatment for one of the most aggressive forms of acne – cystic acne.

MelasmaThis acid has shown to be effective at evening out skin discoloration especially in those who have brown and gray pigmentation patches on their face.

Moreover, mandelic acid has shown to reduce melasma by 50 percent in as little as a month.

Popular Mandelic Acid Products

The Ordinary

Dr. Wu Intensive Renewal Serum with Mandelic Acid

Dr. Dennis Gross Alph Beta Peel Extra Strength

Azelaic Acid

What is it?

Azelaic acid belongs to a group of medications called dicarboxylic acids. In most face creams the concentration is usually 15-20 percent which is fine for most people.

But if your skin is very sensitive, then it’s probably best to avoid this face acid as it can cause redness, stinging, and peeling in some individuals.

What is it good for?

Acne – It’s a good choice for moderate acne as it helps to fight bacteria and keep pores clear.

Post-Acne Marks – Azelaic acid is also a skin-lightening agent that is often combined with retinoids to facilitate epithelial cell growth.

Rosacea – Azelaic acid has anti-inflammatory and skin brightening properties so it can improve the appearance of rosacea. 

Skincare expert, Dr.  Zeichner says that azelaic acid can be used twice daily if you can tolerate it.

Although, it’s important to moisturize your face frequently when using products that contain azelaic acid.

 Popular Azelaic Acid Products

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

Paula’s Choice Boost 10% Azelaic Acid Booster Cream Gel

Glycolic Acid

What is it?

Glycolic acid belongs to a group of Alpha Hydroxy Acids just like mandelic acid only this one is derived from sugar cane.

It has the smallest molecular structure out of all the AHAs so its absorption rate is better.

What is it good for?

Fine Lines – Glycolic acid aids the production of collagen which helps to give skin a more youthful appearance.

Dark Spots – Glycolic acid’s small structure enables it to penetrate deep into the skin to promote cell turnover.

Acne Prevention – This acid helps to prevent pores from getting clogged up so it acts a great first line of defense against acne breakouts.

Dermatologist, Jeanine Downey says ”Glycolic acid is one of the cornerstones of dermatology because it truly can change the landscape of skin by helping improve, texture, and fine lines, and it can be used on all skin tones and types.”

Glycolic acid certainly seems like a good choice for many skin concerns.

But note that it does increase sun sensitivity, so be sure to wear sunscreen even on days when you haven’t been using glycolic acid.

Popular Glycolic Acid Products

L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Glycolic Acid

Pixi Glow Tonic

Salicylic Acid

What is it?

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that is derived from willow bark.

It’s one of the best-known face acids, mainly because it has been around for a while.

What is it good for?

Melasma and Age SpotsSalicylic acid is a good exfoliator and getting rid of dead skin cells paves the way for fresh, brighter skin to come to the surface.

Acne and Acne ScarsThis treatment helps to unblock pores which help to both prevent and resolve lesions from forming.

Popular Salicylic Acid Products

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion

Kojic Acid

What is it?

Kojic acid is produced from different types of fungi and fermented rice wine, Japanese sake, and soy sauce.

Kojic acid works by inhibiting the production of tyrosine which is an amino acid that is responsible for melanin.

What is it good for?

Hyperpigmentation and Uneven Skintone

Kojic acid is often used as a skin-lightening agent which is one of the reasons why it is thought to be so effective at treating hyperpigmentation.

It is found in a number of cosmetic products like cleansers and soaps which are supposed to be washed off skin immediately.

And it’s also found in creams and serums which can be left on the skin.

According to, The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel agree that kojic acid is safe to use in one percent concentrations.

However, if you are considering this type of face acid then be sure to purchase one from a reputable retailer, and be aware of the potential risks of using this product.

The most common side-effect of using kojic acid is contact dermatitis.

Another side-effect is it can also make your skin prone to sunburn.

If you would like to read more about the benefits and side-effects of kojic acid, click here.

Popular Kojic Acid Products

Kikumasamune Sake Skin Lotion

Kojie San Lightening Soap