When most of us hear the word “acid” in regards to skincare, we think about exfoliants. And while many acids do exfoliate, there are also moisturizing and antioxidant acids. So which skincare acids do what? We break it down for you.

Exfoliating Acids

Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid. AHAs usually come from milk and fruit sugars but glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane. Its benefits include softening fine lines, dissolving dead skin cells, lightening pigmentation and smoothing skin’s texture.

Lactic Acid
Another alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid comes from fruit sugar. The benefits of lactic acid are similar to glycolic acid, but lactic acid tends to be gentler so it’s a good exfoliant for more sensitive skin types.

Citric Acid
Citric acid comes from citrus fruit and is both an exfoliant and antioxidant. It smoothes skin’s texture and fights signs of aging while protecting skin from environmental damage.

Malic Acid
A fruit acid, malic acid is great for both smoothing fine lines and fighting acne. It helps clear pores of sebum so is perfect for oily skin types.


Antioxidant Acids

L-Ascorbic Acid

L-ascorbic acid is basically concentrated vitamin C. Vitamin C reduces the appearance of fine lines, brightens skin and improves the look of dark spots, while also fighting free radicals.

Alpha Lipoic Acid
Derived from a variety of healthy foods. It’s an antioxidant but it’s also anti-inflammatory and can help reduce redness and blotchiness (but be careful if you have rosacea. ALA might be too strong for your skin).


Moisturizing Acids

Hyaluronic Acid
A humectant, hyaluronic acid attracts moisture to your skin and strengthens your skin’s moisture barrier, making it look healthier and firmer.

Oleic Acid
Oleic acid is an omega fatty acid derived from almond or olive oils, among others. It’s found in skincare oils and is ultra moisturizing, but can be too greasy for those without dry skin.

Linoleic Acid
Another fatty acid, this one is specifically an Omega 6, from safflower and sunflower oils, and is less heavy than oleic, so is better for normal skin types.