If you have even the smallest social media presence, you’ve definitely come across the words ‘retinol’, ‘salicylic acid’, ‘niacinamide’ and more. Even more so if you love skincare. But all of these acids and serums can be super confusing to keep track of. What acid helps with skin texture? What serum helps with hyperpigmentation? Which acids and serums go together?
Well, your confusion ends here! We’ve put together a concise guide to the most common acids and serums to help you incorporate them into your skincare routine properly.
What Is It: Alpha Arbutin is made of molecules extracted from bearberry plants that helps control melanin production.
What It Does: It’s known to diminish acne stars, prevent discoloration and hyperpigmentation. It evens out your skin tone and gives you clear skin.
How To Use It: Use twice a day after using a cleanser on bare skin.
What It Pairs With: Vitamin C
What Is It: Azelaic acid is a natural acid produced on your skin by yeast, but it can also be derived from plants & grains through fermentation.
What It Does: It chemically exfoliates your skin from within, reduces inflammation and acne, and evens out skin tone.
How To Use It: Apply a thin layer twice a day on clean, dry skin.
What It Pairs With: AHA, BHA, and Retinol.
What Is It: Ceramides are a type of fatty acid called lipids, usually the main component of our epidermis.
What It Does: Ceramides promote cellular function, create a strong skin barrier to lock in moisture, reduce signs of aging, and protect from sun and pollution damage.
How To Use It: In cream formulations, use ceramides overnight as a moisturizer. In cleansing formulas, use twice a day to cleanse your face.
What It Pairs With: Hyaluronic Acid, Glycolic Acid, and Niacinamide.
What Is It: Glycolic Acid is a form of Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) extracted from sugarcane.
What It Does: It works as a chemical exfoliant that cleans out dead skin cells and fights acne, stimulates collagen production and acts as a humectant (traps moisture in your skin.)
How To Use It: Use once a day after cleansing your skin.
What It Pairs With: Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin C and Niacinamide.
What Is It: Green tea is derived from the leaves of a tea plant full of antioxidants and caffeine.
What It Does: Acts as a soothing agent, protects the skin from damage, controls oil production, fights acne and minimizes signs of aging.
How To Use It: In cream formulations, use everyday as a moisturizer or overnight mask. In serum formulas, use once a day in conjunction with other humectants.
What It Pairs With: Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
What Is It: Hyaluronic Acid is a molecule that is naturally found in your skin and connecting tissues that helps with hydration.
What It Does: It helps moisturize skin, reduce wrinkles, clears acne scars and helps with cell moisture.
How To Use It: Apply on clean and dry skin before moisturizers or other serums.
What It Pairs With: Vitamin C, Retinol, Ceramides, Green Tea, and Salicylic Acid.
What Is It: Kojic Acid is sourced from mushrooms through fermentation.
What It Does: Reduces hyperpigmentation and dark spots, helps with UV damage and pollution damage, and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent.
How To Use It: Use once or twice a week as an overnight mask.
What It Pairs With: Retinol, Glycolic Acid, Arbutin and Vitamin C.
What Is It: Lactic Acid is a by product of fermented sugar and starch in sour milk.
What It Does: It is antibacterial and helps with acne, reduces wrinkles, acts as a humectant and helps in fast cell regeneration.
How To Use It: Use three times a week in continuity on clean and dry skin.
What It Pairs With: Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide.
What Is It: Niacinamide is a form of nicotinamide which is a type of vitamin.
What It Does: Reduces signs of aging, acne spots and blemishes, brightens and evens out skin.
How To Use It: Use it everyday in the morning on clean and dry skin.
What It Pairs With: Hyaluronic Acid, Retinol, Vitamin C & E, Salicylic Acid, and Tranexamic Acid.
What Is It: Retinol is a type of retinoid derived from Vitamin A.
What It Does: It’s best known as an anti-aging ingredient, it reduces wrinkles and fine lines, increases cell regeneration, boosts collagen production, and controls oil production.
How To Use It: Apply twice a week, overnight. Retinols are extremely sensitive to sunlight, so avoid using them in the sun. Layer it with moisturizer.
What It Pairs With: Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide, Squalene, Glycolic and Salicylic Acid.
What Is It: Salicylic acid is extracted from willow tree bark and is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA).
What It Does: Exfoliates dead skin, controls oil production, prevents acne, unclogs pores, helps remove black and whiteheads, and minimizes pores.
How To Use It: Apply on alternate days on clean and dry skin.
What It Pairs With: Niacinamide, Vitamin C, Retinol, Hyaluronic Acid, Glycolic Acid, and Lactic Acid.
What Is It: Squalane is naturally sourced from plants like olives and sugar cane.
What It Does: Reduces inflammation, clears out pores, acts as a humectant and locks in moisture and regulates sebum production.
How To Use It: In an oil formulation, use it once or twice a week. In a cleansing formulation, use it everyday, twice. In a cream formulation, use as an overnight mask every alternate day.
What It Pairs With: Vitamin C, Retinol, Niacinamide, and Salycilic Acid.
What Is It: Tranexamic Acid is a synthetic derivative of lysine, which is an essential amino acid.
What It Does: Reduces discoloration and hyperpigmentation, evens out skin tone, reduces the appearance of acne scars.
How To Use It: Use once a week as an overnight mask.
What It Pairs With: Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid, and Retinol.
Vitamin C & E
What Is It: Vitamin C is a nutrient that facilitates growth and repair of tissues and is formulated from citrus fruits or lab made. Vitamin E is derived from avocado, pumpkin, and wheat germ oil and acts as an antioxidant.
What It Does: Vitamin C protects you from free radical damage, boosts collagen production, and evens out your skin tone. Vitamin E acts as a humectant and locks in moisture, smooths out skin, and has antioxidant properties.
How To Use It: Use Vitamin C once a day or once every other day on clean dry skin. Use Vitamin E either on problem spots as needed or overnight as a face mask.
What It Pairs With: Vitamin C and E pair very well together.
What Is It: Zinc is a mineral found on the top layer of our skin. It helps with wound healing.
What It Does: Reduces acne, clears acne spots and dark spots, protects from UV damage, has antibacterial properties, and boosts collagen production.
How To Use It: Any formulation of Zinc is usually accompanied with other acids or active ingredients. Use as per directions.
What It Pairs With: Niacinamide, Squalane, Vitamin B5, Green Tea, and Hyaluronic Acid.
That was the A-Z for all the serums and acids you should know about. Now you can go on and incorporate the best ones for your skin and create the perfect skin routine for yourself!