The Difference Between Alpha And Beta Hydroxy AcidsDr. Leslie Baumann
With “Resistant” skin, exfoliating acids should be an integral part of your skincare regimen, but the sheer number of options can be confusing. Each type has different advantages for different beauty concerns, so choosing the right one can take the health and beauty of your skin to a whole new level.
Alpha hydroxy acids
These naturally occurring acids are wonderful for improving a variety of issues ranging including uneven pigment, rough texture and fine lines. The most common alpha hydroxy acids are glycolic acid from sugarcane, lactic acid from milk, malic acid from apples, citric acid from citrus fruits, tartaric acid from grapes and phytic acid from grapes. These acids are found in over-the-counter skincare products like cleansers, serums, moisturizers and at-home peels, and are also used for in-office chemical peels. They work to improve the skin by loosening the bonds that hold dead cells on the surface of the skin, in turn revealing fresh, more even, younger-looking skin.
Beta hydroxy acids
Beta hydroxy acids also have an exfoliating effect, but they have an added anti-inflammatory affect that can help ease the symptoms of disorders like rosacea. Salicylic acid is the most common beta hydroxy acid and it can either be synthetic or derived from willow bark. Regardless of origin, it is useful for improving signs of sun damage (like discoloration and rough texture) and especially effective for acne as well. A member of the aspirin family, salicylic acid is fat-soluble (unlike alpha hydroxy acids), which means it can penetrate the pores to break up clogs that lead to breakouts. Salicylic acid is found commonly in over-the-counter skincare products, and is also used for in-office peels.
What you need to know
Since both of these acids remove the uppermost layers of the skin, it’s imperative to use sunscreen daily. Though irritation is rarely an issue for your “Resistant” skin, overuse can cause redness or flaking. (If this happens, try using the acid every other day until your skin acclimates.) If you’re also using a retinoid, it’s possible that the addition of an acid can lead to overexfoliation. Keep an eye out for symptoms of irritation, and cut back to one exfoliation method per day if necessary.
Alpha hydroxy acid product picks
Cleanser: Vivite Exfoliating Facial Cleanser
Serum: Paula’s Choice RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% Alpha Hydroxy Acid
Moisturizer: DDF Glycolic 10% Moisturizer
At-home peel: MD Formulations My Personal Peel System
Salicylic acid product picks
Cleanser: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash
Serum: CosMedix Clarity Serum
Moisturizer: Vichy Normaderm Anti-Imperfection Hydrating Care Oil-Free Lotion