Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids are very useful and very engaged skin care ingredients. They both possess anti-age, anti-inflammatory, keratolytic, and skin resurfacing properties. Ok, they are mostly understood as exfoliants.
Both types of these acids come as the ingredients of every type of skin care product; from the cleansers to moisturizers and masks and packs.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) are commonly used as the acne treatment, hyperpigmentation, anti-aging agent, uneven and rough skin texture and depending of type there are:
- Glycolic Acid
- Lactic Acid
- Malic Acid
- Tartaric Acid
- Citric Acid
- Mandelic Acid.
AHA is water-soluble and most of its work is performed on the skin surface.
Beta Hydroxy Acid, on the other hand, is oil-soluble and therefore, more “in-pore” worker while still performing work on the skin surface. It is commonly used for active blemishes, clogged pores (blackheads), large pores and flaky skin.
The most common type of BHA is Salicylic Acid.
There are also Poly Hidroxy Acids and they are least sensitizing for skin due its larger molecular size. The most common PHAs are:
- Lactobionic Acid
- Gluconic Acid (Gluconolactone)
When talking about using acids in skin care routines one thing is very important. All types of hydroxy acids increase skin sun sensitivity and therefore using SPF 50 every day, regardless weather, is non-negotiable. Think of it as if you have just peeled your skin and let it bare and unprotected exposed to UV rays. Ouch!
Depending of skin concern and need, you will seek for more active or more moisturizing acid properties. There you begin to look for product’s pH and active component concentration. Lower the pH, stronger the exfoliating properties and vice versa. Higher concentration, stronger the action. Well, not so fast. There is also third factor – irritation. I am sure you don’t want that. Here it comes acid pKa – a measure of acid strength and availability and is unique to each acid.
Glycolic Acid pKa 3.83
Lactic Acid pKa 3.86
Citric Acid pKa 3.13
Salicylic Acid pKa 3.0
What does this mean? The smaller pKa value, stronger the acid and vice versa. In correlation with acid pH this means if the pH of the acid less than its pKa, the acid is more exfoliating and therefore more irritating to skin. Of course, the same logic applied, when the acid pH higher than its pKa, acid is less available and therefore less exfoliating and irritating.
Common exfoliating threshold for AHAs is <4 with concentration of 4-10% and for BHAs is pH <3.5 and concentration of 1-2%.*
And this is all about healthy skin and acids. When it comes to rosacea inflicted skin, things get more sensitive, or if you like, simpler. You don’t use acids at all. Wrong!
You can still use your acid actives and have their exfoliating and other benefits in your skincare. There is one simple rule: not too strong and not too often.
And of course: wear your sunscreen!
I have picked some products here that work as a charm even with rosacea. And products featured here actually alleviate the condition.
Here featured products are toner-type of skin care products and have pH 4.0 ± 0.5 and here they are – The Three Musketeers:
- Missha Time Revolution Clear Toner
- By Wishtrend Mandelic Acid 5% Skin Prep Water
- COSRX One Step Pimple Clear Pad
AHA (Citric Acid, Lactic Acid), BHA (Salicylic Acid), Fermented Yeast Extract
I can see that this ingredients list is different from the ingredients list published on the official Missha website. I purchased this bottle at Korean web shop so I reckon that is the Korean version of the product as opposed to Western version.
This is the ingredients list published on www.misshaus.com
Water, Saccharomyces Ferment, Propanediol, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Piper Methysticum Leaf/Root/Stem Extract, Camellia Oleifera Seed Extract, Gaultheria Procumbens (Wintergreen) Leaf Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Amaranthus Caudatus Seed Extract, Phellodendron Amurense Bark Extract, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Betaine, Butylene Glycol, SOdium Citrate, Cellulose Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Disodium EDTA, 1,2-Hexanediol, Bifida Ferment Lysate, Malic Acid, Glucose, Acetic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate
See this version has the herbal extracts, and the version I purchased has only barley extract. “Western” version contains also Malic Acid, and this one doesn’t. But it does contain Salicylic Acid (BHA).
Nevertheless, this is very mild pH balancing toner with pH 4.0 ± 0.5.
Use the Clear Toner right after cleansing to hydrate your skin and wipe off impurities and dead skin cells.
It soothes and purifies to help create smoother, softer skin. The mild formula gives a gentle and refreshing exfoliating care. The facial toner also prepares skin to absorb the ingredients in the following steps of your skincare routine. Contains fermented yeast ingredient for clear and healthy skin. (www.mishaus.com)
How to use
For the first step of use after cleansing.
Apply an appropriate amount onto cotton puff and softly wipe off following skin texture.
(source: official Missha website http://www.misshaus.com)
When I want to avoid mild physical exfoliation effect of the cotton pad, I use this toner exactly as it is – a toner. I pour it in my hand and apply it to cleansed face, as would any other toner without cotton pad. Works well either way.
I use it 2 – 3 times a week alternating with other actives in routines.
This watery liquid of faint acid scent comes in elegant plastic bottle. It absorbs quickly and leaves my skin supple but with distinctive feeling of skin cleanliness. It doesn’t dry out skin nor it irritates my rosacea. Just the opposite, anti-inflammatory properties of this toner are very quickly visible.
After several months of usage, I can see my pores and redness are less visible, skin tone is more even and old scarring from the past nuclear wars on my face is somehow milder.
This version of Time Revolution Clear Toner (with the ingredients list on the photo above) is here to stay in my routines.
(120 ml / 4.1 fl.oz)
Mandelic acid, Beta-Glucan, Panthenol, Centella Asiatica Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate
Very engaged ingredients list. Safe and non-sensitizing at the first glance. But, this is true active with pH of 4.0. Although made for sensitive skin, use with caution.
Helps with pigmentation to improve the skin tone and texture. As a mild exfoliator that works on the surface of the skin, safe to use even for sensitive skin to avoid the use of harsh chemical exfoliation. Effective for acne due to its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial properties. (www.wishtrend.com)
How to use
1) Before the toner, gently wipe and pat the product on your face using a cotton pad.
2) Limit the use of this product depending on your skin type. (For sensitive skin, we recommend 2-3 times a week)
3) For morning use, please make sure to apply sun-lotion after using the product.
4) We recommend not to use this product with other facial scrubs, AHA/BHA, and Vitamin C products.
(Source: official Wishtrend website: www.wishtrend.com)
I use this once a week straight after cleansing. I apply it without cotton pad, wait for couple of minutes and then proceed with the rest of the routine.
Like I said, this is a true active and should be used with caution. There are times when my skin enjoys this toner, but also there are times when my skin just cannot cope with it and reacts with redness and small bumps. But, luckily, rare enough to say this toner isn’t working for me and disqualify it. It does, however, brighten my skin and makes PIE (post inflammatory erythema) fade away quicker.
After couple of months of using this toner I can conclude (my skin-wise, of course) that Mandelic acid and rosacea are in some kind of bipolar, over attached relationship that sometimes I cannot understand.
Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Water 85.92%
Betaine Salicylate 1%
Package claims 1% BHA. I can see 1% of Betaine Salicylate, which is milder, and less irritant compound formed by the reaction of Betaine and Salicylic Acid. Willow Bark Water is skin soothing and skin conditioning agent.
Although it contains orange peel oil, doesn’t irritate my skin at all.
These daily pre-soaked exfoliating pads gently wipe out excess oil and keep the complexion clear, refined, and well-balanced. (cosrx.kr)
How to use
Swipe the embossing side across the face avoiding eye area after cleansing.
Swipe the softer side across the face to pick up the remaining debris.
Replace the lid tightly to make sure the pads stay wet and clean.
(source: official COSRX website: cosrx.kr)
Well, this one is in HG section. It was love on the first pad and it just keeps on going. It soothes, it hydrates, it cleans, it does everything it is supposed to. My skin loves it. It has even that superpower that I can rarely find in any other product – to stop rosacea flare-up when I feel it coming. Pimple – gone, redness – gone, yes, that good.
Simple, pre-soaked double sided cotton pad with pH 4.0 ± 0.5. Convenient even when I am on the go. I use it 3 times a week and every time skin crisis hits.
COSRX One Step Pimple Clear Pad is my skin’s love in plastic jar.