While there are countless new discoveries within the bright, shiny world of acids, experts say these five trending skin-resurfacers should be on your radar now.
Acid Name: Mandelic Acid
What It Does: According to celebrity aesthetician Shani Darden, “this oil-soluble acid targets congestion in the pores to minimize breakouts, lighten pigmentation and remove dead skin cells sans any signs of irritation.
What Makes It Different: “Mandelic acid has a large molecular structure, so it doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply as highly active glycolic acid, making it extremely gentle,” Beverly Hills, CA dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD says.
Where To Find It: Fitglow Beauty: Clear + Bright Mandelic Drops ($69)
Acid Name: Polyhydroxy Acids (PHA)
What It Does: “PHAs, which have similar benefits to alphahydroxy acids (AHAs), possess moisturizing and antioxidant properties, and also improve skin texture and tone,” says Dr. Shamban. While less intense than their derivative, they’re still able to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and boost product penetration into the skin.”
What Makes It Different: “Still a chemical exfoliant, PHA does not make skin sensitive to the environment, especially the sun,” says celebrity aesthetician Nerida Joy. “This is appealing because people are finding their skin is more sensitive in general due to stronger actives in their products, and PHA can combat those side effects.”
Where To Find It: OTZI Multi-Acid Drip AHA/PHA Resurfacing Serum ($35)
Acid Name: Tranexamic Acid
What It Does: Tranexamic acid is one of the most talked-about acids as of late because “it noticeably improves skin discoloration and decreases pigment production in melanocytes, the skin cells that are hyperactive in melasma pigment production,” says New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD, who often recommends it for her patients with melasma.
What Makes It Different: “Originally used in cases of blood loss during open heart surgery, tranexamic acid is commonly used today to treat hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Russak. “Unlike skin-bleaching hydroquinone, it is safe for long periods of use—discuss it with a board-certified dermatologist first—and can be paired with other gentle acids, antioxidants like vitamin C, and SPF.”
Where To Find It: Naturium Tranexamic Topical Acid 5%, ($20)
Acid Name: Lactic Acid
What It Does: “Gentler than water-soluble glycolic acid, lactic acid draws moisture into the skin,” says Darden, explaining that it works amazingly on sensitive skin because it exfoliates and hydrates simultaneously. “It’s suitable for reactive skin types, and offers a beautiful glow.”
What Makes It Different: Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill has an important disclaimer: “Stay away from lactic acid if you have eczema-prone skin, as its exfoliating actives could potentially irritate the condition.”
Where To Find It: Repêchage One-Minute Exfoliating Mask ($38)
Acid Name: Fruit Acids
What It Does: Usually found in peels, masks and serums, “fruit acids—a form of AHAs—brighten the skin’s surface unlike any other acid,” Joy says. “However, they’re known to be the most irritating of all acids.” To avoid a skin reaction, she warns against using them alone. “They work well in a complex of acids, allowing different molecular weights and sizes to reside in a stable formula with multiple benefits.”
What Makes It Different: According to Dr. Longwill, fruit acids work on the outer layers of the dermis to reveal a new layer of skin for a brighter, smoother, more even-toned complexion.
Where To Find It: Native Atlas Zahara Rewind Tonic ($68)