What are the active acids in face creams and body lotions


What is the role of all the ingredients in your jar of night cream and that bottle of hand and body lotion? How do glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid and all the other acids added to skin products improve skin? Are these ingredients harmful? What are the natural substitutes that can be used for skin care routines at home?

The jar and tube of night cream and body lotion, on my bedside table, are part of my nightly, before going to bed, routine. I have been using the cream and lotion with some wondrous results, for years now. I have known the chemical names (albeit vaguely) mentioned in their compositions, but didn't (not until last night) wonder what each of them does.



All skincare products have certain acids listed under ingredients. But, how these ingredients benefit different skin types was not known to me. And so I took it upon myself to get educated and better understand the purpose of these elements present in skin care products.



I did a bit of research, and here is what I found –

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid is a common ingredient in skin care products. It is derived from plants, mostly sugar cane, and belongs to a category of active compounds, known as Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs). It penetrates the layers of skin and treats various skin problems. It benefits the skin in many ways –

It helps to smoothen out fine lines making skin appear younger. It revives patchy and dull skin and gives the skin a glow. And it also combats oily skin and prevents enlarged pores and the formation of blackheads and acne. Glycolic acid also reduces scars and spots and lessens pigmentation. It improves skin elasticity and makes it soft and supple.

It is known to enhance collagen production and is added in small doses to moisturisers, night creams, toners and peel off masks. It is used in chemical peels procedures carried out by professionals in skincare clinics.

Sugarcane juice is good for the skin

Since glycolic acid is found in sugarcane, using raw organic sugar in beauty treatments, at home, can have a similar effect as glycolic acid peel done in a skin clinic.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid is often referred to as 'nature's moisturiser', is naturally present in practically all the cells in the human body. It is present in abundance in the skin and connective tissues, like the cartilage. It is a humectant, having the ability to attract and retain moisture.

The acid can draw moisture from the atmosphere and keep the skin soft and moisturised. Its moisture retaining property makes it an ideal ingredient in anti-ageing creams and heavy moisturising lotions.

Creams and lotions with hyaluronic acid with help keep the skin moisturised and supple and prevent dryness, flaking of skin and fine lines and wrinkles.

Night cream to rejuvenate skin

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is an active ingredient in a pimple and acne face washes and creams. It prevents the formation of pimples, acne and blackheads. Regular use of anti-acne creams with salicylic acid as its main component will show a reduction in acne and other skin breakouts.

It also controls excessive sebum production and prevents excessive oiliness. It is an excellent exfoliator, with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. It hinders the growth of acne-causing bacteria.

Anyone suffering from skin breakouts will find products containing salicylic acid beneficial.

Tomatoes are rich in the acid and using them on the skin can have remarkable results.

Tomatoes are excellent skin toners

Ascorbic Acid

Skin products with Ascorbic acids are rich in vitamin C, for that is what the acid is. It is added to skin products meant for skin lightening. It dulls darks spots and brightens the skin tone. Ascorbic acid lessens fine lines and combats free radicals, preventing them from damaging the skin.

However, it is suitable for all skin types as it provides equally wonderful results on oily, dry or combination skins.

Lactic Acid

Another common ingredient in skincare products, lactic acid is derived from milk. It is mild on the skin, and while nourishing it, reduces fine lines and hyperpigmentation. It is also an excellent exfoliating and cleansing agent that removes dead skin cells and grime. Skin care products with lactic acid are ideal for sensitive skin types.

Milk can be used for a beauty regimen. Lactic acid is present in buttermilk, yoghurt and other dairy products. Cleansing the face and neck with a cotton swab dipped in milk can have the same effect as a commercially available product with a lactic acid. It is safe and easily available and can be used repeatedly, without fear of skin damage. Buttermilk, curd and milk can also be added to face packs.

Citric Acid

Face products such as sunscreens, face washes, masks, packs etc., with orange or lemon extracts are rich in citric acid. It works much the same way as vitamin C or ascorbic acid. It is a good toner and removes impurities from the skin. It tightens pores and prevents the formation of blackheads and acne. It also removes tan, acne scars, and other dark spots and patches, leaving an even toned skin.

Since citric acid comes from citric foods you can use the juice of citrus fruits directly on problem areas. Topical application of lime, lemon, grapefruit or orange juice is an age-old home remedy for brightening the skin. The juice can be added to honey or sandalwood powder before applying to the face. Lime and lemon juice must be diluted in rosewater or regular water before using on skin.

Limes dull dark spots and pigmentation

Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid has a similar effect on skin as lactic acid and glycolic acid but is not as harsh as the latter. Therefore, it can be used on all types of skin, without any side-effects.

It nourishes the skin and acts as a mild exfoliation agent. Mandelic acid is found in almonds, especially the bitter variety.

Tartaric Acid

Commonly found in fruits such as grapes, tartaric acid has healing properties. It acts as an anti-ageing agent, delays fine lines and wrinkles, dulls age spots and improves skin elasticity.

Black grapes make an excellent face mask

Tartaric Acid is present in bananas and grapes, which makes sense to use these fruits in your skincare routine. Simply mash some grapes or a small piece of banana and apply on skin. Leave it for 15-20 minutes, before washing off. Since fruits are natural, they do not cause an adverse reaction on the skin.

Bananas make a good face pack

Malic Acid

Skin products containing Malic Acid are suitable for oily skin. The acid is gentle on the skin, yet strong enough to unclog pores and remove dirt, grime and sebum collected there. It also improves collagen production and helps skin retain its youthful look.

It keeps the skin healthy and prevents blackheads and acne.

Apples are naturally rich in malic acid. Grated apple can be applied as a facemask to promote collagen production and healthy skin. Alternatively, diluted apple cider can be used to boost collagen and improve skin elasticity.



Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is present in almost all skin care products meant for acne. It is known for its antibacterial and ant inflammation property. It is easily absorbed into the skin and works at decreasing inflammation and killing acne-causing bacteria. Regular use of products containing azelaic acid will show excellent results.

It frees the skin of acne, leaving it unblemished and clear.

All these acids have a tremendous capacity to regenerate the surface layers of the skin, making it youthful and blemish free.


Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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