This article comes from a personal space. I recently got the opportunity to talk to many many women about their skin issues, some from the beauty industry and some from my everyday life. What made them tick, what were their concerns, and what were their holy grail products. Dinners and drinks turned into extensive discussions. A simple hello on Whatsapp turned into screenshot dosages of product use. Any conversation about skin drew in many other women with all of us sharing our stories.
At the end of it all, the answers we were looking for were all the same, how to get your skin to behave the best way it could. I hope these words help you in some way or the other, the questions you always wanted answered but didn't know where to start. This article is my journey, my insight from the conversations I had. So bring a snack, or your coffee, because you're going to be here for a while.
As we grow older, our skin starts losing moisture. Collagen production decreases by 10% every decade and this process starts once we turn 20.
About ten years ago, dermatologists started coming up with the advice of starting with an anti-aging routine by the time we turn 30. Due to the increase in pollution levels and our lifestyle, I personally feel it’s best to be safe rather than sorry. Because of the worsening environment around us, 25 is the new 30 when it comes to the skin aging process.
At 22, I never washed my face before I went to sleep. I think too many late nights at a Business school with early mornings contributed to that. But my skin was resilient back then.
Over time, I have had three bouts of insane acne that lasted for a year each time. They were red, inflamed, painful and confidence bashing. I also have a love hate relationship with the sun. I love a little color on my face, but my acne flares up and my face becomes red and angry every time I stay out too much.
When I was 25, I could use foundation without even putting on moisturiser and still glow like the sun. This has changed over the years and now this seems like a distant memory.
Physical exfoliation just doesn’t cut it for me anymore. With age, the amount of dead skin that builds up also increases because of which we start to lose that natural glow. (In our twenties, the skin's exfoliation process decreases by 28% as well, causing dead skin cells to accumulate and stick together for longer periods of time.)
Physical exfoliation is also not suitable for acne prone skin as it spreads the bacteria which does more harm than good. Our pore size increases with age which is a dead giveaway of our true age. But all is not lost.
When used the right way, acids help you keep that glow intact by deep cleaning your skin, removing the dead skin layer, targeting pigmentation and fine lines along with reducing pore size. It’s all about creating that perfect "cocktail" that your skin will drink right up happily.
After regular use, I find myself with baby soft skin which I can’t help but keep touching (yes, I know it’s a bad habit that I need to break).
Sounds like a one size fits all solution doesn’t it? Well it is, but the percentage use differs for different skin types. One drawback of regular acid use is that it can cause potential skin irritations and increase the skin's sensitivity to sun if not done right. So start slow, always use sun protection and test out the waters before diving into it.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids AHA aka The Skin Eroder
AHAs are found naturally occurring in raw milk. It helps slough away dead skin cells and targets pigmentation. Now you know the reason our grandmothers believed in those weekly milk baths.
Using a mild Lactic Acid solution (5%) with Hyaluronic Acid helps remove the dead skin as we sleep while HA ensures that we do not lose moisture. Lactic Acid is especially beneficial to all you guys out there who have sensitive and tired looking dehydrated skin.
Keep in mind though that all acids increase our skin’s sensitivity to the sun so always, always use sun protection when heading out. Some dermatologists recommend having sunscreen on even when indoors as the sunlight streaming in through your windows is also enough to cause sun damage.
Beta Hydroxy Acid BHA aka The Acne Buster
Beta Hydroxy Acid is the chemical term for our favorite kind of acid, Salicylic Acid. This was the ingredient common to all those acne fighting creams that we’ve all grown up using during our teen years to help with acne and congestion. BHA can get through the oil that clogs pores and helps normalize the lining of the pore that contributes to acne.
Salicylic Acid is an oil loving acid that loosens up the gunk in our pores and brings it to the surface. When used with AHA, it avoids formation of new acne and helps keep our skin clean.This is a must for acne prone skin because it also reduces pore size.
It’s mindful to note that the biggest cause for acne is open pores. The dirt from the environment and sebum produced by our skin gets trapped in these pores, blocks them and forms blackheads, whiteheads and acne.
Start with using BHA two to three times a week if you’re new to acid use and increase the frequency depending on how well your skin is reacting to it.
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution
Vitamin C, Citric Acid, my favourite kind of acid aka The Glow Giver
This is my holy grail, ride or die. My skin would not be what it is without Vitamin C. I have not gone without using it since the day I started my anti-aging routine.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that reduces pigmentation, decreases fine lines, brightens the skin, improves collagen production, reduces dryness caused by other acids, nullifies free radical damage that causes our skin to age, and makes your skin barrier stronger. If there is only one acid you want to add to your life, make it this one.
Your cell turnover increases when you incorporate Vitamin C into your routine. This means lesser dead skin, less dullness and overall glowy goddess skin. If you’re new to Vitamin C, start with 5% and build it upto 15% which is really when the true magic happens.
I tried to use a stable form of Vitamin C at 23% but it did not suit me. But that could also be because my skin is very sensitive.
Glycolic Acid aka The Skin Refiner
I have spoken to many many friends of mine and everyone of them with acne prone skin swears by glycolic acid as the first step in their skincare routines.
Derived from cane sugar, it has the smallest molecules in the group so it is able to penetrate skin deeply and easily, making it the most effective for treating fine lines, acne, blackheads, dullness, oiliness etc.
Glycolic acid is a mild exfoliant (from the AHA family) which helps improve the tone and texture of your overall skin and helps with texture irregularities. It dissolves the glue that holds your skin cells together and helps you slough away those dead skin cells. Got those tiny bumps on your forehead which you can’t classify as acne? Glycolic acid will bat that right out the park.
Glycolic acid also increases collagen production and draws water from the atmosphere. This keeps your skin plump and reducing the drying effect of salicylic acid.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution
Resveratrol and Ferulic Acid aka The Wrinkle Fighter
Resveratrol is found naturally occurring in black grapes and thus, red wine. (Drinking away to flawless skin is a wish that I hope were true). Our skin produces it in response to stress.
Ferulic Acid enhances the stability of Vitamin C and together they form an outstanding antioxidant which helps combat environmental and free radical damage caused to the skin.
Hyaluronic Acid aka The Thirst Quencher
As we age, we lose the bout of collagen production for our skin and the plump feeling. Wrinkles start creeping in and our face starts to look worn down. This is where Hyaluronic Acid steps in.
HA has the power to hold up to 10,000 times of moisture of its own weight. It makes your skin plump by filling in your wrinkles and maximizing collagen synthesis. Think of this as a big glass of water for your face. I feel that after Vitamin C, this is the most important asset to include in your skin care routine.
I also like to mix it into my hair serum and use it on damp hair to avoid frizziness.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2%+ B5
How I incorporate these assets into my skin care routine.
AHA: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5%+HA: 2-3 times a week
Glycolic acid: Every other day as a toner
Vitamin C: PCA Skin C-Quench Serum, every morning and evening
Resveratrol and Ferulic Acid: Once a day at night
AHA 30% BHA 2% Peel: Once a week
I always use a sheet mask after loading up my face with a Hyaluronic Acid based moisturiser on days I do the AHA BHA peel. I do not use anything else on my face that day.
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to acid exfoliation. You could use whichever acid you think your skin needs, whether you are in your 20's or your 50's. If anti-aging is your concern in your 20's, you could use AHA then. If you are still suffering from adult acne in your 50's, you could include salicylic acid in your routine. Figure out what combination of products is right for you.
If you are troubled by zits, adding in a product to enhance your glow won’t really matter until you can first correct the quality of your skin. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t go by beauty trends and opt for the hottest product on the market. It’s all about playing around and finding what it is that you need for that perfect flawless glass skin.
Listen to what your skin is telling you and use the products that best fit your need. Consistency is key, stick to a routine and your skin will thank you. Approximately four to six weeks into acid usage is when you start noticing remarkably visible results. This is not a sprint, it's a life long marathon and you will emerge as a winner in the end.