adult breakouts

5 mins read

Hydroxy Acids Explained & The Benefits for Your Skin

<span>Want to know the secret to achieving healthy glowing skin? In this blog we will be taking you through what hydroxy acids are, how they benefit the skin and the difference between alpha and beta.</span>

Glycolic Cleanser petri dish article header

Hydroxy Acids Explained & The Benefits for Your Skin

adult breakouts

5 mins read

Want to know the secret to achieving healthy glowing skin? In this blog we will be taking you through what hydroxy acids are, how they benefit the skin and the difference between alpha and beta.

What are Hydroxy Acids?

Hydroxy acids are a group of chemical exfoliants that dissolve the glue-like bonds between skin cells to leave the skin smoother, brighter and softer. These acids can be either naturally occurring or synthetic and have been used widely in skin care products. Hydroxy acids are also used in Dermalogica’s professional resurfacing products and chemical peel, Pro Power Peel.

The two types of hydroxy acids we are going to look at in this blog are Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs).

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

AHA’s are water soluble and are used for their amazing skin benefits as well as their exfoliating properties. Some of these benefits include improving the barrier of the skin, reducing cell build up and inhibiting acne causing bacteria, moisture retaining and hydrating qualities, brightening and evening skin tone and promoting the synthesis of collagen (the support structure of our skin).

Alpha Hydroxy Acids can either be synthetic or naturally occurring. Here are some commonly used AHAs and where they derive from:

  • Lactic Acid - Milk and Sugars
  • Glycolic Acid - Sugars
  • Citric Acid - Citrus fruits, Corn
  • Phytic Acid - Rice
  • Tartaric Acid - Grapes
  • Mandelic Acid - Bitter almonds
  • Malic Acid - Apples

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

BHA’s are lipophilic, (oil loving) this enables the acid to penetrate blackheads and exfoliate in the pores. Salicylic acid is a very popular BHA as it acts like a corkscrew, diving down into pores to clear impactions. Water soluble AHAs are less effective at getting through blackheads and congestion. Dermalogica highly recommends products containing Salicylic Acid when treating breakouts and blackheads.

Common Questions Around Hydroxy Acids

Now we know more about the two main types of hydroxy acids we use at Dermalogica, lets bust some myths regarding these highly efficacious ingredients.

Is Glycolic Acid more the more beneficial AHA to use?

Unfortunately, people often equate irritation with efficacy, and because Glycolic Acid has a smaller molecular size, which causes more irritation, people tend to believe this means it’s “working.” When it comes to acids, pain does not equal gain.

Is the higher percentage strength more efficacious?

Product potency is not based solely on the percentage of the acid in the product, although of course this does have some bearing. Product pH, and individual acid strength will determine the potency of the product. The overall formula and additional ingredients included will also affect efficacy.

Should I apply SPF after using Hydroxy Acids?

Exfoliation can leave the skin a little sun sensitive, so make sure you are sun safe by using a broad-spectrum SPF daily.

Incorporating Hydroxy Acids into Your Skincare Routine

The benefits sound great right? So how do we incorporate hydroxy acids into our daily regimen?


This is where we ensure the skin is thoroughly clean using our double cleansing technique and the inclusion of regular exfoliation to encourage cell renewal and healthy skin function.

Daily Glycolic Cleanser - Dermalogica’s daily brightening cleanser with Glycolic Acid for dull skin which helps remove build-up caused by environmental factors. The gel texture lightly foams and conditions the skin for a radiant, healthy-looking skin. 

Skin Resurfacing Cleanser - A two-in-one cleanser and exfoliant. 5% Lactic Acid concentrate helps retexturise skin, brighten and even skin tone. A creamy cleanser that is perfect for drier, ageing skins.

Clearing Skin Wash - Foaming, clearing wash with Salicylic Acid, that stimulates natural exfoliation to help clear clogged follicles and smooth away dullness. Clearing Skin Wash is the go to cleanser for adult breakout prone skin.

Rapid Reveal Peel - Dermalogica’s most powerful at home exfoliant. A unique complex of phytoactive AHA extracts, Lactic Acid and fermented plant enzymes helps reveal new, firmer skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This powerful exfoliant is a great choice for ageing skin when cell turnover naturally slows down.

Daily Microfoliant - Ensure skin is kept smooth everyday with Dermalogica’s most gentle exfoliant. A great choice for all skin including sensitive. The rice bran powder-based formula releases actives including Phytic and Salicylic Acids upon contact with water.  


Is where we layer hydration and actives to target specific skin concerns, and/or target specific areas such as the eyes. We typically use serums or masques here.

Retinol Clearing Oil - Salicylic Acid and Retinol have been brought together in one formula that tackles adult breakouts and ageing at the same time in a lightweight oil base. 

Age Bright Clearing Serum - A light weight serum containing Salicylic Acid to prevent and treat adult breakouts whilst evening out skin tone and fighting ageing concerns. Age Bright Clearing Serum is a great choice for AM and PM use and for those who are unable to use retinol products.


This is application of a moisturiser and SPF during the daytime to keep skin hydrated and glowing and protected from the elements.

It is important after using hydroxy acids to keep the skin protected and hydrated with moisturisers and a broad-spectrum SPF.

Please note: If you use medically prescribed exfoliating products, ask your doctor before adding more to your regimen so you don’t compromise your skin.  

Finding an exfoliant that best fits your skin, lifestyle and personal preferences can be a game changer for any regimen, but it is important to choose a product which is right for you. Start by booking a professional Face Mapping skin analysis with your Dermalogica skin therapist. We offer this free service either virtually in the comfort of your own home or at one of our retail or flagship stores.

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