Acids in detail

In my previous skincare post, I went into detail on my full routine but I got many questions, even on IG, on these deep-seated issues. Clogged pores, pigmentation, fine lines...there really isn’t one single product I can offer you. My recommendation for you might not even suit your skin till you’ve tried it.

I personally tried a dozen bunch of acids before settling on a few that really worked. I’ve also had those that worked beautifully on me until they didn’t.

I love acids and actives. I do. My relationship for this potent combination is pure love. The heights they can truly bring your skin to is just amazing. 

But they can only performed their best when used appropriately and in the right manner. 

Pigmentation, scarring, freckles, uneven skin tone, fine lines and the list goes on. These are the main issues that most women wanna target and correct.

It gets frustrating when you purchase a gazillion amount of expensive serums and lotions that promises so much but u realize that nothing much has changed despite splurging on all these. Trust me, I KNOW. I’ve been there. When my skin was at it’s worse, I’ve tried my mother’s La Mer products, SKII, Albion, any expensive shit my poor student’s wallet can afford (I saved for LONG LONG time), I’ve tried them. 

Nothing changed until I started using acids. 

I don’t believe in using a particular brand of product for years cause your skin changes/adapts and get used to the product. This leads to a plateau and you will realize it isn’t performing as well anymore. Then it’s time for a change.

I also don’t believe in ‘organic’ or using a full range of only one brand. Nor do I believe in using only ‘expensive’ products (this is relative. For me, SKII is expensive. But if you’re a gazillionaire, then it’s probably not) It all depends on your skin. 

Before this develops into a full skincare rant, I just really wanna share more about acids/actives. But again, I know I’m naggy and repetitive, pls go ahead and read some of my old posts on especially if you’re new to these range and/or have sensitive skin.

Purging vs Reaction
• Patch-testing
Including acids in a routine (Layering!) 

Acids work because they exfoliate away dull, dead skin and gently remove discolourations over a period of time. Note the key words: over a period of time. 

Skin turnover is always approximately 4-6 weeks. It’s not 6 mins or 4 days. If you test a product and don’t see results in 2 weeks, give it some time, some gentler products with lesser concentration of actives might take a while as they are meant to be gentle. 

Maybe you’ve tried an acid before and it failed you. Maybe you purged horribly and it scarred your soul. Maybe you’ve tried it and NOTHING HAPPENED. Finding the right acid is like a trial and error problem sum. You gotta find one that’s Just Right. Don’t get into bed with the first one you meet and expect to fall head over heels in love with it. 

For me, my Holy Grail BHA, AHA, and even Vit C has changed multiple times over the years. Because as mentioned, your skin is super slutty. 

It gets used to one and then it gets Bored. So you gotta constantly switch it up and keep it on its toes. 

Now, let’s take a closer look at different skin problems. I tried to come up with everything I can think of. If you have this magical problem that I didn’t list down, pls comment below and I’ll try to look into it.

Blackheads - clogged pores
Acne/Pimples - active blemishes that either come to a head or are cystic
Hyperpigmentation - damage from sun/age/acne scars
Firmness - loss of elasticity due to (most likely) age
Wrinkles - fine lines
Uneven/Rough Texture - bumps, closed comedones trapped under skin

 Hydroxy Acids 

Also having the acronym HA, this is not to be confused with Hyaluronic acid/Sodium Hyaluronate that provides hydration and moisture to skin, hydroxy acids take several forms. Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) and, Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) 


 AHA performs its magic on the surface of your skin and it chemicals exfoliates it. The difference between this and using physical exfoliation is in the term itself. Using manual methods like scrubs can be too abrasive for skin and if you over do it, the gentle new skin beneath might get injured.
Chemically, it ‘dissolves’ the layer above and you actually just wash it off, therefore, remain gentle to the skin beneath. 

AHA works on issues on the surface of your skin so
• blemishes
• rough texture and bumps
• hyperpigmentation
• fine lines
• loss of firmness

It sounds almost magical, doesn’t it? 

AHA causes photosensitivity and can be highly irritating for certain skintypes. If you use AHA and don’t follow with a full spectrum sunscreen, the chances are you are causing more damage then before, increasing chances of pigmentation and aging of skin from sun damage. 

However, if you’re a sunscreen addict like me and have no issues with photosensitivity or irritation, AHA can be amazing. 

A common AHA is Glycolic Acid (and yes, the ever popular Pixi with its Glycolic toner is finally in SG) and other kinds of AHA are mandelic acid and lactic acid.

AHA has a common pH of about 4 and I find that it’s concentration work best between 5-10%. Anything lesser than that just has no effects. 

Popular AHA products include:
• Sunday Riley Good Genes
• Pixi Glycolic Tonic
• Dr Wu Renewal Serum with Mandelic Acid

PHA is a form of AHA and is less irritating. The gentle properties might be suitable for those with sensitive skin and those who don’t wanna incur your skin’s wrath can probably try this instead of AHA! 

Popular PHA products include: 
• CNP Peeling Boost
• Neostrata PHA 10


This is your clogged pores’ nightmare. Because it is oil-soluble, BHA has the ability to clear out blackheads and clogged pores, cleaning them out and preventing blemishes from happening because of them. This in turns, prevents scarring cause no acne cannot scar right lol I think the best part is that it’s antibacterial/anti-inflammatory!

Salicylic Acid is a common BHA and works best from 1-2% in concentration and around ~pH3! In Korea, however, SA is not used in products and a gentler option, Salicylate Betaine is used instead. If you’ve been a long term user of Salicylic Acid, you will find that the gentler option DOES NOTHING. Lol. I think it’d be good for beginners tho! 

Popular BHA products: 
• La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo+
• Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting BHA
• CosRx Blackhead Power Liquid (this is Salicylate Betaine!) 


Personally, i still can’t grasp the concept of how these two can work together simultaneously but my past experience has shown me that my skin ADORES it when a product has these two together. It just is the ultimate combo for me. It decongest my pores and removes all texture and gives me soft skin. But because of the combo and concentration to make it work, I really would advise you to definitely go light and patch test first before trying this. 

Popular AHA+BHA products:
• Uriage K18
• Skinceuticals Blemish + Age Serum

These two are my holy grails against cystic acne. I like using the B+A one as a overall daily prevention and in any case when a really persistent cystic acne (hormonal) manages to force its appearance, I tag-team and use Uriage K18 as a spot treatment. This is a no-fail treatment for me. BUT, I do know B+A doesn’t do much for Flo so really, it still depends on skintypes! 

Vitamin C

The Vitamin C I’m referring to here is LAA (L-Ascorbic Acid) and I’ll mention the other forms later. LAA is the most studied and the issue with it is that it is volatile af. Despite being super awesome at reducing fine lines, evening out skin tone, able to reduce UV damage and increase collagen production, it is SO sensitive. It oxidizes rapidly under light, heat and air. 

LAA works best around pH 2-3.5 and concentrations should be between 10-20%. Anything above 20% and absorption rate goes down so it’s quite pointless really. 

I keep my Vitamin C in the fridge, and even though it’s in a airtight, dark-colored dropper glass bottle, I wrap an additional layer of aluminium foil around it cause I’m #kiasu. 

There’s other forms of Vit C like MAP (Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate), and THDA (Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate) and so on but the one most widely studied with effective results is LAA. I’m not saying that the rest doesn’t work. Just that results may be Or that it takes longer for results to show.

I’ve actually started my first Vit C in a 20% conc and my skin hated it. Like it just got SUPER irritated and I was quite fearful for awhile. 

Then I started on a 10% conc and my skin was like, ‘oh okay. I got this’ then I tried a 15% conc for a week or two and it was still going good and I finally took out my 20% conc OST and my Skin LOVES IT.

I am so happy okay. So yes, I’m currently on the max. conc for Vitamin C and I’m sticking with it. Now pls, throw me some Vit C recommendations!!! 

Popular Vit C products (in order of conc.) 
• Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drops (5%) 
• Skinceuticals Serum 10 (10%) 
• Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Acid (15%) 
• Paula’s choice CQ15 Resist Super Booster (15%) 
• OST C20 (20%)

Ok! These are the more popular acids/actives that are widely advertised and talked about on the market so I just wanted to share smth more in-depth, esp. if you’ve never tried them before. 

For pH dependent products, pls read up on layering ok!! Don’t waste the product’s efficacy. I mean, you alr spent so much money right lol.