Ever since I was a child, I loved to make people feel and look beautiful.

How to Add Acids Into Your Routine!

In one of our more recent blog posts, I referenced I wasn’t using a glycolic acid that I’ve had in my cabinet as much because I’ve added in a new retinoid to my routine. This made me realize that many of us are regularly changing up our skincare routines, like Cheeky, and it’s crucial to better understand how we should be incorporating acids into our regime so that we have beautiful and glowing skin. None of us want to experience dry and irritated skin because of acids. Acids can be an absolutely amazing to your skin & we don’t want any of us to overdo it.

Adding acids, using acids, lessening them in your routine, whatever the case may be, acids often seem like an intimidating subject to say the least. But when it comes down to it, using them properly can actually be the best way to maintain a beautiful, healthy glow. Unlike traditional exfoliators which are very different from acids, these acids are gonna rely on different more gentle chemical compounds to get rid of dead skin & all the good stuff that can be left on our face. By removing these impurities through the use of acids, we’re able to see a ton of benefits:

  • Smaller pores
  • Improved dark spots/melasma
  • Healthier looking skin
  • Less acne & blemishes
  • Dewy looking skin
  • Less wrinkles & fine lines

Though we’ve touched upon acids before in our blog, we’d still like to generally review what things really are whenever we retouch upon a subject. So let’s get after that first.

What Are Alpha & Beta Hydroxy Acids?

What Are Acids?

So what’s really interesting is that chemical exfoliators like acids are considered to be far more gentle on our skin than physical exfoliators. Whenever I think of a physical exfoliator, I always think of that old St. Ives Apricot Scrub that so many of us once used. That’s got the actual TEXTURE of an exfoliator & you almost feel the skin sloughing off. But with acids, they’re relying on less ‘work’ to theoretically break up even more buildup. Think of these exfoliators in two ways. We’ve got the alpha hydroxy acids (i.e. glycolic acid & lactic acid) and then we have the beta hydroxy acids (like salicylic acid). Both of these guys are able to dissolve whatever bond is attaching to your skin thus removing the impurities & making way for a clearer complexion.

Though AHA’s & BHA’s are pretty similar, there is a very evident difference.

  • AHA’s are considered water soluable so they work on the surface of the skin.
  • BHA’s are oil soluable so they can penetrate into pores at a deeper level.

How To ‘Layer’ Acids In

So this is the main point of our blog here. You can see that AHA’s and BHA’s are proven to do a great job at removing dirt & debris from our skin, BUT how and when we do it is key. With any acid use, you can expect some dryness & some ‘shedding’ of skin because that’s in theory what it does. It sucks up any bad stuff and spits it out. So when it comes to incorporating acids into your skincare routine, it’s almost TOO EASY to overdue it.

I wouldn’t personally recommend mixing BHA’s & AHA’s until you’ve got a handle on it. And even sometimes now, I don’t feel extremely comfortable layering (I actually shouldn’t be doing much layering because of my dry skin type). However, like folks with acne…For example, you could mix a light cleanser that contains salicylic acid followed by a higher percentage glycolic toner. So you’re pulling out all the crap, then smoothing it away. See what I mean? It can work in your favor, but if you don’t suffer from acne, then mixing the two could create more havoc than good.

Or if you’re wanting to incorporate both for different issues, trying using them on different parts of your face – especially in mask form. For example, if you have combination skin, where the T-zone is oily and experiences large pores, but the cheeks are dry, experiment by applying a BHA exfoliant to the oily areas and an AHA exfoliant to the dry areas. This is what I’ve told many a Cheeky’s to do & you may remember that L’Oreal mask commercial where they have 3 masks on their face, all in different colors, doing different jobs.

1st rule of thumb…

Pairing exfoliating acids works wonders to decrease acne scars, brown spots, and fine lines.

2nd rule of thumb…

AHA’s are preferred for normal to dry skin, especially those with sun damage. Hence why I use the AHA, glycolic acid. BHA’s like salicylic acid are preferred for oily skin folks.

It is not recommended that folks with dry skin or sensitive skin MIX their BHA’s & AHA’s.

3rd rule of thumb…

AHA’s are more naturally calming for your skin. So it can be gentle enough for sensitive skin or folks with redness & rosacea.

4th rule of thumb…

Acids can come into a variety of forms. So don’t hesitate to play around. Maybe you’ve got acne issues… we would recommend using a cleanser with salicylic acid.

5th rule of thumb…

Maturing skin tends to benefit from mixing the two acids. However, if you do have maturing AND dry skin, I would be careful with how you do it.

6th rule of thumb…

When layering, you want to be sure to layer from thinnest to thickest.

7th rule of thumb…

If you’re going to layer, consider the pH levels. If you’re mixing them, start out with the lowest pH and then working into the highest so they don’t cancel each other out.

If your product label doesn’t mention the pH, you can pick  up a dip kit from your local drugstore to test your product’s pH.

8th rule of thumb…(one of my favorites to always remember) 

As you add more acids into your routine, the drier it will become. So if you’ve got acne and all the sudden you’re layering on salicylic acids to ‘dry’ out the skin which many of us may think is helpful, your skin will actually start to create more oil. Which will then send us into a downward spiral of more acne & drier skin. Yuck! No one wants that.

9th rule of thumb…

Regardless of how you use acids, it’s crucial that you use sunscreen every single day. (SPF 30+, broadband UVA & UVB protection, zinc-based)

10th rule of thumb…

If you use acids in the winter time, you may notice that your skin is even drier than usual. Amp up the moisturizer & use a humidifier at night.

Above all else, slowly but surely layer & ease into your AHA & BHA use. I personally used the glycolic acid 1-3 times a week, Sunday Riley’s, Good Genes. But now that I’m using the GloPro & a new retinoid, I’ve committed to using just once a week.

Our Favorite BHA’s, AHA’s & Combinations!

BHA’s (think oily skin)

SkinCeuticals Priming Toner 

Avene Exfoliating Cream 

Psoriasis sufferers loved this!

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Paula Choice’s #1 seller worldwide.

AHA’s (think dry, maturing skin)

Sunday Riley Good Genes

Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser

DERMADoctor KP Double Duty AHA Moisturizing Therapy 

A pair of moisturizing body lotions with alpha hydroxy acid for dry skin and keratosis pilaris.


Herbivore Blue Tansy

I’ve personally used this before & I really liked it, but it was a little too drying for me.

Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial

Images provided by their respective brands.

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