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Best Starter Acids For Beginners

If you’re a skincare newbie, you’ve probably been alarmed by people recommending the use of acids on your face—a fair concern, considering a non-skincare-enthusiast’s first thought associated with the word “acid” is likely something along the lines of harsh chemical, hydrochloric, and/or hazard.

But believe it or not, acids can actually be one of the most important things you incorporate into your skincare routine! They’re often used for chemical exfoliation, which helps increase cell turnover rate to reveal brighter, smoother, more supple skin, and also to help keep acne at bay by dissolving dead skin buildup.

To keep it simple since there are so many types of acids in the skincare realm, we’ll be talking about two main categories: alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs for short) are acids that target the outer layer of the skin, whereas beta hydroxy acids (BHAs for short) go a little deeper into the skin to unclog pores and minimize excess sebum.

So how do you know which one to use? Think about the benefits you want for your skin! If you’re looking to brighten your skin, refine your skin texture, and maybe even stimulate collagen production, reach for an AHA. If you need something that can help treat acne and prevent future acne formation, a BHA would likely be a better choice. (Of course, there are AHAs such as glycolic acid and lactic acid that can help with surface level acne aside other benefits, but BHAs such as salicylic acid are the most popular ingredients for targeting acne specifically.)

If these acids still sound scary to you, we won’t judge! The amazing thing about Asian Beauty is the gentleness of many of their products, and we think you’ll be able to find a suitable starter acid in our curated selection! To make it easier for you, we’re breaking down some of our favorite gentle acids and the benefits they deliver (and trust us, there are a lot of benefits)!

CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

CosRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

CosRX is known for their acne-fighting products, and one of the KBeauty community’s cult favorites is their BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. Remember what we said earlier about how BHAs are pore-unclogging machines? Yeah, this one does exactly that!

It contains betaine salicylate as its BHA, which is a combination of betaine (a gentle moisturizing ingredient) and salicylic acid (once again, arguably the most popular acne-fighting exfoliant)! Betaine salicylate is a much gentler form of salicylic acid, so if you have sensitive skin, you won’t need to worry about irritation or over exfoliation.

A keystone of KBeauty is to not strip the skin, but to replenish it after gently but effectively exfoliating it, and CosRX sticks to this philosophy flawlessly. CosRX goes the extra mile by making sure the BHA Blackhead Power Liquid doesn’t just chemically exfoliate the skin, but moisturizes and soothes it too! The formula includes willow bark water, which soothes the skin and delivers antioxidants, as well as moisturizers and humectants such as betaine (in its original form), niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate, and panthenol.

There’s a reason so many swear by this specific chemical exfoliator, and if you’re skeptical of acids, this one will make you see the light!

23.5°N Pineapple Exfoliating Nightly Concentrate

23.5°N Pineapple Exfoliating Nightly Concentrate

So you know how when you eat pineapples, your tongue feels all prickly and weird? That’s because pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which is literally digesting the protein on your tongue. Yes, your pineapple is EATING YOU BACK! Sounds like the plot of a low-budget, satirical horror movie; kinda terrifying, kinda cool!

But what happens when you put bromelain-rich pineapple extract on skin? It gently exfoliates away dead skin cells and buildup! (No tingly feeling, we promise.) And even better, pineapple extract is packed with Vitamin C and AHAs, so it helps dull skin achieve a brighter, more even toned complexion, as well as refining skin texture!

For these reasons, anyone struggling with rough skin texture should definitely check out 23.5°N’s Pineapple Exfoliating Nightly Concentrate! The pineapple extract in this concentrate is naturally farmed from Minxiong Township in Chiayi County, Taiwan. If you don’t know, Taiwan’s pineapples are renowned for their quality and are considered some of the best pineapples in the world!

Needless to say, 23.5°N’s Pineapple Exfoliating Nightly Concentrate contains cream-of-the-crop pineapple extract to deliver jaw-dropping smoothing results Facetune only wishes it could emulate. To top it all off, this gentle chemical exfoliant also includes sodium hyaluronate to enhance hydration and radiance.

AM+PM Total Brightening Renewal Treatment Mandelic Acid 5%

AM+PM Total Brightening Renewal Treatment Mandelic Acid 5%

If you want to target dark spots and uneven skin tone specifically, but don’t want to risk irritated skin from overly harsh acids, you need to check out AM+PM’s Total Brightening Renewal Treatment Mandelic Acid 5%. Mandelic acid is far more gentle than most other AHAs since its molecular size is large, meaning that it can’t penetrate too deeply or quickly into the skin. Even then, it’s still extremely effective and our go-to for weakened, dull skin. It not only brightens the skin, but even strengthens it and smooths it out!

It borrows the hyperpigmentation-fighting powers of tranexamic acid and niacinamide too, which work together to target skin discoloration in different ways. With the Total Brightening Renewal Treatment Mandelic Acid 5%, you’re getting a gentle but potent exfoliator that both diminishes dark spots and evens out your skin tone. Not to mention, it also features Vitamins B3, B5, and hyaluronic acid to replenish moisture and plump the skin. Everything about this treatment is a win-win!

Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Green Tea

Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Green Tea

Because variety is the spice of life, we wanna spill the tea about this physical AND chemical exfoliator: Neogen’s Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Green Tea! Unlike the aforementioned products, this one is unique in that it comes with 30 single-use pads soaked in a chemical exfoliator. The pads, which are dual-textured and designed for ease of application, serve to slough off dead skin cells from the surface layer, while the AHA-rich formula chemically exfoliates to renew and smooth skin. We can’t help but spotlight glycolic acid and lactic acid, both superstar AHAs that are gentle yet effective in removing dead skin cells, boosting collagen production, and even moisturizing the skin!

And let’s not forget about the green tea and centella asiatica in this serum! Green tea helps minimize the appearance of pores while delivering potent antioxidants to the skin, but its main function in this exfoliator is to act as an anti-inflammatory and moisturizing agent. Centella asiatica extract is, of course, the soothing and protective hero of our fantasies. Combine both with the skincare communities’ most beloved AHAs, and you’ll get a serum that not only promotes skin renewal, but overall skin health as well!

Final Thoughts

Everyone’s skin tolerates different types, amounts, and frequency of acids! Make sure that you incorporate acids slowly into your routine so you don’t overwhelm your skin. (This is especially important if your skin is sensitive! We know it’s tempting, but no need to rush when it comes to skincare acids.) Over time, as you get a better sense of what your skin can handle, you can increase the frequency of application or concentration of acids to your skin’s liking.

Wishing you skin renewal, brightening, smoothing, firming, and more in your skincare journey!