The words hyaluronic, salicylic and glycolic acid may ring a bell. But what are these skincare acids, should you be using it for your skin, and can you tell one from the other? This nifty guide will have you shopping online beauty sites and drugstore aisles like a pro

Citric acid

Best for: sloughing off dead skin cells, acne-prone and sun damaged-skin

Citric acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) – a water-soluble acid made from sugary fruits that  peels away the surface of your skin to make way for new skin cells – derived from citrus fruits. The antioxidant-rich acid is good for young adults who want to prevent premature ageing. If you do have acne-prone or sun-damaged skin, this acid exfoliates it to brighten spots. It’s worth noting that citric acid is mild and less acidic than other AHAs.


Hyaluronic acid

Best for: hydrating and plumping skin

This acid is naturally present in the body, and is known to hold over 1,000 times its own weight in water. You are probably the most familiar with this acid if you have had lip fillers. It’s ideal for ageing skin as it improves the appearance of fine lines and softens the area while plumping it.


Glycolic acid

Best for: improving the appearance of spots, scars and wrinkles

This is an AHA and is commonly used in peels, toners and exfoliants as it penetrates deep into the skin and shrinks pores. It may be a bit harsh on sensitive skin, however, you can slowly introduce it into your skin care routine by using a small concentration of the acid.


Lactic acid

Best for: sensitive skin and wrinkles

This naturally-occurring substance is found in milk, contains AHAs, and is less harsh on the skin. The acid exfoliates skin, fills out fine lines and wrinkles and is ideal for those with sensitive skin types. It is also known to be more moisturising than glycolic acid.


Malic acid

Best for: collagen production and hyperpigmentation

Naturally derived from apples, this acid is the least known of the commonly used skincare ingredients. Since it’s an AHA, it encourages skin turnover rate and promotes collagen production. The acid is also known to reduce the production of melanin, helping to prevent and improve hyperpigmentation over time.


Salicylic acid

Best for: clogged pores and acne

Salicylic acid (also known as BHA – Beta hydroxy acid) is an exfoliant that penetrates deep into the skin’s layers to unclog pored and get rid of dead skin cells, dirt and excess oil. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory agent and commonly found in spot gels and acne treatments. Salicylic acid also evens out your skin tone over time, and can be quite effective on rosacea.