REVIEW: Skin + Pharmacy


I live across the street from a CVS, so I'm in there almost every other day grabbing something or other. The other day in the skincare aisle, something caught my eye that I had never seen...a box of retinol wipes from Skin+Pharmacy. Turns out that they have their own in house brand of skincare. Who knew!

There is a wide array of offerings, even an acne kit. I picked a few items to get an idea of what they are all about. The prices are very affordable, and while it seems they aren't creating new innovative formulas, they are using tried and true ingredients commonly found in more many brands. The packaging leaves a lot to be desired, but if you can get past that there are some good items worth checking out, especially if you're on a budget.



  • Price: $14.99 for 20 pads
  • Packaging: These are 20 individually packaged pads.The wipe is a rectangle shape saturated in solution. Its large and saturated enough to do your face, neck, chest, and hands.
  • Texture & Smell: No scent, takes about 5 min to fully absorb.
  • Best for: Any skin type, great for skin new to retinols because of the amount of retinol (.15%)
  • How to use: Night only. Swipe onto clean skin, let dry. Proceed with serums/hydrating products. I recommend using retinols only 2 to 4 times a week but the amount of this is low enough to use nightly. However adjust your skin to it first before using every night. This is a starter retinol because of the low strength.
  • Pros: This is an affordable way to add retinol to your routine a few nights a week. Well rounded formula with humectants, antioxidants, and skin soothing ingredients. CVS has a generous return policy if you didnt love.
  • Cons: Theres one pad per packet, so this ends up being a lot of wasteful packaging. Good for travel I suppose! Only available at CVS stores or CVS online (us shipping only)
  • Full Ingredient list: Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Dipropylene Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Diphenylsiloxy Phenyl Trimethicone, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ribose, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Bisabolol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Squalane, Retinol, Caffeine, Methyl Methacrylate/ Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Polysorbate 20, Xanthan Gum, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Disodium EDTA, BHT, Sodium Hydroxide, Propyl Gallate, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Ethylhexylglycerin.


  • Price: $19.99 for 20 pads
  • Packaging: These are 20 individually packaged pads. The wipe is a rectangle shape saturated in solution. Its large and saturated enough to do your face, neck, chest, and hands.
  • Texture & Smell: No scent, takes about 5 min to fully absorb.
  • Best for: All skin types except very sensitive should use with caution. Acids can be an ideal way to exfoliate a few times a week but test on a small area first.
  • How to use: Night only. Swipe onto clean skin, let dry. Proceed with serums/hydrating products. I recommend using acids only 3 to 4 times per week. For rough textured areas, can be used nightly until desired results. 
  • Pros: This is an 8% glycolic, an ideal amount. Also contains a humectant and some skin soothing ingredients. I tested the pH to be around 3.2
  • Cons: Theres one pad per packet, so this ends up being a lot of wasteful packaging. Only available at CVS stores or CVS online (us shipping only). Witch hazel and orange flower water could be mildly irritating for some.
  • Full Ingredient list: Water, Glycolic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Methyl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Glycerin Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Water, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Lauryl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Xanthan Gum, Benzoic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin


  • Price: $21.99 for .5oz
  • Packaging: Opaque white plastic qqueeze tube with screw off cap.
  • Texture & Smell: No scent, creamy, soaks in fast, satin finish.
  • Best for: Any skin type wanting improvement in fine lines, texture, or tone under the eyes. Products can help discoloration due to pigmentation but not help discoloration due to veins.
  • How to use: Night only, after cleansing/toning. The amount of retinol is low enough to use nightly, but get your skin used to this first by only using every other night.
  • Pros: Price, Hydrating formula with some antioxidants and.15% retinol.
  • Cons: May have mild sensitivity the first few times you use, just like with most retinols. Only available at CVS stores or CVS online (us shipping only).
  • Full Ingredient list: Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, C10-30 Cholesterol/Lanosterol Esters, Cetyl Ricinoleate, Dimethicone, Polysorbate 60, DEA Cetyl Phosphate, Methyl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Phytonadione, Stearic Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Retinol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Ascorbic Acid, Bisabolol,Cyclopentasiloxane, Triethanolamine, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, PEG-10 Soy Sterol, Cyclohexasiloxane, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, BHT, Propyl Gallate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol


  • Price: $21.99 for 1oz
  • Packaging: Opaque silver hard bottle (possibly glass?) with white pump and clear plastic cap
  • Texture & Smell: No scent, light lotion texture, stays slightly moist for about 3 min.
  • Best for: Normal to dry skin looking for a retinol based brightening for mild pigmentation, will even out skin tone.
  • How to use: Night only. Use after cleansing and toning, can apply richer moisture over if needed.
  • Pros: Price. Great formula with .15% retinol, kojic acid, and a few antioxidants.
  • Cons: Only available at CVS stores or CVS online (us shipping only). 
  • Full Ingredient list: Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Ceteary Alcohol, C10-30 Cholesterol/Lanosterol Esters, PEG-100 Stearate, cetyl Ricinoleate, Cetyl Alcohol , Dimenthicone, Polysorbate 60, Cetyl Phosphate, Benzyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Kojic Dipalmitate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclohexasiloxane, Ascorbic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbyl palmitate, Retinol, Bisabolol, PEg-10 Soy Sterol, Polysorbate 20, Methl Methacrylayte/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer  , BHT, Disodium EDTA, Trithanolamine  , Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Phenoxyethanol, Propyl Gallate


 \  ˈē-ˌthäs \ 
1. the fundamental character or spirit of a culture; theunderlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices ofa group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period: in the Greek ethos the individual was highly valued.
2. the character or disposition of a community, group, person, etc.

I'd like to use this space to share a little about myself, my career, my ethos. Most of my clients know me very well, but you may not (so, hello new friends!) 

Being a teenager dealing with problematic skin was probably the time where my interest in all things skin+beauty had started to develop. In 2001 I went to esthetics school to train and receive my license from the Aveda Institute in downtown Manhattan. While I was fortunate to get a job at a well known spa right away, I continued my education in esthetics - and after a few years of experience and multiple certifications in advanced skin treatments I was able to start working with some of the best plastic surgeons and dermatologists in New York City. It was at each of these different spas and medical practices where I've trained with many different skin care lines; learning extensively about products, ingredients, facial techniques and protocols. Over time you get to see firsthand what works and what doesn't and that, is a big part of how I customize effective treatment plans for my clients. In addition to performing treatments at the office, a big part of my job is knowing whats on the shelves at Sephora, continuing education, staying current with new trends and technology at our industry trade shows, and giving my clients email access to me anytime for their skincare needs aside from their visits. I'm busy, but also very grateful to be in a career I deeply enjoy.  

It took a while for me to get involved in social media, it just wasn't a priority for me. I didn't even have a website until about 2 years ago. After having friends, family, and clients always asking about my thoughts on a specific product or needing treatment recommendations - I finally figured that social media could be a great way to 'save' information and share it with them. It's also been a really fun way to connect with other estheticians and skin care aficionados around the world! I'm not a blogger with a great camera, or a gifted writer, I'm just an esthetician who cares a lot about people and helping them with their skin. 

Whether writing about a treatment or a product line in this blog area or on my instagram, I'd like to share how that works. Most products I review are because I want to use and try them, so I purchase them myself at full retail price. If theres a lot of items from a specific brand I'm interested in, I'll ask if they will let me buy a few things wholesale. Some products I get complementary at trade shows or events, and sometimes a brand will reach out and ask me if I'm interested in trying anything. I subscribe to almost all the beauty and skin sampler subscription boxes too! First and foremost I read and analyze the ingredient list before anything else. Then I take into consideration the packaging components and product claims. Finally, I have my own little system of how I will test products on my own skin which usually starts with only half my face so I can compare what I'm testing to products I know work really well for me. And then it eventually makes it to a blog post or my social feed and sometimes my treatment room. 

I have never been paid to review or endorse any product on my social media or blog.  I have never been paid for my quotes or comments in press or when I'm on other brands social media channels. I don't use affiliate links, I don't use a PR company, nor do I have an agent or manager. I'm not against any of those things whatsoever, but if and when that ever happens, it will of course be with a brand, company or product I really love - and I will be transparent about it. 


Aside from all things skincare, I'm an amateur birdwatcher, ambitious traveler, and wear a 7 1/2 in flats, but an 8 in heels.


Thank you for reading! xx

REVIEW: Acid Exfoliators

On this page you'll find reviews of popular (and not so popular) acid exfoliators. It will be periodically updated with more reviews and also if ingredient lists change. I am not and have not ever been compensated in any way from these brands, nor do I use affiliate links. This post features products from the following brands: 

  • Paula's Choice Skincare
  • Biologique Recherche
  • Skin Medica
  • The Ordinary 
  • First Aid Beauty
  • Drunk Elephant
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Paula's Choice Acid Exfoliators

I've been using the Resist Daily Pore-Refining Treatment With 2% BHA consistently for at least 5 years. It's a lightweight liquid which dries quickly and is a personal holy grail exfoliant product for my oily/acne prone skin. This fragrance-free liquid has the addition of antioxidants, hydrators, and peptides to make it a brilliant all in one formula. Most nights I use this and an eye cream and I'm done! I like the texture and formula of this much more than the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA liquid, which on my skin feels too shiny and doesn't dry as fast. This brand also makes a myriad of liquids, gels, lotions, foams and weekly peels of BHA in 1% to 4% and AHA formulas in 5% to 10%, all of which are excellent. As mentioned above, normal to dry skin try the AHA formulas and for oily/acne prone try the BHA, or a combo of layering or alternating a BHA and AHA formula. pH 3.4

Resist Daily Pore Refining Treatment with 2% BHA: Water (Aqua), Dipropylene Glycol, Salicylic Acid, Pentylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid, Oleanolic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Trehalose, Panthenol, Glycerin, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Sodium Metabisulfite, PEG/PPG-18/4 Copolyme, Methyl Gluceth-20, Bis-PEG-18 Methyl Ether Dimethyl Silane, Glycereth-26, Sodium Hydroxide, Carbomer, Disodium EDTA, Caprylyl Glycol.

Biologique Recherche Acid Exfoliators

BR has multiple p50 formulas and refers to their acids as "lotions" but they are liquid textures. These amazing formulas have achieved cult status for good reason, they use multiple forms of AHA acids and each formula has a multitude of beneficial ingredients targeted to specific concerns.  I go through phases with using these because they do have a specific smell, and while it does eventually dissipate, sometimes I'm just overly sensitive to it. All but one of the formulas (the p50 Pigm 400) come in two versions: with phenol and without. I'm not a fan of the phenol formulas, there is too much risk vs reward and I would recommend the phenol free versions instead. I'll list the full ingredients lists below regardless. One of my favorite blogs has done a thorough explanation of phenol here. For those that always ask me why I don't carry BR at my office, I've tried contacting them many times LOL. BR does not advertise the exact percentages of each AHA acid used, but the ingredient list should give you a general idea of the strength, my assumption is they range from 5% to 12%. They also don't use the US FDA drug label for the inclusion of salicylic acid so it's possible the sal acid strength is below .5%. I will update this if I can find more information about the sal acid percentage. Anyway, here's a handy guide to the multiple versions of p50 available in the US.

Lotion P50 - for normal  and normal to oily skin
Lotion P50V - for dehydrated or dry skin
Lotion P50W - for sensitive skin
Lotion P50 PIGM 400 - for lightening and brightening

Lotion p50: Water (Aqua), Gluconolactone, Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Citric Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Chloride, Malic Acid, Vinegar (Acetum), Phytic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Cochlearia Armoracia (Horseradish) Root Extract, Arctium Lappa Root (Burdock Root) Extract, Rumex Acetosa Leaf Extract, Myrtus Communis Extract, Commiphora Myrrha Resin Extract, Allium Cepa (Onion) Bulb Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf Oil, Sulfur, Sorbitol, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate.

Lotion p50V: Water (Aqua), Gluconolactone, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Niacinamide, Lactic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Vinegar (Acetum), Magnesium Chloride, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Phytic Acid, Spongilla Lacustris Spicule Extract, Yeast Extract (Faex Extract), Cochlearia Armoracia (Horseradish) Root Extract, Capsicum Frutescens Fruit Extract, Juglans Regia (Walnut) Seed Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Sulfur, Sodium Salicylate, Salicylic Acid, Sorbitol, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Metabisulfite, Sodium Benzoate.

Lotion p50 W: Water (Aqua), Gluconolactone, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Propylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Chloride, Malic Acid, Vinegar (Acetum), Phytic Acid, Citric Acid, Quillaja Saponaria Bark Extract, Cochlearia Armoracia (Horseradish) Root Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Capsicum Frutescens Fruit Extract, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Sulfur, Allantoin, Sodium Salicylate, Serine, Urea, Sorbitol, TEA-Lactate, Sodium Lactate, Sodium Benzoate.

Lotion p50 Pigm 400: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Niacinamide, Sodium Gluconate, Lactic Acid, Sodium Lactate, Lactobacillus/Wasabia Japonica Root Ferment Extract, Magnesium Chloride, Mandelic Acid, Phytic Acid, Citric Acid, Gluconolactone, Magnesium Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, Palmaria Palmata Extract, Levulinic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Salicylate, Spiraea Ulmaria Extract, Vinegar (Acetum), Sodium Levulinate, Phenoxyethanol, Alcohol Denat., Microcitrus Australasica Fruit Extract, Prunus Persica (Peach) Leaf Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ascorbic Acid, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract.

Lotion p50 1970 (WITH PHENOL) Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Phenol, Niacinamide, Vinegar (Acetum), Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Chloride, Lactic Acid, Arctium Lappa Root (Burdock Root) Extract, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Sulfur.

Lotion p50V 1970 (WITH PHENOL)  Water, Glycerin, Phenol, Lactic Acid, Magnesium Chloride, Vinegar (Acetum), Niacinamide, Salicylic Acid, Sodium Benzoate

Lotion p50 W 1970 (WITH PHENOL) I couldn't find an exact ingredient list but this does contain Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid, phytic acid, Niacinamide, vinegar(with phenol), Burdock Extract, Panama Wood Extract, Cider Vinegar, Sulphur, NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor), Magnesium Chloride, Vitamin B3 (or PP), Horseradish, Capsicum, Arnica Extract. (If you have an ingredient list, lmk so I can update and give you credit!)

Skin Medica GlyPro

Skin Medica is one of my favorite brands, their retinols and unique anti-aging cocktails are also brilliant formulas. While they don't reveal the exact acid content, the acid used is glycolic and its most likely around a 10%. This is a fragrance-free serum formula that dry or oily skin could use, leaves skin soft, not sticky or too drying, and the inclusion of antioxidants and soothing ingredients make it a top pick. pH 3.8
Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycolic Acid, Glycerin, Isononyl Isononanoate, Phenyl Trimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide, Bis-Hydroxyethoxypropyl Dimethicone, C14-22 Alcohols, C12-20 Alkyl Glucoside, Butylene Glycol, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Punica Granatum Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract,  Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract,  Stevia Rebaudiana Leaf/Stem Extract, Sodium PCA, Urea, Trehalose,  Polyquaternium-51,  Sodium Hyaluronate, Xanthan Gum, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ceteareth-33, Mannitol, Cyclodextrin, Yeast Extract  (Faex  Extract), Disodium Succinate, Olea Europaea (Olive) Leaf Extract, Polysilicone-11, Lecithin, Polyacrylate-13, Polyisobutene, Polysorbate 20, Hexylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Triacetin,  Ammonium Hydroxide, Disodium EDTA, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbet.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Drunk Elephant has become one of my favorite brands, and is one of the few lines where I really love every product. This is one of the few acids that uses a cocktail of 12% AHA and 1% BHA. This has been another staple in my routine for years, and it's my go to recommendation for my clients who prefer more eco-friendly natural products. The serum texture isn't sticky- it dries fast with no residue. and the inclusion of skin soothers and antioxidants are what makes this formula another favorite acid product for all skin types.  pH 3.80  Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Rubyus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Buddleja Davidii Meristem Cell Culture, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Allantoin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Galactoarabinan, Propanediol, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Sodium Nitrate, Potassium Sorbate, Pentylene Glycol, Sodium Benzoate

Glossier The Solution

Glossier makes some excellent makeup and skincare, and while I haven't tried everything in the line, I did really like the Milky Jelly Cleanser, the serums, and the masks. When I first took a look at the ingredients, it was great to see niacinamide, glycerin and aloe but surprising to see sodium hydroxide as the second ingredient as I hadn't seen it this high on an ingredient list before. Ingredient knowledge is part of my job, but I needed more resources and information about the science and chemistry behind how this potentially irritating ingredient can be used when combined with acids. I contacted two friends in the world of cosmetic chemistry and science to get more info and resources and my conclusion is that the irritation component is mostly, if not all neutralized. This formula isn't fragrance-free, and while I prefer fragrance free with acids - I don't feel the minimal amount is cause for concern unless you have highly reactive skin and in that case you probably aren't messing around with acids anyway. I used this for a few weeks with no irritation whatsoever, but my skin does better with a higher amount of BHA. This waterlight acid is a 10% acid combo of AHA (lactic and glycolic) and PHA (gluconolacctone) along with a tiny amount of BHA (.5% salicylic) making it good for normal to dry or slightly oily skin.  pH 3.6-3.8 Active: Salicylic Acid 0.5%. Inactive: Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Gluconolactone, Propanediol, Ethoxydiglycol, Magnesium Chloride, Glycereth-7 Trimethyl Ether, Niacinamide, Betaine, Inositol, Citric Acid, Glycerin, Phytic Acid, Pentylene Glycol, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Fragrance, PEG-8, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Acetic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide.


First Aid Beauty Resurfacing Liquid 10% AHA with Skin Saver Complex

This brand keeps putting out some beautifully formulated products, I've repurchased the Daily Face cleanser many times! This is a frangrace free 10% AHA blend (Glycolic Acid, Malic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Lactic Acid) and dries quickly with a non-sticky smooth finish. This is a stand out formula for me due to the inclusion of so many skin soothers, ceramides and antioxidants. Great for all skin types, but acne prone may want to add in a BHA. pH 3.9 to 4 Water, Polysorbate 80, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sodium Hydroxide, Malic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Lactic Acid, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Extract, Colloidal Oatmeal, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Hydrolyzed Elastin, Papain, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Soluble Collagen, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Triolein, Ceramide NP, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Morus Alba Bark Extract, Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Allantoin, Lecithin, Lysolecithin, Oleic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Maltodextrin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Tocopherol, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Linoleic Acid, Sclerotium Gum, Xanthan Gum, Pullulan, Mica, Stearic Acid, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Silica, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin, Disodium EDTA.


The Ordinairy Exfoliating Acid Formulas

New product launches from the company behind the Ordinary (Deciem) get me excited! I recommend their retinoids and Vitamin C's often. You've probably heard about them by now, as their low prices make the products accessible to even the most budget conscious. I bought most of the line to try when they first launched and since there is a new Deciem store in my neighborhood, it's easy for me to go play with new products (looking forward to the upcoming mandelic acid solution). They have a good assortment of acids to choose from in multiple strengths along with a stronger at home peel. 

  • Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution. Some people do fine with fragrance and some don't. If fragrance doesn't bother your skin (this has a lot of rosewater) then this is a beautiful formula with humectants and antioxidants in a waterlight liquid. Great for normal to dry skin. pH 3.6 Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Rosa damascena flower water, Centaurea cyanus flower water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Propanediol, Glycerin, Triethanolamine, Aminomethyl Propanol, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Aspartic Acid, Alanine, Glycine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Glutamic Acid, Arginine, PCA, Sodium PCA, Sodium Lactate, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Hexyl Nicotinate, Dextrin, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Gellan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
  • Salicylic Acid 2% Solution This is best when used on small areas that get congested or spot treatment as opposed to the whole face because witch hazel water can be drying and its a basic formula. This is a fragrance free serum/gel texture, but use a tiny amount otherwise it can stay tacky. pH 3.6 Aqua (Water), Hamamelis Virginiana Leaf Water, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Polysorbate 20, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Ethoxydiglycol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
  • Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% It's hard to find over the counter products with Azelaic acid, so I liked seeing this being offered among the acid range. This texture is a gel cream and dries to a soft texture with a similar feel of a makeup primer. This is another product I would apply in affected areas instead of the whole face. Perfect for sensitive acne skin types who need something gentler or different than benzoyl peroxide or for areas of rosacea. pH 4.7 Aqua (Water), Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Dimethicone, Azelaic Acid, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysilicone-11, Isohexadecane, Tocopherol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Isoceteth-20, Polysorbate 60, Triethanolamine, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
  • Lactic Acid 5% + HA and Lactic Acid 10% + HA. The ingredient list for both formulas are almost identical, with one being 5% Lactic and the other having 10% Lactic. This fragrance-free non-sticky combo of lactic acid, an anti-irritant, humectants, and sodium hyaluronate is ideal for dry skin. Start with the 5%, but if you have rough texture areas you may need to bump up to the 10% formula. pH 4 Aqua (Water), Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Propanediol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Isoceteth-20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
  • AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution. This is one of the best at home peeling solutions out there with a combo of 30% AHA (Glycolic/Lactic/Tartaric/Citric) + 2% BHA  plus the addition of aloe, hyaluronic acid, and anti-irritants. I recommend weekly (or every other week) peels like this one if you don't use acids regularly. This is great for sun-damaged skin, rough textures, and for fading acne marks. pH 3.6 Glycolic Acid, Aqua (Water), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Daucus Carota Sativa Extract, Propanediol, Cocamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Salicylic Acid, Potassium Citrate, Lactic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Panthenol, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Xanthan gum, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.


THE 101: Acid Exfoliation


Hello! If you follow me on Instagram or are one of my clients (thank you, I appreciate you!) then you also probably hear me talk about acid exfoliation often because it should be an essential for almost everyone. I've always gotten a lot of questions about how, when and why to exfoliate, so lets talk acids!  If you want to skip to my acid exfoliator reviews, click here. 


Why should I exfoliate?

Removing built up skin and increasing cell turnover is part of keeping skin looking fresh and smooth. Our skin does this to some extent naturally, but as we get older along with so many types of environmental damage, the skin's natural ability of shedding these cells slows down. Exfoliating helps in preventing clogged pores and breakouts, evens out skin tone, improves texture, reduces signs of aging like fine lines and lets your other skincare products work even better since they will have less of a barrier to get through. 

How exactly does an acid work?

Simply put, acids dissolve the 'glue' or the bonds that hold dead skin cells together. This act of breaking down these bonds promotes exfoliation at varying depths. For my technical science friends that love chemistry and want references, check this out from one of my favorite blogs.

Which type of acid should I use?

Acids can be naturally occurring, or be synthetically made. I personally think both are equally effective. If you prefer to use organic or eco-friendly products, there are absolutely acid brands in that category too! Depending on your skin type, and your skin goals, you'll want to look for products with specific acids. All skin types will benefit from AHA's and PHAs but oily and acne prone skin should use AHA and BHA, or just BHA. Experiment and see what works best for you! There are dozens of acids, but I'm going to go into detail about the most commonly found acids.

Glycolic Acid: Gycolic is the most researched and most common AHA found in acid exfoliators. It's water soluble and hydrophilic so even though it has some degreasing properties, it mostly stays away from the lining of hair follicles and pores. This a great acid for all signs of aging and normal to oily or normal to dry skin. Because of the very small molecular structure of glycolic, it also can sometimes result in inflammation on sensitive skin types. Very sensitive skin may do better with acids that have larger molecules, like lactic acid, polyhydroxy acid, or salicylic acid.

Lactic Acid: Lactic is another popular AHA, but has a larger molecular structure than glycolic which means it penetrates into your skin slower and therefore resulting in less of a chance of inflammation if you have sensitive skin. Lactic has shown to have antimicrobial benefits and inhibit tyrosinase production (which means its helpful in reducing pigmentation). This acid also functions as a humectant, making it ideal for normal to dry skin but beneficial for all skin types

Mandelic Acid: Mandelic, an AHA, has been growing in popularity. I've seen it used primarily in Asian Beauty brands for years, but recently have seen it in US brand formulations. This acid has potent antioxidant properties and is fat soluble with antibacterial properties making it great for normal to oily skin prone to breakouts.

Malic Acid: Malic, another AHA, is found in some fruits and veggies (most commonly in apples) which is why its commonly referred to as a 'fruit acid.' I see this acid often in more eco-friendly brands since its easily derived from natural sources. Malic has shown to be somewhat less effective then other AHA's so its usually combined with other acids. Its humectant properties make is great for normal to dry skin.

Azelaic Acid: This belongs to an acid group called dicarboxylic acids. Not only does it have exfoliating and antibacterial properties, but it's also shown to have antioxidant activity. Working with doctors, I have seen firsthand the miracles that azelaic acid topical prescription products have had on stubborn acne and rosacea. This is a great alternative for skin that is allergic to benzoyl peroxide. I've seen it in non-rx formulas up to 14%, and expect more formulas to start using this acid.

Salicylic Acid: Salicylic is in the BHA (beta hydroxy acid) group. It's oil soluble and lipophilic, meaning it can exfoliate in your actual pores. There are similar ingredients to sal acid, like betaine salicylate that work similarly. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties makes this ideal for oily, acne prone skin types. 

Gluconolactone: This PHA (polyhydroxy acid) is part of the newer exfoliating acids and has been shown to have humectant and antibacterial properties. This is ideal for all skin types, but the larger molecular structure makes it less irritating than glycolic and worth considering for skin types that are sensitive or are on retinoids.

Other Acids :There are even more exfoliating acids in the world of skincare. Tricholocetic acid (or TCA)  and retinoic acids are used in many peels that I perform at my office, but rarely seen in leave-on acid exfoliators available to consumers. Lipohydroxy acid is a derivative of salicylic acid that has a slow penetration, but I believe it's exclusive to L'Oreal brands. Tartaric acid is another 'fruit acid' naturally found in grapes. I don't see it in many products but its considered an AHA and has antioxidant properties.

How do I use an exfoliating acid? 

Acids can come in all forms of skincare: cleansers, toners, serums, creams, or masks. I recommend using them in leave-on form since cleanser doesn't stay on your skin long enough to really exfoliate. I personally prefer acids in liquid form (serums or toners) because I find them easier to incorporate into my skincare, however you can experiment with an acid in a lotion or cream- it's really your preference. Generally lighter texture products are ideal for oily skin but any skin type can use them. Cream and lotions with acids work best for normal to dry skin. Depending on what issues you are treating and the concentration of the acids will determine how often to use it. Apply your exfoliant after you cleanse and tone. Then apply hydrating products if needed. Even though I recommend using acids at night, acid exfoliation will make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so SUNSCREEN IS MANDATORY :)

How often should I be using an acid exfoliator?

Acids with a concentration from 2% to 10% can be used daily (preferably at night) or every other night. Acids above that can be used one to three times a week. If you are thinking "Jordana, please, you're lucky if I wash my face most nights" and can't commit to adding an acid to your routine, try an over the counter peel twice a month or see an esthetician or a dermatologist for a peel! 

Who shouldn't use an acid?

If you have very sensitive skin, highly reactive skin, and/or a lot of allergies, then patch test your acid first. If you are on accutane or prescription retinoids, you probably won't need an acid exfoliant, but you can try mild formula once or twice a week. When my clients are on non-prescription retinoids, I'll usually have them use mild acid exfoliants on the nights they don't use their retinoid. I recommend getting your skin used to either a retinoid or the acid before using both. Don't apply acids over irritated skin, or active herpes/cold sores near or on the mouth. Avoid eyelids but you can experiment with using under your eyes, just stop about half inch from the lower lid. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, ask your doctor if you should use acids. I feel most are totally safe but it's best to go over that with your doc.

How I patch test: Apply the product to one side of your lower face, near your lower ear/ jawline. Don't apply any other products over it when you patch test. Give it 24 hours to monitor for any reactions. Tingling sensations can be normal, but should subside within minutes. If all looks well after that 24 hour period, then try on your entire face. 

What acid exfoliators do you recommend? 

Reviews can be found here. Happy exfoliating!