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! 


REVIEW: MŪN Skincare


The creation of MŪN Skincare (pronounced 'moon') was co-founded by makeup artist Munemi Imai a few years ago, and her passion for green living lead her to envisioning a natural line. While traveling and learning about ingredients, she had a remarkable experience with using Prickly Pair Oil while on a trip in Morocco, where MŪN sources this oil from a local co-op of women. 

The MŪN philosophy- to make a company that would do good from end to end - from the customer who uses the product and experiences better skin to the producers who use ethical practices to protect our environment and bring sustainable growth where it’s needed.

The line currently consists of five stellar products: cleanser, toner, serum, multipurpose oil, and a body serum. Every ingredient serves a purpose. There is a travel set available also, which is a great way to introduce these beautiful products into your routine. 

Travel Set, $75

Travel Set, $75


-Price: $60 for 3.38oz
-Texture & Smell: Milky serum texture, pleasant citrus smell (probably from the yuzu oil)
-Packaging: Opaque Black Glass with pump
-Ingredients: Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil* Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil* Aqua Camellia Oleifera (Camellia) Seed Oil* Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate Silica Silylate Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate Sodium Bis-Hydroxyethylglycinate Coco-Glucosides Crosspolymer Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Seed Oil Tocopherol (Non-GMO Vitamin E) Isopropyl Palmitate Citrus Junos (Yuzu) Oil *Certified Organic
-Review: I ADORE this cleanser, and it smells so lovely, you'll have a hard time wanting to rinse it off. Sometimes you find those cleansers that are so uplifting, this is one of them. The pH is slightly acidic, I tested it at about a 4.9. This dissolved even stubborn waterproof makeup easily. All skin types can use this- although it does leave the tiniest nourishing feel if you don't use a gentle muslin or washcloth. Perfect for a first cleanse for oily skin (or use a cloth with it) or as your one and done cleanse for normal to dry skin. This uses gentle cleansing agents derived from coconut in a base of soothing and nourishing antioxidant oils, truly a beautiful product.

 $65 for 3.38oz
-Texture & Smell: Liquid watery texture, rose scent (obviously!) which doesn't linger, dries quickly but leaves skin velvety soft.
-Packaging: Opaque Black Glass with misting top
-Ingredients: De-ionized Water, Rose Hydrosol* (Rose Water), Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice*, Maltodextrin, Opuntia Ficus-Indica (Prickly Pear) Stem Extract, Lycium Barbarum Fruit (Goji Berry) Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract*, Rosa Centifolia Flower Extract, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower Extract, Bellis Perennis (Daisy) Flower Extract, Lanthaan Gum, Vegetable Glycerin, Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzyl Alcohol**. *Certified ORGANIC **The Benzyl Alcohol is a naturally occurring ingredient derived from essential oils of Ylang Ylang and Jasmine. It is an aromatic alcohol that functions as a preservative, which is necessary for any product containing water and/or hydrosol to prevent mold, bacteria, and microbial growth.
-Review: This toner is a ph of 4.5, and it goes above and beyond your traditional rose toners and mists. Mun uses organic rose hydrosol as the second ingredient, but also includes many other hydrating, soothing and anti-aging ingredients like prickly pear and goji berry extracts (antioxidant), hyaluronic acid (hydration), and willow bark (a plant based gentle exfoliant). Hydrosols are very different from an essential oil which sometimes can be irritating for certain skin types, they have the same constituents but very different ratios. Since hydrosols are 99.95% water, they are safer than essential oils in regards to possible sensitivity. This does contain 3 flower extracts: Jasmine, Daisy and Rosa Centifolia, all which absolutely have skin benefits, but if you have strong allergies to flowers, do a patch test first.

Opuntia Ficus-Indica aka Prickly Pear!  (photo from

Opuntia Ficus-Indica aka Prickly Pear! (photo from

-Price: $95 for .68 fl oz
-Texture & Smell: Clear yellowish tint oil, light texture, hearty rose scent.
-Packaging: Opaque Black Glass with pump top
-Ingredients: Opuntia Ficus-Indica (Prickly Pear) Seed Oil*, Argania Spinosa Kernel (Argan) Oil*, Rosa Damascene Flower Oil*. *Certified Organic
-Review: This oil cocktail soaks in quickly, and leaves a beautiful finish on the skin. The rose scent does linger on the skin, so if you are a fan of rose, you'll adore this. Prickly Pear is an antioxidant oil rich in amino acids (boosts collagen), omegas, and vitamin K. Second is Argan oil, another antioxidant oil rich in lipids and fatty acids. The final ingredient is organic rose oil which gives this serum its scent. Mun uses an organic steam distilled rose oil sourced from Bulgaria, which is where the world's best rose oil comes from- and most likely which contributed to the cost of this product. There is research to show this high quality oil to have antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. I love this for under eyes also! 

-Price: $75 / 3.38oz
-Texture & Smell: This is an oil, but its very light and soaks in so fast- it doesn't leave the skin a bit greasy at all. Scent is herby
-Packaging: Opaque Black Glass with pump top
-Ingredients: Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil*, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Seed Oil, Rosa Moschata (Rosehip) Seed Oil*, Opuntia Ficus Indica (Prickly Pear) Seed Oil*, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil*, Boswellia Carterii (Frankincense) Oil,  Origanum Majorana (Marjoram) Oil*, Citrus Aurantium (Neroli) Oil*. *Certified Organic
-Review: The first five ingredients are powerhouse antioxidants with incredible soothing, repairing, anti-aging and hydrating properties which absolutely will improve the appearance of your skin. The last four ingredients are essential oils, which not only give this body serum it's amazing smell but have unique benefits for the skin. I like to apply products like this on slightly damp skin right our of the shower, skin feels very nourished after one use!

-Price: $70 / 6.76oz
-Texture & Smell: No noticeable scent.
-Packaging: Opaque Black Glass with pump top
-Ingredients: Just one! Organic Argan Oil sourced from Morocco
-Review: Argan oil contains multiple fatty acids, is a good source of vitamin E, and functions as an antioxidant. This could be used anywhere on the body to hydrate- including hands, face, or hair. Your skin will obviously benefit from more than a single ingredient, however this could be used as a top layer anywhere you need extra nourishment.


Anytime I see a brand on my instagram feed or in a magazine that I'm not familiar with, I'll immediately jump on their website and go straight towards the ingredient listing to see if there are any products worth looking into. More times then not, the initial excitement turns into disappointment - but oh how nice it is to be pleasantly surprised. After looking at a few of these products, my interest was piqued, and a sampler kit was ordered right away! 

TAHNYC (pronounced 'tonic') was started after the founder, Irene Barksy, had a myriad of skin issues. Irene explains: “It all really started after I found out that I unexpectedly developed a contact allergy to sesquiterpene lactones, parabens and the entire sunflower family, also knows as the Asteraceae or Compositae family which includes over 30,000 species of plants. I say unexpectedly, because I never experienced allergies as a child nor as an adult, then one day that changed. Among many of my internal symptoms, the reactions would leave my face covered in oozing painful pustules that would crack and continue to puss for days. So when I heard from my doctors with simple instructions, ‘remove all products that contained those allergens’, little did I know that that was the easy part. The allergic reactions left my skin sensitive and unable to tolerate fillers, slip agents and texture makers. Even after I removed all allergens from my skin, I found that my skin was still exceptionally reactive and not going back to ‘normal’. Being sensitive or reactive to additives in Skin Care is not so unusual, quite a large number of people who are tested are reactive or allergic to ingredients found in cosmetics. I realized then it wasn't about going back to normal, that would never happen, this was and still is, my new normal. I remember the moment TAHNYC began so clearly. I was standing in Whole Foods looking for a dish sponge, I picked up the Twist Naked Sponge and that's when you might say I lost it. ‘Wait, I can pick up a filler free sponge, I can get a filler free toothpaste, but I can't find filler free skin care!?!’ That was the moment that TAHNYC was born, after, of course I cried in the Whole Foods cleaning aisle.” (This excerpt is taken directly from their website,

And there you have it, from Irene's journey was born a gorgeous line of products with proven ingredients and without added fillers, fragrance, slip agents, parabens, or texture makers. This means every ingredient has a purpose. 

  • Samples are available, enough for about 4 to 5 uses. Products also come in .67 oz 'discovery sizes'  AND 1 oz full sizes. I wish all brands did this!
  • The serums have common similar ingredients, and I would confidently say any of them are good for all skin types. Oily or acne prone skin will love these, nothing will clog pores or let you feel greasy. Dry skin will get a boost of replenishing anti-aging ingredients all while calming and soothing. You can't pick the wrong one, although some are more geared towards aging skin.
  • I consider all of these products safe for the upper and lower eye area. 
  • TAHNYC also make powders, one silk powder and three shades of pearl powders. I didnt try these but they look fabulous.
  • Sets of serums for specific skin concerns are also available, which include two serums and an optional powder- and these also come in two sizes. The serums in the sets are actually slightly different formulas then the stand alone serums from my sampler kit, which I found a little confusing initially (!) since the ingredients in the sets are very similar to the other serums not in the set. If you are looking to fill a void in your routine, go with a stand alone serum, but if you want to try the line as a complete system, go with a set.
Photo taken from

Photo taken from

The sampler kit (shown above) included dropper style vials of 6 products:
Complex B: Concentrated Vitamin B5 Serum
Pure: Restoring Molecular Moisturizer
Contour: :Cellular Peptide Complex
Elemental:Gentle Hydration
Renew: Antiaging Collagen Complex
Translucent Jojoba: Organic Jojoba Oil

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Since these are truly great for any skin type, think about which ones to get based on age.
Teen to early twenties:  Elemental or Pure + Complex B
Early twenties to Early thirties: Pure + Renew + Complex B
Early thirties and up: Pure + Contour + Complex B

Complex B: Concentrated Vitamin B5 Serum
-Price: $36 (discovery size .67 oz) or $68 (full size 1 oz)
-Texture: waterlight, dries within seconds, no stickiness, very smooth feeling skin immediately
-Ingredients: aqua, panthenol, n-acetyl glucosamine, lactobacillus ferment,  tetrapeptide-21, glycerin, butylene glycol, acetyl tetrapeptide-40, caprylyl glycol, sodium hyaluronate, sodium pca.
-Benefits: Panthenol is a type of B vitamin pantothenic acid, excellent for attracting and holding moisture. N-acetyl glcosamine brightens, increases moisture AND is anti-aging. Lactobacillus ferment is antimicrobial and a skin conditioner. Two peptides for anti-aging. The glycols are skin conditioners. Glycerin is an awesome humectant. Pca hydrates and replenishes skin. Sodium Hyaluronate is a skin replenisher and skin restorer.

Pure: Restoring Molecular Moisturizer
-Price: $32 (discovery size .67 oz) or $58 (full size 1 oz)
-Texture: waterlight, dries within seconds, no stickiness, very smooth feeling skin immediately
-Ingredients: aqua, n-acetyl glucosamine, panthenol, niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate, lactobacillus ferment, sodium pca.
-Benefits: Similar to above, but without the peptides and the addition of niacinamide. Niacinamide is one of those 'does almost everything' ingredients, it's a form of vitamin B3, which can help pore size, plump wrinkles, and even out skin tone. 

Elemental: Gentle Hydration
-Price: $21 (discovery size .67oz) or $38 (full size 1 oz)
-Texture: waterlight, dries within seconds, no stickiness, very smooth feeling skin immediately
-Ingredients: aqua, panthenol,  n-acetyl glucosamine, sodium pca, lactobacillus ferment, acetyl tetrapeptide-40, caprylyl glycol, sodium hyaluronate
-Benefits: Very similar to B Complex but with a higher amount of sodium pca, so I would consider this more geared towards younger skin types that don't need as much anti-aging. 

Renew: Anti Aging Collagen Complex
-Price: $35 (discovery size .67oz) or $65 (full size 1oz)
-Texture: waterlight, dries within seconds, no stickiness, very smooth feeling skin immediately
-Ingredients: aqua, tetrapeptide-21, glycerin, butylene glycol, panthenol, lactobacillus ferment, tetradecyl aminobutyroylvalylaminobutyric urea trifluoroacetate,  palmitoyl tripeptide-5, palmitoyl dipeptide-5 diaminobutyroyl hydroxythreonine, palmitoyl dipeptide-6 diaminohydroxybutyrate , sodium pca
-Benefits: This is a multi peptide serum, five in total. Plus skin restoring and replenishing ingredients like the panthenol, glycerin, and sodium pca. Great anti-aging serum for fine lines, I especially love this for oily or acne skin types that still want anti-aging ingredients. 

Contour: Cellular Peptide Complex
-Price: $50 (discovery size .67oz) or $95 ( full size 1oz)
-Texture: waterlight, dries within seconds, no stickiness, very smooth feeling skin immediately
-Ingredients: aqua, acetyl hexapeptide-8,  glycerin, butylene glycol, carbomer,  polysorbate 20, palmitoyl oligopeptide,  palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, tetrapeptide-21, panthenol, tetrapeptide-30 . glycerin, n-acetyl glucosamine,  niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate,  lactobacillus ferment, acetyl hexapeptide-38, acetyl tetrapeptide-40, caprylyl glycol, sodium pca,  phenoxyethanol, potassium sorbate
-Benefits: This serum is a peptide powerhouse! Plus a dose of niacinamide and sodium hyaluronate. This is more suited for serious wrinkles and all signs of aging.

Translucent Jojoba: Organic Jojoba Oil
-Price: $20 (discovery size .67oz) or $38 (full size 1oz)
-Texture: Its the lightest oil, soaks in fast, leaves skin a little dewy. 
-Ingredients: Just one: Premium wildcrafted refined organic jojoba oil. 
-Benefits: Jojoba is rich in fatty acids, soothing, nourishing, and won't clog your pores. It's so lightweight. I would use this anywhere you need a little extra moisturizing protection. For us oily skin types, I love this under the eyes and over the lips.

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Final Thoughts
This is an amazing brand doing something really unique, and rarely am I able to say that every single product in the line is formulated beautifully.

With all of the actives we are using (retinoids, acids, etc) there is a place for a replenishing serum like these in anyone's skin type, not to mention those of you with very sensitive or highly reactive skin. Personally, I have very oily/acne prone/sensitive skin and have a hard time finding anti-aging and hydration in a liquid form, so these will become a mainstay in my routine. xx jm

GREEN BEAUTY: The Best Natural Exfoliants

Regular exfoliation is essential- and whether it's a manual scrub or a leave on acid, the days of your St Ives apricot scrub should be long gone. I've put together my favorites in all exfoliation categories, focusing on eco-friendly and clean beauty. 

You can read the full article on Garden Collage here!

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