When we were growing up, skincare never used to be such a complex thing. Now, it’s full of products that we can’t spell or pronounce. So what do these mean and what do they do?

Since The Ordinary was launched by Deciem in 2017, we’ve been introduced to more products that sound like chemical equations that we know what to do with (literally). All of these products sound intriguingly sophisticated and one would assume that you’re putting a science experiment on your face. However, they do also sound like they work. But what exactly do they do? We found out.

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(1/4) The thought of introducing acids into a skincare regimen can leave many people feeling apprehensive – especially when combined with (what some may say is) far too many options ?. We want you to feel as comfortable as possible when determining which products are best for your skin's needs and we really want to help you to understand which products you might need, and which ones you definitely don't. If this too-long for Instagram caption (across our next three posts) doesn't cover your questions/concerns about acids then we would be overly happy and excited to chat further with you in the comments.⁣ ?⁣ ⁣⁣ Chemical exfoliation, also known as chemical peeling, can be defined as the removal of dead skin cells and the promotion of cell turnover, thereby improving the appearance of aging lines and skin texture. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are two main classes of hydroxy acids that are commonly used as chemical exfoliants. AHAs are water-soluble and target the ionic bonding between epidermal cells in the stratum corneum, stimulating their exfoliation. BHAs are lipid-soluble, facilitating their ability to penetrate the skin surface via the sebaceous follicles and making them suitable for blemish-prone skin.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ ‼️ When beginning to use direct acids: 1) Patch Test 2) Don't use them with other direct acids, retinoids or pure Vitamin C 3) Make sure you're avoiding unprotected solar exposure always and using acids in the evenings only, ideally and 4) Don't apply acids to peeling, compromised, sensitive or broken skin. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ While exfoliating acids can result in quick visible benefits, we generally suggest indirect forms of skin exfoliation in favour of direct forms due to the potential inflammation and sensitivity associated with acid use. Please refer to NIOD's Non-Acid Acid Precursor as an option for indirect exfoliation.

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Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha Lipoic Acid is known for it’s highly potent antioxidant traits, stronger than both Vitamin C and E together. It can restore a renewed skin appearance which visibly improves the skin’s texture and tone. This particular type of acid is immensely sensitive to sunlight and so is recommended to use at nighttime only and merely a few nights a week, this means that The Ordinary’s 30ml bottle lasts longer than you’d expect. It’s soluble in both oil and water which means it can be absorbed really well and results can be seen after the first usage.

Amino Acid

Amino Acid offers a non-greasy, hydrating support for the maintenance of healthy, functioning skin. This concentrated solution includes Amino Acids and Amino Acid derivatives creating a combined total concentration of 17%. This resembles the composition of Amino Acids found in the skin’s own Natural Moisturising Factors and provides enhanced barrier support, elasticity, osmotic balance and desquamation. The formulation of The Ordinary’s Amino Acids +B5 also includes a 5% concentration of D-Panthenol which is a pro-vitamin of Vitamin B5 to provide surface and below-surface hydration while aiding in skin repair and anti-irritant functions.

Ascorbic Acid

The Ordinary’s 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder offers a wide range of favours to the skin and is a good option for those looking for brighter skin and to stimulate collagen production. It contains two of the most potent brightening agents in skincare: pure Vitamin C and Alpha Arbutin, which are both solubilised in a completely water-free environment for ideal stability. The perfect solution for brightening skin and reducing dark spots and uneven skin tone.

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid is an alpha hydroxyl acid that exfoliates the skin. It helps to improve the appearance of scars and blemishes. The Oridnary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution offers mild exfoliation for improved skin radiance and visible clarity. It also improves the skin’s texture with continued use. This formula contains a studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. This derivative is of plant origin and varies in colour seasonally and this colour variation may be apparent in the formula from time to time. The formula is further supported with inclusion of ginseng root and aloe vera for both visible radiance and soothing benefits.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic Acid (HA) can attract up to 1,000 times its weight in water and offers multi-depth hydration and visible plumping without drawing water out of the skin solely to improve temporary surface hydration. The molecular size of HA determines its depth of delivery in the skin. This formulation combines low, medium and high-molecular weight HA, as well as a next-generation HA crosspolymer at a combined concentration of 2% for multi-depth hydration. This system is supported with the addition of Vitamin B5 which also enhances surface hydration. This formula uses three forms of HA with varying molecular weights, as well as an HA crosspolymer.

Lactic Acid

Lactic Acid is an alpha hydroxyl acid that exfoliates the skin. The Ordinary’s 5% formulation offers very mild exfoliation and is supported with a purified Tasmanian Pepperberry known to reduce signs of inflammation and sensitivity that is often associated with exfoliation. This formula contains a studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. This derivative is of plant origin and varies in colour seasonally and this colour variation may be apparent in the formula from time to time.

Mandelic Acid

The Ordinary’s Mandelic Acid 10% + HA offers a superficial dermal-style peeling that is gentler than other alpha hydroxy acids. The molecular weight of mandelic acid is larger than other alpha hydroxy. This larger size allows mandelic acid to penetrate the skin more slowly which in turn makes it very gentle and suitable for all skin types including the most sensitive skin. You don’t need a concentration of more than 10%, because then you would simply be achieving an indirect peeling strength that is more easily offered through lower percentages of glycolic acid.

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic Acid, you’ve probably heard of this one. It’s an acid that is great for acne-prone skin. It is a beta hydroxyl acid that exfoliates your face wherever you place it. The Ordinary’s 2% treatment solution helps exfoliate the inside walls of pores to fight the appearance of blemishes and for better visible skin clarity with continued use.