Let’s Do Acid
Not that kind of acid, you crazy kid! I’m talking about skincare and the natural acids that benefit your skin. Emphasis on natural: While synthetic versions are found everywhere, they’re not nearly as safe nor gentle as their organic, non-toxic counterparts. I think it’s crazy that we’re creating super potent, synthetically engineered versions of already very potent natural acids. These hyper-concentrated acids are particularly harsh on sensitive skin and can cause unwanted skin sensitivities. In fact, the FDA has linked the use of synthetic acids to an increased risk for skin cancer.
Yet as you’ll see, not all acids are what we associate with brutal chemical peels (and, thereafter, brutal sun burns). Some, in fact, can be really hydrating and gentle. Below, I’ve detailed out some of my favorites – and where to find them, naturally.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)
What they are: Often found in foods, this group of acids includes citric acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid, to name a few.
What they do: AHAs are commonly key ingredients in anti-aging skincare products because they encourage cell turnover and are impressive natural exfoliators, hence producing smoother, more “youthful”-looking complexions.
Where to find them naturally: In flowers like hibiscus; in milk (lactic acid) and in fruits like papaya (glycolic acid).
Skin Cleanse Papaya Exfoliant; Photo by Chaunte Vaughn
Beta-hydroxy acid (BHA)
What it is: Commonly known as salicylic acid, which is perhaps the most popular ingredient for treating acne.
What is does: It helps break up dead skin cells, thus acting as an exfoliator and de-clogging pores. It’s also anti-inflammatory, making it gentler than AHAs.
Where to find it naturally: Fresh berries, particularly strawberries and raspberries, and turmeric.
What it is: Lauric acid ups the confusion level by being both a fat and an acid. It’s technically a saturated fatty acid.
What it does: Deeply hydrating, lauric acid is also anti-microbial, meaning it’s good for treating acne and killing bacteria as well.
Raw, Unrefined Coconut Oil
What it is: A glycosaminoglycan (say that ten times fast), which is a molecule mostly made up of sugars and found in connective tissues throughout our body.
What it does: Hyaluronic acid is renowned for its impressive ability to moisturize and “plump up” the skin. In fact, research shows that a gram of hyaluronic acid can hold up to 6 LITERS of water. Our bodies naturally contain hyaluronic acid in places like our joints, tissues, and eyes, and our production of it gradually slows down as we age. Hence, the development and the increasing popularity of anti-aging serums and treatments like Restylane, which feature bioengineered versions of hyaluronic acid.
Where to find it naturally: I’m not one for injectables, so I recommend up-ing your intake in foods rich in magnesium, since we need it to synthesize hyaluronic acid. Chow down on foods like like spinach, chard, plant seeds, and avocado. Also – dark chocolate!