Ferulic acid. Hyaluronic acid. Lactic acid. Salicylic acid. Sometimes it can seem like we’re in chemistry class rather than browsing the skin care aisle looking for a good serum. It’s easy to assume that all acids are pretty much the same, but they’re not. And knowing the differences between the acids used in skin care is essential for targeting complexion concerns.

It is true that acids are common ingredients in beauty products because they help improve skin. Dr. Vermén M Verallo-Rowell, founder of VMV Hypoallergenics, explains that skin care acids induce necrosis of cells, aka cell turnover. This causes older cells to shed and new ones to quickly grow below, thus improving the texture of skin. But different acids target specific skin care concerns depending on the molecular size of the acid and its strength. Some target fine lines and wrinkles, while…

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