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What Are AHAs and Why Should You Use Them If You Want Glowing Skin?

It helps with texture, tone, and more.
What Are AHAs and Why Should You Use Them If You Want Glowing Skin?
IMAGE Brands
ILLUSTRATOR Bacs Arcebal
It helps with texture, tone, and more.

If you’re after bright, smooth, and glowing skin, then alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) could be the missing piece in your routine. From exfoliating dead skin cells, providing hydration, to pushing your skin to create more collagen, this category of acids addresses any skin concern that has to do with tone and texture.

Thing is, AHAs come in different shapes and sizes, and you need to pick the right one to make the most of it. No idea what to use? Don't fret. If you scroll ahead, you'll find 10 products, grouped into the different types of AHAs, that will target your biggest skin woes.

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For Mature Skin: Glycolic Acid

Although we can’t go back in time and age backwards, there are products out there that could achieve practically the same effect. Enter, glycolic acid.

Glycolic acid is the most common type of AHA, as it is made from a widely available plant—sugar cane. Thanks to its moisture-drawing properties and ability to accelerate cell renewal, it is an effective treatment for those with dry, textured skin. While it's definitely one of the strongest acids out there, it works double-time to fade dark spots and other types of hyperpigmentation quickly and effectively.

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Try:

Pixi Glow Tonic

This community favorite toner works to exfoliate and purify the skin for a brighter and younger-looking complexion. Next to glycolic acid, its ingredients include ginseng, which improves blood circulation, and aloe vera, which soothes and hydrates thirsty skin. If you’re looking for an all-in-one and beginner-friendly AHA, try this!

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Glow Tonic, P1050, PIXI, Lazada

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution 

The Ordinary's take on a glycolic acid delivers improved skin radiance with its potent formula. Containing a Tasmanian pepperberry derivative, aloe, and ginseng, it also actively reduce irritation associated with the use of the acid. Limit the use of this product in the nighttime and only once per day for best results and minimum stinging!

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Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, P1030, THE ORDINARY, Lazada

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Ole Henriksen Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner

We definitely can’t complete a round-up without a special mention to this Preview Beauty Award-winner: the Ole Henriksen Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner. This product leaves your skin bright and smooth due to its potent mix of glycolic and lactic acid. Plus, it contains witch hazel water to refine and tighten the skin, and a sweet, addictive lemon scent that will leave you hooked after one swipe. 

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Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner, P970, OLE HENRIKSEN, Sephora

For Dry, Sensitive, Acne-prone Skin: Lactic Acid

Lactic acid has similar benefits to glycolic acid, but it is widely considered as a gentler alternative to the former. This is because of its comparatively larger molecule size to other AHAs, making it unable to penetrate too deeply into the skin. But wait, there’s more: it also has humectant properties like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, whch means it attracts moisture to the skin.

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Try:

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment 

If you want to splurge on a tried-and-tested AHA product, Good Genes won't let you down. This face treatment was created with purified high-quality lactic acid that immediately exfoliates dull skin and clogged pores. With added benefits from ingredients like licorice and lemongrass that boost radiance, and arnica and prickly pear extract to soothe the skin, what's not to love?

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Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment, P5095, SUNDAY RILEY, Sephora

Biossance Squalane + Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum

Suffering from dry, sensitive, and uneven skin? This resurfacing serum delivers smoother, softer, and visibly brighter skin thanks its "does-it-all" ingredient, lactic acid. Also at the heart of its formula is squalane, an oil that acts to soothe and strengthen your cells from within. Not only that, it works to mimic your skin’s natural oils, repleneshing moisture without feeling greasy.

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Squalane + Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum, P3275, BIOSSANCE, Sephora

For Combination Skin: Tartaric Acid 

Although not widely known as other AHAs, tartaric acid is a must-try for alleviating sun damage and acne. Made of grape extracts and present in many of our favorite skincare products, it functions to maintain the pH of your skin and help other AHAs function more effectively. And with its antioxidant properties, those with oily T-zones and dry all over the rest of the face will love its healing perks.

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Try:

Caudalie Vinoperfect Glycolic Peel Mask

Together with glycolic acid, this tartaric acid-infused mask works like a DIY face peel. It refines texture, improves skin radiance, and reduce sebum at once, making your complexion look good as new without the irritation.

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Vinoperfect Glycolic Peel Mask, P1700, CAUDALIE, Sephora

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For Oily, Sensitive Skin: Citric Acid

As its name suggests, citric acid is made from naturally acidic citruses that adjust skin pH levels while smoothing out any rough texture. It has a natural astrigent effect as well, making it beneficial for those who have the oily-sensitive combo to their face. By incorporating it into your daily toner or face wash, you can get that "tighter" pore feeling and control sebum throughout the day.

Try:

Murad Essential-C Toner

To rejuvenate and restore balance in damaged skin, the Murad Essential-C Toner penetrates quickly and deeply with a combination of citrus-sourced acids like citric and ascorbic acid. Plus, its citrusy scent will help you and your skin feel instantly invigorated after every use.

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Essential-C Toner, P1745, MURAD, Zalora

Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Wash

Developed with the Tri-Enzyme technology, this facial cleanser with different face acids makes exfoliating dead skin super convenient. It also contains Brazilian babassu oil, which is rich in fatty acids to replenish your moisture levels.

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Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Wash, P2017, ELEMIS, Zalora

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For Sensitive Skin: Mandelic Acid

If you haven’t been seeing a theme here, yes, this AHA is also derived from something we eat. But instead of fruit, mandelic acid is made of almond extract, and it's known to help improve skin texture and minimize the visibility of pores. It is often used with other AHA products for maximum exfoliation, as it is a lot gentler than its AHA counterparts.

Naruko AM + PM Total Brightening Renewal Treatment Mandelic Acid 5%

Naruko poured the brightening perks of mandelic acid, gluconolactone (a form of PHA), tranexamic acid, and niacinamide into one do-it-all exfoliating treatment. As if that's not enough, its other benefits include acne care, lightening dark spots, and soothing and hydrating your skin to ultimate smoothness.

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AM + PM Total Brightening Renewal Treatment Mandelic Acid 5%, P1139, NARUKO, Lazada

The Inkey List Selfless by Hyram Mandelic Acid And Rice Bran Gentle Exfoliating Serum 

Gentle yet effective, this serum features AHA, BHA, and PHA. It has mandelic, salicylic, and gluconolactone working together to exfoliate and improve texture and pore health regardless of your skin type. Even better is the brand’s use of recycled materials, and its initiative to provide a year’s worth of clean drinking water to someone in need for every purchase.

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Selfless by Hyram Mandelic Acid and Rice Bran Gentle Exfoliating Serum, P1415, THE INKEY LIST, Sephora

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