The acid test: An effective skincare routine

Here is everything you need to know about facial acids and serums to make the skin feel better inside out

author_img Riddhi Doshi Published :  24th September 2023 04:47 PM   |   Published :   |  24th September 2023 04:47 PM

Mumbai-based MBA student Vaishnavi Naygam has been following a 13-step night regime for almost 
a year now. It includes glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, Vitamin C, retinol, peptides with 
a cleanser, toner, moisturiser and night cream. “The results have been fantastic. My friends, and even my mother, say my skin is shining and I no longer get acne,” says the 23-year-old. “But I did a lot of online research and also consulted a dermatologist before using them,” she adds.

Skincare acids and serums have seen a meteoric rise in India since the pandemic, which made people realise the importance of one’s health. The awareness extended to hair and skincare as well, with the latter tilting more towards aesthetics. “The credit for the surge in the popularity of skincare powerhouses goes to their easy accessibility and the influence of beauty influencers,” says Kaya Skin Clinic’s dermatologist Priya Puja.

In 2021, the Indian derma cosmetics market generated an estimated revenue of  $188.2 million and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 10 percent during the period from 2021 to 2030. The significant factors contributing to its growth include increased skincare spending, a shift towards e-commerce, and an early onset of awareness among adolescents.

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Dermatologists too report that 60-80 per cent of their patients across all age groups, from 15-year-olds to 50-year-olds, are incorporating acids and serums into their routines. Reason: they offer faster and more targeted results, addressing issues like fine lines, pigmentation and dehydration. Most, however, miss the crucial step of consulting an expert before using these beauty items. “Not all products are suitable for everyone. Their potency and the recommended frequency of use depend on the particular needs of a user,” says Pune-based dermatologist Kritu Bhandari. “For example, those with dry and sensitive skin should exercise caution with products like retinol or Vitamin C, particularly during the daytime. These active ingredients can react with the sun and cause irritation, making the skin more prone to sunburn and tan,” she adds.

In some cases, though, even those with delicate skin can use peptides, but of a certain potency. It’s, however, important to layer the skin with a moisturiser and a sunblock post-application to balance out the side effects like itching or rashes. “I suggest you see an expert for the right advice rather than consult them later for problem corrections,” says Puja.

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First among equals

One of the most commonly used products is hyaluronic acid, which hydrates the skin and decreases redness. Its popularity can be gauged from the fact that its global market in 2021 was worth $239.6 million and is estimated to grow to $399.5 million by 2031, according to a report published by Allied Market Research. “Hyaluronic acid helps retain moisture, promotes dewy skin, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” says Bhandari.

Salicylic Acid, on the other hand, is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) and is used to address acne issues. It penetrates pores, exfoliates and reduces inflammation, making it effective for managing blackheads and whiteheads too. Glycolic Acid, derived from sugarcane, is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), which is also known for its exfoliating properties. “It removes dead skin cells, evens out skin tone, and boosts collagen production, resulting in smoother, rejuvenated skin,” says Mumbai-based dermatologist Madhu Chopra. Lactic Acid is another AHA, which is derived from milk and is known for its gentle exfoliation. “It improves skin texture, reduces pigmentation, and promotes a more even complexion,” she says.

Among serums, Vitamin C is one of the most popular as it is loaded with antioxidants that help combat free radicals, brighten the skin, fade dark spots, and stimulate collagen production, says Mumbai-based dermatologist Shruti Khare. Usually, the last application in a skincare ritual is retinol. “It is a derivative of vitamin A, known for its anti-ageing properties. It accelerates cell turnover, reduces fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation, and enhances overall skin texture,” Khare adds.

The order of things

Science-led ingredients are the most effective when applied in a particular order. Always start with washing your face with a cleanser to get rid of any makeup, oil and debris. Follow it up with the toner to balance the pH of the skin. “If you’re using more than one serum or treatment products, apply them from thinnest to thickest—water-based serums come before oil-based ones,” says Bhandari. For instance, start with Vitamin C, then hyaluronic acid and then niacinamide. Any exfoliating acids such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid should be used after the serums. 

If you use an eye cream, now is the time for that before finishing with a moisturiser to seal in hydration. If it’s daytime, do not forget the sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to shield your skin from UV rays.

While the allure of a 10- or 13-step skincare regimen is tempting, Dr Bhandari advises against layering multiple acids and serums, especially for those with sensitive skin. “Mixing strong exfoliants with Vitamin C or retinoids can cause irritation and long-term damage to the skin’s ability to rejuvenate itself,” she says. The dermatologist also questions the necessity of toners, emphasising that using different acids and serums on different days might be more beneficial.

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Things to remember

Using highly potent acids or over-exfoliating with multiple products can lead to skin irritation

Those pregnant, nursing a baby or the ones with sensitive skin should stay away from these products or not use them without consulting a doctor

Always perform a patch test before introducing a new product into your routine to check for allergies or sensitivities

Take a gradual approach, allowing your skin to adjust to new products

Follow the recommended usage frequency and guidelines provided by the product and your dermatologist