Your Complete Guide to Acid Layering

Certain types of acid in skincare products can provide just the right exfoliation your skin needs to healthily turnover dead skin cells, reveal brighter youthful-looking skin, and tighten pores. The latest advancement in optimizing the use of these ingredients in your skincare routine is acid layering. It sounds daunting, but when done right, it's a much better way to exfoliate than with the harsh scrubs of the past. Older generations of products utilize ingredients like crushed walnut shells to exfoliate, and they do more harm than good by causing micro-tears in the skin. “Acid layering” may sound worse, but it's a much more gentle, effective way to achieve glowing skin. 

What is acid layering?

Simply put, it’s using multiple products that contain acid in your skincare routine in a way that provides results, but doesn’t irritate skin. Much of this new trend has been driven by the K-Beauty industry.

“If done properly, layering and mixing acids can be a really effective way to create a more targeted approach to your specific skin type or whatever concern it is you’re trying to address,” says licensed medical aesthetician Gabrielle Harrison. 

What kinds of acids are in skincare products?

AHA’s (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) and BHA’s (Beta Hydroxy Acid) are the most commonly used. AHA’s draw in moisture and can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. Some AHA’s have lower molecular weights, which allows them to permeate to deeper layers of skin. As a general guide, AHA’s are great for anti-aging and BHA’s are great for acne. 

Alpha Hydroxy Acid’s ability to provide so many skincare benefits has led People’s Beauty to incorporate a powerful trio called Tri-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid into three products—Ultimate Rich Face Cream, Triple Hyaluronic Acid Essence Toner, and Frontliner Mask + Scrub.

Each contains three types of AHA molecules in different weights and sizes to provide deep moisturizing benefits while targeting multiple skin layers.

  • Hyaluronic Acid: A powerful humectant that continuously delivers moisture to the skin, promotes collagen production, and protects skin from pollution.
  • Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid: An AHA with a lower molecular weight to reach deeper skin layers. It provides anti-aging and skin plumping benefits.
  • Sodium Hyaluronate: Helps promote microcirculation for a fuller appearance and softer, smoother skin.

How should I use acids to layer?

“To figure out the right layering method, determine your skin type and/or a specific concern, then decide which types of products you want to use,” says Harrison. 

“I find combining a cleanser and moisturizer or serum the simplest way to start layering. From there you can incorporate other products like toners, exfoliants or masks. Keep in mind your skin may go through a brief transition period so start slow, see how your skin reacts, and adjust from there.”