Acid Tutorial for Oily Skin

By Susie

  • When used properly, acids can make all the difference for oily skin 
  • My oily skin regimen includes vitamin C, kojic/hyaluronic/glycolic/salicylic acid, and retinol - all acids
  • Depending on your skin, acids can be layered so experiment with multiple!

Acid. Sounds like a scary word. Not something that you want to slather on your face, right? If you think about it though, vitamin C is an anti-oxidant powerhouse and also an acid. The ever popular and extremely effective ingredient retinol, also an acid. Fatty acids enhance skin hydration and seal in the skin’s moisture. When used properly, acids can keep your skin hydrated, soft and radiant and make all the difference – in particular, for oily skin like mine.

When introducing acids into your skincare routine, the most important thing is to go slow and try them out to see which ones your skin likes. Below is a breakdown of my tried-and-true formula of how I layer different types of acids into my skincare regimen for oily skin.  Remember, everyone has different skin so experiment with one or two new steps at a time and see how your skin reacts.

Steps 1 & 2 (Double-cleansing): I adhere to the double-cleansing process of Korean skincare. My first wash is with an oil- based balm. For the second cleanse, I use a glycolic acid exfoliating face wash. Glycolic acid is good for acne prone skin and resurfacing the skin to help give it that glow. Once I started using chemical exfoliants (aka acid-based exfoliants like glycolic acid) I threw out all my face scrubs. Acids are gentler than physical exfoliators. They dissolve the dead skin cells as opposed to sloughing away at them physically with abrasive chunks in scrubs.  

Step 3 (Peel Pad): In particular for oily skin, it’s important to get your skin squeaky clean. Any dirt left will clog your pores and make them larger as well as lead to pimples. So after I double-cleanse, I use a daily peel pad that has kojic acid. This is a new ingredient I’ve added to my skincare routine. It is a byproduct of soy sauce and rice wine. In addition to making my sushi taste good, as a facial product, it can lighten sun damage and acne scars. It contains anti-microbial properties that can help with bacteria causing acne too.

Steps 4, 5 & 6 (Toner, Essence and Serum): It’s important when using peel pads to follow it up with a hydrating toner so the peel is not sitting on your skin for too long.  I’ll usually give the peel 1-2 minutes, then follow on with toner, essence and serum.

Step 7 (Moisturizer): Hyaluronic acid naturally occurs in the human body.  It can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water so extremely effective in locking moisture in. After a good double-cleanse, you need to put the moisture lost during the wash back in. Even for the oiliest of us, having dry skin can actually cause more pimples, fine lines and wrinkles so moisturizing with a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid is still very important.

Step 8 (Retinoid): Retinoid is a vitamin A derivative that’s hailed as a cure-all for skin problems. Depending on your skin type and sensitivities, acids can be layered, so combining a retinoid with glycolic acids can smooth skin even more for those who can tolerate it. Retinoids are strong so I put this as the last step.  You don’t want the Retinoid to touch your skin naked – I find that the buffer of serums and lotions help.

Step 9 (Acne Spot Treatment): If I have a pimple, I spot treat it with salicylic acid. It penetrates deeper into the pores which I found could be drying.  So I don’t use it for my entire face and use this ingredient for spot treatment only.  You can find them in cream form, and stickers work well too.

In the fall and winter seasons, my skin changes and tends to get less oily so I make slight adjustments to the routine above. For example, I use the peel pads only 1-2 times a week and use the retinoid every other day instead of daily. I also switch to a gentle cleanser for the morning and only use the glycolic face wash at night. It’s important to stay in tune with what’s happening in your skin and tweak your routine as you go. Also, acids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so never forget your sunscreen for during the day!