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Formulating with Acids (AHAs, Salicylic Acid…): Expert Tips

Belinda Carli – Jul 25, 2017

Formulating with AcidsIt is crucial to achieve an optimum pH level in skin care formulations to maintain the efficacy of products and to balance their impact on skin. Where, most companies are reducing the acid level in formulations, they might also be reducing the products bioavailability on skin.

Also, it is equally important to be aware of safety and regulatory issues before incorporating acids in your formulations along with the right choice of emulsifiers and gum for a stable product.

Before we start looking into formulations tips, let’s understand the importance of acids in skin care products.



Why acids in formulations?


Acids are important in our skincare regimen. Acids help reduce pigmentation, fine lines, congestive skin disorders while improving skin brightness. They also help combat signs of aging, increasing hydration, etc. Main benefits include:

  • They help skin remain healthier and free of blemishes
  • They dissolve the cement between upper cornyocytes to reveal fresher skin cells beneath
  • Acids-based products are often used to treat acne, aging concerns, etc.

Types of Acids Use in Cosmetics


Alpha hydroxy acids and Beta hydroxy acids are the two main categories of acids used in cosmetics and personal care ingredients. Common examples of AHAs include glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids – also known in fruit acids. And by far the most commonly used BHA is salicylic acid.

They offer several benefits from hydration to exfoliation and hence becoming increasingly popular in skin care products such as toners, moisturizers, sunscreen and cleansers.

The main difference between two acids is their solubility. Alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble, while beta hydroxy acids are oil soluble.

  • Alpha hydroxy acids are used for thickened, damaged skin
  • While, Beta hydroxy acid is able to penetrate into the pore, which contains sebum, and exfoliate the dead skin cells that build up inside the pore

While formulating with these acids, it’s the pH that drives the potency of a product. Hence, it is important to add the required acid in its recommended pH limits for greater bioavailability and efficacy.

Let’s have a look at the recommended pH limits for their use in skin care formulations. The table below indicates the recommended amount of pH that should be used in formulations:

Acid Recommended pH
AHA pH<3.5
BHA pH<3.0

Recommended pH Limits for Skin Care Formulations 


Formulating with Acids


Having learnt about the type of acids to be used in your formulations, you need to learn to select the right gum and emulsifier for stabilizing your product.

Need to know more about formulating with acids?

Watch this video by Belinda Carli, Director of the Institute of Personal Care Science. Here, she has shown how to incorporate acids in formulation with their correct concentrations. This video will also help you with the gum selection.






1 Comments on "Formulating with Acids (AHAs, Salicylic Acid…): Expert Tips "
ESPERANÇA F Aug 2, 2017
Great video, so helpful! I doubt that I have would be... Which kind of gums or thickeners are more suitable for high concentrations of acids that are dissolved in alcoholic medium (mandelic acid or salicylic acid)? Thank you in advantage.

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