Sun damage, dullness, wrinkles…oh my! We all have our fair share of skin hiccups, with some of us now experiencing the effects of time, gravity, and space on our faces. But while there are those who are able to shell out big bucks to get professional exfoliating treatments like microdermabrasion and acid facial peels, the rest of us are yearning for those same spa quality results at a fraction of the price. 

Although it’s easy to mistake abrasive scrubs with the colorful microbeads as being king when it comes to exfoliation, it is the smooth, chemical acids that slough off the most rough. The heavy hitters in the acid world are alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids. With these highly effective chemical exfoliating products, you will achieve complexion envy without putting a big wrinkle in your wallet.



Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are natural acids that are derived from fruit and milk sugars. The most commonly used alpha hydroxy acids in skincare are glycolic acid (derived from sugar cane) and lactic acid (derived from milk sugars). AHAs act as chemical exfoliants by loosening clogged pores and dissolving dead skin cells on our skin’s surface. They do this by eating away at the “glue” (sebum and other substances) that bind our cells together on the top layer of skin. By dissolving those dead, clogged skin cells, smoother, brighter, and younger looking skin is revealed. AHAs are best suited for those with tough, sun-damaged skin.


Alpha Skin Care Intensive Rejuvenating Serum 14% glycolic AHA ($19)

Incorporate this holy grail serum into your nightly routine. Not only will it help resurface the skin from deep-rooted scarring and hyper-pigmentation, but it will also keep your face level by keeping acne at bay. This line offers glycolic acids in various strength levels and textures. Be sure to work your way up to see which amount of this wonder acid suits your face needs best.



Body Merry Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser ($18)

This natural cleanser is reminiscent of traditional scrubs with its jojoba beads, but it does no superficial job. It works to get deep under the surface by packing 2.5% glycolic acid in it, pushing dead skin, dirt, and oil into the deep end.



Dr. Song 50% Lactic Acid Gel Peel ($19)

This powerful peel offers up to 15-20 facials in one mega-affordable bottle. Load the sunscreen on after use and prepare to get your silky smooth skin back.



Similar to alpha hydroxy acids in their surface dissolving abilities, beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) differ in what else they work to rid our precious mugs of. While AHA’s are water soluble, BHA’s are oil soluble. What this means is that these acids are able to penetrate into the sebum of our pores, dissolving dead skin cells and oil that has built up inside of the actual pore. Due to their ability to penetrate pores, they work wonders at minimizing them, providing an all-around smoother and more even texture. BHA’s are best-suited for those who are prone to blackheads and have oily or sensitive skin.



Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid ($29)

Consider this an airbrush for your face. This miracle worker shrinks and unclogs large, unsightly pores, dramatically improving and refining the skin’s texture.



Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid ($17)

Forget the days of painful nose-strips and irritating blackhead scrubs. This BHA liquid is a gentle blackhead killer that does some serious damage. We bid you adieu, blackheads!


These acids have compound effects, meaning that the more you use them, the better your skin will look. Snag any of these highly capable and budget-friendly products and you’ll be well on your way to having skin of days past. Before that, a word of caution must be imparted: it is absolutely vital to wear sunscreen anytime you head out with these acids sitting and working their magic on your face. They will make your skin all the more susceptible to sun damage, the very thing we’re working to counteract. As long as you have that covered, be prepared to go out and rock your best face ever.