Why Does Your Skin Break Out and Darken After Acid Exfoliation?

Why Does Your Skin Break Out and Darken After Acid Exfoliation?

In the realm of skincare, acid exfoliation, also known as chemical exfoliation, has gained immense popularity. It involves applying products containing various acids to the skin, aiming to remove dead skin cells, improve skin texture, and address a range of skin concerns. While acid exfoliation can be beneficial when done correctly, it’s crucial to approach it with caution and understand the potential risks involved.

What is Acid Exfoliation and How Does it Work?

Acid exfoliation utilizes a variety of acids, including glycolic, lactic, salicylic, and mandelic acids, to gently dissolve the bonds that hold dead skin cells together. This process encourages the shedding of these cells, revealing a brighter, smoother complexion. Additionally, acid exfoliation can stimulate collagen production, reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and help clear acne breakouts.

Why You Might Experience Breakouts After Acid Exfoliation?

Despite its potential benefits, acid exfoliation can sometimes lead to breakouts. This is because the process of removing dead skin cells can also open up pores, allowing trapped bacteria and impurities to reach the surface, causing inflammation and breakouts. This is often a temporary phase, known as “purging,” and typically subsides as the skin adjusts to the exfoliation process.

Why Your Skin Might Appear Darker After Acid Exfoliation?

Acid exfoliation can also temporarily cause the skin to appear darker. This is because the removal of dead skin cells reveals the underlying melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Increase hydration to accelerate cell growth, which can alleviate darkening of the skin. Additionally, if you don’t adequately protect your skin from the sun after acid exfoliation, it’s more susceptible to sun damage, leading to hyperpigmentation.

Does Acid Exfoliation Thin the Skin?

When done correctly, acid exfoliation should not thin the skin. In fact, it can actually help strengthen the skin barrier, making it more resilient to damage. However, over-exfoliation or using harsh acids can compromise the skin barrier, leading to dryness, irritation, and increased sensitivity.

Who Should Steer Clear of Acid Peeling?

  • Those with dermatitis, rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, or infections.
  • Anyone allergic to peeling agents or their components.
  • Recent surgery or skin resurfacing treatment patients.
  • Those who lack adequate sun protection or have a recent sunburn.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women, or those who have taken oral vitamin A acids within six months.
skin condition Why Does Your Skin Break Out and Darken After Acid Exfoliation?

Common Acid Exfoliating Ingredients

  • Retinoids: Derived from vitamin A, retinoids are effective in treating acne, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, and improving skin texture. However, they can be quite irritating and require a prescription from a dermatologist.
  • Salicylic Acid: Well-known for its anti-inflammatory and acne-fighting properties, and many skincare products specifically include it. However, these products typically contain a low concentration of about 2%, whereas medical-grade salicylic acid can be around 30%. Please use it cautiously, as it may cause skin irritation.
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs): These water-soluble acids, including glycolic acid (20-75%), lactic acid (10-50%), malic acid, and citric acid. They work by loosening the bonds between skin cells to exfoliate, softening the skin and promoting the expulsion of melanin, which brightens the complexion and reduces dullness. Medical-grade AHA treatments typically start at 20% and can be increased up to 75% based on skin tolerance. Skincare products usually contain AHAs at concentrations ranging from 0.2% to 2%, and the lower the pH of the product, the more effective it is. However, this can cause skin irritation.
However, improper use of acid peels can easily cause skin irritation and sensitivity. It is very important to use them correctly to ensure your skin can tolerate the treatment! Therefore, we strongly advise against using acid peels casually and urge extreme caution. Always consult a professional before starting an acid peel treatment!

Ditch the Acid: Embrace Gentle Exfoliating Alternatives

Bakuchiol: The Milder and Safer Alternative to Retinol

Bakuchiol is emerging as a superior, plant-derived alternative to retinoids, particularly Retinol, with impressive capabilities in skincare. Extracted from the seeds and leaves of the Psoralea corylifolia plant, Bakuchiol boasts antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties, making it highly effective in addressing signs of aging and acne. Unlike Retinol, Bakuchiol provides these benefits without the common side effects such as irritation, making it ideal for sensitive skin. [1]
Unlike Retinol, which only shows Retinol-like effects, Bakuchiol goes a step further in its function, acting through gene expression regulation in a manner similar to Retinol but without its structural similarity. This unique action allows Bakuchiol to combat photoaging, enhance skin texture and elasticity, and reduce aging signs, acne, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) effectively. [1]
In our previous article, we provided a detailed analysis based on scholarly research that highlighted how bakuchiol is a gentler alternative to retinol, offering stronger anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. For more insights, feel free to click the link to learn more.

Willow Bark Extract: A Gentle Yet Powerful Skin Care Ingredient

Willow bark extract, derived from the bark of the Salix species, has gained increasing popularity in the skincare industry due to its remarkable properties. The primary active component of willow bark extract is salicin, an enzyme inhibitor (NADH oxidase) that contains plant flavonoids. When metabolized by the human body, salicin is converted into salicylic acid, a well-known beta hydroxy acid (BHA) commonly used for its acne-fighting and exfoliating properties. However, willow bark extract offers a gentler and more soothing alternative to direct salicylic acid application.
Willow bark extract exhibits superior antimicrobial properties compared to salicylic acid, effectively combating acne-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation. Willow bark extract gently exfoliates the skin, removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores without causing excessive dryness or irritation.
A patent, US005876737A [2], highlights the effectiveness of salicin, the primary component of willow bark extract, in “controlling and preventing so-called prickling.” The patent further describes the use of salicin in treating atopic dermatitis, type I and IV skin irritation, and raising the threshold of sensitive skin.
With its impressive benefits and gentle nature, willow bark extract is becoming a preferred choice for individuals seeking natural and effective skincare solutions.


Acid exfoliation can be a powerful tool for improving skin health, but it’s crucial to approach it with caution and under the guidance of a skincare professional. If you’re unsure whether acid exfoliation is right for you, consult a dermatologist or esthetician to discuss your individual needs and concerns. Remember, healthy skin is always the goal, and finding the right approach for your unique skin is key.

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  1. Chaudhuri, R. K., & Marchio, F. (2011). Bakuchiol in the management of acne-affected skin. Cosmetics & Toiletries, 126(7), 502-510.
  2. Schonrock, U., Steckel, F., Kux, U., & Inoue, K. (1999). Use of salicin as an anti-irritative active compound in cosmetic and topical dermatological preparations (United States Patent US5876737A). https://patents.google.com/patent/US5876737A/en/e

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