Skincare Acids to Use in Midlife

I take my skincare very, seriously. More so in the last year because the signs of aging and sun damage are compounding. I thought what I was using was a good regime until I started reading everything I could find on the subject. Today I’m sharing some of the best skincare acids for midlife skin that are making a difference for me.

Acids may sound like a scary thing to put on your face but they’re real game-changers and are some of the best ingredients you can add to your skincare at midlife. Here is the alphabet soup of acids I now use in my skincare regime.


5 bottles of skincare acids to use on midlife skin

Vitamin A

Also known as Retin A or Retinoic Acid. I’ve used Vitamin A on my skin in one form or another for the last 30+ years.  Healthline reports that “topical retinoids stimulate collagen production, making them effective at reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They can also help to even out skin tone by fading age spots.”

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It works and I can’t imagine a complete skincare regime without a retinoid product. There is no end to the number of great over-the-counter retinoids that Healthline breaks down here. I now get my Vitamin A as part of a formulation specially made for me by Curology.



Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a terrific anti-oxidant that helps brighten the skin and fade uneven pigmentation. The L-ascorbic acid form is the most common but it’s often unstable so it’s formulated with ingredients to keep it from oxidizing. If you have sensitive skin, you can read here about some vitamin C derivatives that may be gentler on your skin.


4 types of vitamn c serum

You can spend a fortune on vitamin C serums but there are plenty of affordable ones available. I’ve tried many and my current favorite is this Glow Factor by MAELOVE. I started using this SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic until I discovered the MAELOVE has an almost identical ingredient list at less than a quarter of the price. It’s so affordable, I also use it on my neck, chest, and the back of my hands.


Alpha Hydroxy Acid and Salicylic Acid (BHA)

These are both exfoliants to help clear out our pores and remove dead skin from the surface. I love this Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial AHA + BHA Mask. It’s not for the faint of heart because it burns like the dickens when it’s on, but it’s amazing at cleaning out my pores. It almost feels like a vacuum got in there and removed all the gunk. 

Birdies talks here about AHA vs BHA with two board-certified dermatologists and shares an easy- to follow guide to figure out the differences plus how to choose the right option for your skin.



Azelaic acid

My dermatologist introduced me to this one to help calm down my rosacea. It’s also reported to help fade dark spots and the erythema you can get from old blemishes or eruptions on the skin. She gave me RX strength 15% Azelaic Acid which works like magic. When I’m not having a particularly bad rosacea outbreak that needs the big guns, I use a 10% over-the-counter version.


3 types of azaleic acid


Here are some  I’ve tried:

  • I loved The Ordinary Azelaic Suspension 10%. Interestingly this is a Canadian brand but you can’t buy this product in Canada. It’s just $7.90, which is a steal and super easy to add right after the Vitamin C.
  • This Paulas Choice 10% Azelaic Acid is very nice, and a touch more expensive at $36. I honestly don’t know which I prefer so I’ve kept using the less expensive one and save my money for other products.


Tranexamic Acid

I discovered this acid when I was looking for a safe, easy, peasy way to lighten the dark spots on the back of my hands. The first one I found was this Naturium Topical Acid 5%, which is the strength recommend as effective at fading dark spots. Two months ago I began applying several drops to the backs of my hand, morning and night. I’m just starting my second bottle and beginning to see results so this is a keeper for me.


Hyaluronic Acid

Naturium calls Hyalauronic the ultimate hydrator. Hyaluronic acid’s topical benefits read like a laundry list of skin care goals: Moisturizing, plumping, softening, glow-inducing—the list goes on. All of these benefits stem from hyaluronic acid’s humectant properties, which help keep skin supple and healthy.


4 TYPES OF HYLAURONIC ACID to use on over 50 skin

It can currently hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. I am currently using this MAELOVE B5 Hydrator Gel and love it. The price is right and it goes on easily with no smell.

Of course, now I’m curious and ordered the Naturium Quadruple Hyaluronic -Acid Serum 5% which contains “very low, low, medium and high molecular weight pure hyaluronic acid to deeply hydrate the skin on multiple levels for maximum, skin-plumping moisturization”.


Face acids that should not be used together


I am not an expert by any means but these are the ones I know not to combine-

  • AHA and Retinoids are both exfoliants and can be too harsh to layer. I use one in the am and one in the pm.
  • Vitamin C and retinoids are best when used at different times of the day for the same reason.
  • Vitamin C is a big no-no with AHA and BHA because they’re both strong and could irritate your skin.
  • Azelaic acid is safe to be used with all other acids.
  • Hyaluronic acid plays nicely with retinol and vitamin c, and all other acids.
  • Tranexamic Acid is also safe to use with other acids.

Instyle magazine has a pretty extensive write up on skincare ingredients you should and should not mix.


The best skincare acids for wrinkles and skin over 50

  • Tretinoin, also known as Retinoic Acid is at the top of the list and is the gold standard for reducing wrinkle depth, increasing collagen production, and fading dark spots. Retinols are weaker versions of retinoic acid and can achieve similar but less effective results. It also causes less peeling and is more easily tolerated by your skin.


  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids have shown effectiveness at treating photoaging, reducing wrinkles, clearing pores, and improving skin elasticity, tone, and hydration. They’re exfoliants that work by sloughing off the outer layer of dead skin, revealing fresher new skin. The larger molecule, the gentler they are on your skin because they don’t penetrate as deeply. These include from largest to smallest-
  1. glycolic
  2. lactic
  3. malic
  4. tartaric
  5. citric
  6. mandelic


  • Hyaluronic Acid is not your ordinary acid. It’s a powerful humectant that visibly reduces dryness by bringing moisture to the surface of your skin. It’s a sugar molecule found in our skin that helps bind water to collagen and visibly plumps out skin. I have to admit, I love them all! They’re best layered on before your moisturizer and can be added on throughout the day.


  • Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that fights free radicals in your skin, helps fade brown spots and brighten your complexion. The best ones are formulated with ingredients to stabilize the highly unstable L-ascorbic acid. My favorites include Skin Ceuticals C E Ferulic (pricey), and  Glow Factor by MAELOVE.



What acids have you added to your skincare routine?



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  1. Good morning! I missed this post, but found it today when searching your blog for info on rosacea. Do you find that the 10% AZELAIC ACID helps diminish the tiny bumps from rosacea? I don’t have many, but the I don’t want them to multiply.

    1. Yes, it does seem to help a lot! That’s exactly what I use it for

  2. Great post, Jennifer! I don’t know how I missed this – oh, yeah, I had extensive dental work that day! I think I’ll try the Maelove Hydrator. I have used Paula’s Choice products for over a decade. Good stuff! Thank you for your research. I’m a few years older than you and my skin is a priority during the current situation. Trying lots of new products.

  3. OK…I’m going to give Glow Factor a shot. I’ve been a Skinceuticals gal for years and yes, their products are expensive. Wish me luck! 🙂

  4. Victoria Korol says:

    I gotta say this is your best post yet on skincare! Thank you for doing the research and sharing it. I will definitely put the info to good use!

  5. Jan Ruppert says:

    Great post, thank you Jennifer. I’ve copied it in my “notes” for quick referral because lord knows I can’t remember all this good information and advice! One question: does the Maelove vit C serum need to be refrigerated to keep it from oxidizing? I’m currently using Timeless C+E ferulic but dislike having to make the trip to my refrigerator immediately after rinsing my face in the morning then back to the bathroom for moisturizing. Thanks for your blog, I read it every day.

    1. I don’t refrigerate mine but admit I use it pretty fast because I put it all over my face, neck, chest, and backs of my hands.

  6. Thank you for this helpful information. I appreciate you including your brands of choice. There are so many out there; it’s good to have recommendations. Although I tend to try out different things, my favorite sunscreen is Elta which my dermatologist recommended. It comes in both clear and tinted and sells at an affordable price.

  7. Jennifer, have you found anything that helps crepey skin on hand and arms? I’ve tried lotion with AHA and natural exfoliants, which haven’t helped. Next I’m trying collagen powder in my tea and lotion with hyaluronic acid. It would be nice to find something that works before the summer!

    1. I have just started using collagen powder too and will report back. The best thing I have found is the AHA moisturizers and know that consistency is key! Twice if not more a day.

  8. Ginger Whelan says:

    This is a whole new world to me, although I am certainly interested. In what order do you use/apply these products? Do you use them once a day, twice a day or less frequently? It seems like a lot to keep track of…..

    1. I don’t use every product every day. You start with the thinnest, wateriest product first and allow a few moments to soak in before moving on.

  9. Great well-researched post, Jennifer. I appreciate the excellent information.

  10. This is such a helpful post, Jennifer. I have used prescribed metronidazole cream for many years for my rosacea and would love to replace it with something that is less toxic to the liver, so I welcome your suggestions. I wonder if you could share what sunscreen you are using that has 45 spf. I am having difficulty finding one that does not exacerbate my rosacea. Thanks

  11. Excellent article Jennifer! (Added it to my Pinterest Board.). With that said; like ‘Bea’ below, I consider myself genetically blessed re my skin, however admit this past year (now aged 74) began a regime of ‘dry brushing’ (at least once a week prior to showering) which has proven to be beneficial in exfoliating the entire body and with hope it is also supporting /boosting my immune system as per claim. -Brenda-

    1. Hi Brenda,
      I agree about the dry brushing but I’m being very careful on my legs because it can exacerbate veins and my mom had a lot of varicose vines on her legs. Have a great day

  12. Paulette Levy says:

    After my sunscreen I prize my C serum and Hyaluronic acid. That duo does it for me topped off with Vichy products -creams. I was a huge fan of Murad products for skincare and may return at some point.

    1. I used Murad for many years. It’s a great line. Sunscreen is almost at the top of my list. I have a sunscreen sound up coming soon.

  13. I too would check with a dermatologist about using strong products and the order in which to use them. Probably one of the most important ones is a good sunscreen and they can recommend the best ones to use.

    1. Dermatologist are a great resource but I find many sell very expensive products that can easily be duplicated at the beauty counter for much less.

  14. For years, I felt it was necessary to develop a beautiful sun tan to compliment my summer wardrobe. If that meant sun bathing, then so be it!
    Fast forward several decades and I am dealing with not only sun damage but just the natural aging that happens to our skin. I am a late comer to the benefits of the variety of serums available today that definitely help correct this damage.
    You schooled me today on several products and procedures that I was not aware of. I welcome all this information and I now utilize several products daily but will be sourcing additional help.
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey and the products that you’ve found to be so beneficial.

    1. I’m so glad this was interesting for you. Count me among the legions of ladies who beat the heck out of their skin while younger. Thank goodness there are good products.

  15. What a great post. I have an arsenal that I switch out and really appreciate the info on what you cannot use together. I use Vit C, retinol, hyaluronic acid, glycolic, bakuchiol, lactic acid, and choose what is needed, not all at once. I must look into the azelaic acid to see if that helps with the rosacea before the prescriptions are needed. I always thought that it was so strange that the Ordinary products were not sold here, yet made here but can order online. Some derms recommend a simplified routine with only 1 serum and moisturizer and sunscreen, while others allow a more extensive routine, so even all of them don’t agree 100%. Really enjoyed this, thanks Jennifer.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this. I hope to share more of my regime if you ladies are interested. It’s funny, bakuchiol just came on my radar and I’m looking for a good one. Which do you like?

      1. The one I am using right now is the Inkey list one. Not expensive, but not a very big tube either.

      2. Jennifer, Paula’s Choice has a bakuchiol product.

  16. I had no idea that people use all of these products! Luckily I inherited great skin from my mother and at 78 use nothing on my face except daily sunscreen that is in a tinted moisturizer. I do have a mild case of rosacea, so I must apply a dermatologist prescribed ointment to certain spots on my face every night (after cleaning with Cetaphil ). Then I apply a lovely night cream. That’s it. Having said that, I understand why some people use products to improve their skin. My only caution would be to consult a dermatologist at all times. I have a feeling that many products on the market are not regulated.

    1. Lucky you!! I may have inherited great skin but I destroyed it during my youth and am dealing with the damage now

    2. I used to use Cetaphil to wash my face , but discovered it was making my rosacea worse. I use Cereve hydrating facial wash now and you can really feel the difference . Give it a try and see what you think. I’ll never use anything else.

  17. Thanks for breaking this info down for us so thoroughly, Jennifer. It’s funny, I hadn’t thought of my skin as particularly sensitive, but find I can only use an over the counter moisturizer with retinol once a week or so before it cries uncle. Not an acid, but cryotherapy (liquid nitrogen spray via a dermatologist) zaps sun spots anywhere on the body/face/hands even though it means looking scabby for a couple of weeks, but then they’re gone and don’t come back.

    1. I have to get things burned off occasionally but I always depigment when I do and have a permanent white spot so we try to use that judiciously on my sensitive skin.

      1. Oh gee, I’m sorry to hear that happens to you. Everyone’s skin sure is different.

  18. Marie Anderson says:

    I also use a mask with acids in it. I leave it on when I have extra time, such as when I am processing hair color. I also use it in my hands, very effective. I am a regular user of Vitamin C and retinoid. I use the stronger acids overnight. My daily routine includes sunscreen, SPF of 30. Thank you for this great blog.

    1. I’ve moved up to a SPF of nothing less than 45 and find my skin needs it

  19. Thank you for saying which don’t do well together, that’s helpful, but are some more effective when used before or after another product? I could make this more complicated than it needs to be, so would you please describe the regimen you use? Are they all daily? I have prescription for atrolin (tretinoid) and finacia (azaleac acid), which I use randomly. I own some of the others but have no clue how best to use them! Thank you in advance for your help!

    1. I use mine when needed which sounds dumb, I know. I let the condition of my skin be my guide. If I’m having a rosacea breakout, the axel six axis goes in first and I skip my C and Retinol. I use my retinol in the evening and I put it on last. It seems intense enough to go through everything:)
      In the am, C goes on right after I wash because I want it closest to my skin.
      Then the conventional wisdom is to start with thinnest serums first then move on to heavier lotions.