If you’ve been into skin care for any length of time, you’re probably pretty familiar with chemical exfoliants, or as the cool kids say, acids.
(Just kidding I really have no idea what cool kids call them. It’s just what I call them.)
Acids like AHA (alpha hydroxy acids), BHA (beta hydroxy acids), and vitamin C can do amazing things for the skin on your face. You can fade hyperpigmentation, clear up breakouts, and reveal fresher, brighter, juicier skin with the right application.
So today, I’m gonna blow your mind. Ready?
The rest of your body is also covered in skin. And you can put acid on that skin too.
The rest of your body is also covered in skin. And you can put acid on that skin too. Wild, right?!
Okay, maybe some of you have already been doing that. If so, you’re ahead of the curve! For the rest of you, I’m going to cover a few ways that you can make inexpensive acids work for your body.
1. Use BHA to De-funk Your Armpits
Unfortunately, I sweat easily. Teenage Me applied antiperspirant a million times a day, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that I was actually making the sweat problem worse with my excessive use of antiperspirant.
When I switched to natural deodorant in an effort to fix that, I ran into a different issue: Natural deodorant wasn’t helping me smell fresh. You know what’s worse than BO? BO mixed with flowers, aka what was happening to me.
Enter Tracy Robey, better known to the skincare community as fanserviced-b. She introduced me to the idea of using acids as natural deodorant, and I haven’t bought an antiperspirant since.
The idea is that low-pH acids like Stridex pads or The Ordinary’s 7% glycolic acid toner create a hostile environment for the bacteria that are responsible for the body odor funk. It really does work, and man was it a life-changing discovery.
For me, I find that swiping a Stridex 2% BHA pad over my pits after a shower is enough to keep me fresh for about 24 hours. I follow that with a natural deodorant for an extra hit of pleasant scent, and I’m good to go, even in summer!
2. Squirt Some AHA on Your Scalp
Again, I have Tracy Robey to thank for showing me the wonders of using acid to deeply cleanse my scalp. Any watery acid toner can fit the bill (it just depends on your skin’s sensitivity and what you have on hand), but I like using The Ordinary’s 7% glycolic acid toner because it’s crazy cheap and not too strong.
About once every other week, I saturate my scalp with the AHA toner and massage it in really well. I usually let it do its thing for about 30 minutes, and then I hop in the shower and rinse it out. If my scalp really needs help (I’m talking “I can’t remember how many days ago my last wash was” levels of dry shampoo buildup), I’ll follow the rinse with a shampoo. Usually though, just the AHA is enough of a cleanse to leave my hair fresh and full of life.
If you’re worried about stripping your color with this method, you can always test in a small area first. Personally, I’m a blonde-dyed-red (notoriously difficult to keep up!), and I’ve never noticed any extra fading from doing this.
3. Smear Those Heavy Peels onto Your Body
Between hormonal body breakouts, random ingrown hairs, too-tight bra straps, and friction irritation, I almost always have at least one area of my body that has not-so-cute hyperpigmentation.
Yes, there are lotions from brands like Alpha Hydrox or Gold Bond that do help, but they’re usually thick, sticky, or a little funky smelling, which makes them unappealing to me for long-term use.
Instead, I like to take a different approach. Body skin is much thicker and generally more resilient than face, neck, and chest skin. Because of this, it’s much easier to use strong acids on the body without running the risk of melting your skin off.
I always keep a few bottles of The Ordinary’s 30% AHA/2% BHA peel on hand for exactly this reason. It’s extremely cheap, so I don’t feel guilty about how much I’m using, and it’s very effective. About once a week, I’ll spread a generous layer on whichever parts of my body need some serious exfoliation (usually my thighs and lower back, and sometimes my upper arms!), wait the recommended time, and then rinse it off in the shower.
If you happen to have any acids that ended up being too strong for your face, try using them up with this trick! The right body acid can also help to clear up keratosis pilaris (KP or “chicken skin”) and prevent ingrown hairs from shaving.
I’m sure this goes without saying, but you MUST wear sunscreen if you try this! Remember that acids are photosensitizing, so it’s important to cover up or use sunscreen so that you don’t create more skin issues in the future.
Remember that acids are photosensitizing, so you MUST wear sunscreen if you try this!
Pour Some (Body) Acid On Me
I’ve only covered three ways to make chemical exfoliants work for your body, but I know there are more! Using vitamin C on your hands is a great way to keep them smooth and youthful, and foot peels (which are basically just acid-filled booties) are an excellent way to get baby-soft feet without going to the spa.
Do you have any off-label acid hacks to share? Tell me about them in the comments!