Which Skin-Care Acid Is Right For You?

Acids. Depending on who you ask, they’re terrifying, trippy, or totally essential to your skin-care routine — so long as you know your ferulic from your salicylic. Indeed, all acids are not created equal, which is why it’s important to get familiar with the major players before putting them on your face.

Flunked out of chemistry? Don’t worry. We asked three top dermatologists — Heidi Waldorf, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, Ariel Ostad, MD, a New York-based board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic dermatologic surgeon, and Annie Chiu, MD, an L.A.-area dermatologist — to break down the distinctions, Acids for Dummies-style. Consider this your cheat sheet to the best brighteners, exfoliators, and acne erasers in the category.