How to Get Rid of Acne Fast (AF) with AHA Exfoliants (a little-known secret)!



Everyone loves a trusty skin hack – especially when it comes to knocking acne dead in its tracks! Acne sufferers are always on the prowl – aimlessly searching the aisles of CVS on a seemingly endless quest for – the ANSWER,  the “magic bottle” that is, that’ll miraculously clear their complexions and solve all their acne woes forever! They try a trendy charcoal mask, dab toothpaste on their zits, paint bird poo on their face (I’m not kidding – it’s a thing!) – you name it, desperation speaks for itself! But did you know that something as simple as exfoliating – the RIGHT way with AHA’s can truly make all the difference in your complexion?

Keep skimming my little chicken, and I’ll glean you in on the estheticians best-kept secret of how to get rid of acne AF – by simply incorporating exfoliating  AHA’s (and even BHA’s) into your skincare regimen!

Let’s do this… 


(How do zits actually happen anyway?)

“So, what’s exfoliation got to do with clearer skin?” you might ask? To answer this question —EVERYTHING! But first, we need a quick and simple understanding of how and why acne forms in the first place – allow me to enlighten you!

Acne, as I teach to my clients in the simplest terms possible, happens when our skin’s pores (called pore follicles) get gunked-up with a sludge of excess oil and dead skin cells that clump together and form sticky, cement-like masses much like a hardened glue stacking over and lining the inside of our pores. These sticky masses essentially plug-up our pores, blocking them off from oxygen and preventing oil from flowing freely!

This pore-plugging scenario makes for the PERFECT breeding ground for “p. acnes bacteria” (the nasty type of bacteria that causes acne) to surge in and breed like a bunch of wild rabbits in our pores!


Now, acne bacteria LOVE moist, closed-off places (like our pores) where they can burrow-in and feast on their food of choice – skin oil! These festering follicular overgrowths colonize our compromised pores lightning-fast and oftentimes manifest into little-localized infections within our pores and surrounding skin tissue.  As you’re probably already aware, infections inflicting our skin-whether it is a cut on the hand or a gnarly emerging zit, usually results in inflammation, raised redness, and oftentimes pus (and thus the anatomy of your pimple)-lovely, isn’t it?

In short, to satisfy the question: how to get rid of acne fast? The answer is simple: prevent the aforementioned process from happening in the first place!


*It’s important to note that these pore-clogging masses start out minuscule, and they can’t always be seen and felt in the making! Oftentimes, we’re completely oblivious of this preceding pimple-causing process brewing beneath the surface (no pun intended). These minuscule pore clogging masses called, micro comedones, can occur MONTHS (up to 90 days) before they make their sexy debut on your face in the form of a hot flamin’ zit! Make no mistake about it, they’re lurking under there, and they’re ALWAYS the precursor to the acne that ultimately erupts into the pepperoni that makes for the worst pizza face! 


Here’s the bottom line:  this pore-clogging gunk can’t simply be cleansed away with a good ole washing of soap and water as someone who doesn’t understand acne might ignorantly imply  (or judge) – “You need to wash your face more!!” (totally infuriating, right?!) The truth is that it’s just not that simple, or obviously, we’d all have flawless complexions given that we all partake in decent hygiene practices as one would hope!? (need I remind you to please shower daily)…

(showers are awesome!) 


All jokes aside, the truth is that for those of us that are genetically predisposed to acne (as all acne sufferers are), we have pores that don’t quite function properly. Human skin constantly regenerates and renews itself about every 4-6 weeks in a process called desquamation. Normal skin sheds about one layer of dead skin cells each day; as our skin oil simultaneously helps to flush and purge those crusty cells upwards and out of the pores. Acne sufferers, on the other hand, have the tendency to over-shed and retain up to 5 x MORE layers of dead skin cells a day (compared those with normal skin only shedding about one layer per day). These “sheets” of dead cellular debris stack on the surface AND line the inside of our pores. Add in the overabundance of skin oil and you’ve got yourself a killer recipe for pepperoni pizza (on your face). 

Basically, that graveyard of dead skin cells hanging around on your skin in a condition known as, retention hyperkeratosis, increases your pores chances becoming clogged EXPONENTIALLY; compared to those lucky friends of your’s with effortlessly clear skin (ugh -so unfair, right?)…  

The reality is that the aforementioned cement-like masses that clog-up our pores are tough as nails to break through-especially those additional layers of dead cells we acne sufferers tend to hang on to. This unfortunate hereditary predisposition coupled with overactive oil glands calls for a little more action from our skin care products – a little EXFOLIATION action that is! 

Who wants some action…? (some acne annihilating action that is)?!..


So the name of the game in effectively nipping acne in the bud is to find a way to rid the skin of not just the excess oil that everyone seems to (solely) attribute to acne, but ALSO the overabundance of dead cells stacking over and lining our pore follicles like flakes of ice-packed snow! Essentially breaking-up and sloughing away the cellular debris that comprises the “glue” that binds these messes of pore-clogging masses together is the key to free-flowing pores – this method is called EXFOLIATION!


Now, here’s the kicker: when I mention the word “exfoliation”, people almost ALWAYS resort to thinking of some kind of gritty bead or abrasive type of bead scrub like St. Ives Apricot Scrub  (which is a horrible idea by the way)…We call these types of exfoliants “physical” or “mechanical” forms of exfoliation, i.e. facial scrubs, microdermabrasion, rotating skin brushes,  “buff puffs”, etc .

While these scrubs might be a cheap steal at CVS and make you feel like you’re getting down to the nitty-gritty and clean (no pun intended), they’re FAR too rough, irritating, and hyper-stimulating for acne sufferers fragile skin!


If you have acne, think of your skin as like a delicate little flower! 🌸 Exfoliation must be done in an ultra-gentle fashion with utmost care—WITHOUT being overly aggressive or hyper-stimulating on your already inflamed skin exuding bumps and blemishes tender to the touch! 

Take a word of advice and NEVER use any kind of mechanical exfoliation or abrasive scrub on acne-prone skin —like EVER! It’s ALWAYS a terrible idea and will only further traumatize your skin and make your acne worse!

FYI: The only time it’s ok to use a scrub is when all your acne has cleared and/or you’re ONLY dealing with non-inflammatory types of acne like blackheads and closed comedones which are hardened, under the surface pore impactions that don’t exude inflammation! 



Did you know that exfoliation can also be achieved with the use of acids in a process called chemical exfoliation or AHA/ BHA exfoliation?

“Chemicals!”…”ACID!!!”—say what!? – well hold your horses there and hear me out…I’m not suggesting you splash battery acid on your cheeks or undergo any kind of tissue-annihilating peel for God’s sake!

What I’m referring to here is the use of a specialized kind of leave-on treatment a.k.a. corrective serum that’s totally safe and beneficial to the skin; containing natural fruit and botanical acids found in mother nature’s backyard!

Whether or not acids are a friend or foe to our skin is ENTIRELY dependent on the type of acid and concentration used...AND just to set the record straight, not all “chemicals” are bad. Water is a chemical. Many wonderfully beneficial chemicals are used in skincare. The KEY is to make sure they are safe for your skin and health, whether it be an organic, inorganic, or safe synthetic. 

These naturally derived acids have a slightly lower PH than our skin, and work by seeping deep-down into your skin’s pores (unlike a physical scrub can do) and help to GENTLY break-up that nasty pore-clogging grime in the most optimal way! As a matter of fact, according to this Tzu Chi University study in Taiwan, AHA’s have many proven therapeutic and cosmetic benefits to the skin (not just acne)!


*(Pic: Esthetic Arts Clarifying Elixir Serum blended with all-natural hydroxy acids of lactic, glycolic, and salicylic + additional beneficial ingredients.) 

With diligent, consistent use, these specially formulated skin acids called alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) help prevent the pores from becoming clogged – and thus infected with that nasty bacteria in the first place! And the best way to achieve this kind of acid exfoliation is by using a serum or cream that contains AHA’s as part of their ingredient composition. It’s quite simple, you apply the leave-on serum to your skin either during the day (under make-up) or at night.


I personally consistently use exfoliating AHA acids in lower, ultra-gentle concentrations in my professional skin treatments; and I almost always recommend AHA serums to my clients to incorporate into their home care regimens to help them achieve optimal, skin-clearing results!

Most AHA’s have the ability to not just break-up pore-clogging grime, but also have some pretty awesome youth-preserving and skin-beautifying benefits as a BIG bonus!


  • Reduces acne  Whether it be blackheads and blemishes or more severe papular/pustular acne, by continually clearing-out the pore follicles with a quality AHA serum, you’ll, in turn, help to keep the pore-clogging gunk of dead skin cells and excess skin oil at bay. Clearer pores = less acne
  • Lightens and brightens the skin – AHA’s powerful skin-resurfacing action reveals a more even toned and a luminescent appearance by helping to turn-over (exfoliate away) dead, dull skin cells—jump-starting the growth of new, healthier cells from the bottom-up. This includes our melanocytes which are the cells responsible for our skin’s color! Dark marks left over from old acne breakouts? Watch AHA’s swiftly diminish those stubborn spots with continual use and time!
  •  Diminishes fine lines and wrinklesOnce those pesky dry, dull, dead skin cells are sloughed and lifted off those cracks & crinkles, moisture creams, and hydrating gels will seep right in with ease —plumping the skin with moisture from the inside-out! This helps to make for a smoother, dewy, more youthful appearance! 
  • Moisturizes Some acids, in particular, lactic acid and glycolic acid can help to restore hydration to the skin. Lactic acid, in particular, is a well-known part of the skin’s natural moisturizing complex, and is considered to be an excellent moisturizer!
  • Anti-aging – Studies have found AHA’s use to have an anti-aging effect on the skin by not only smoothing texture, evening-out skin tone, and increasing the moisture barrier, but helping to induce collagen!
  • Smooths skin texture – AHA’s smooth skin texture for a softer, silky-to-the-touch feel  (makeup will glide right on)!
  • Helps your products penetrate better like corrective serums, moisturizing creams, hydration gels, SPF, etc.


Let’s break ’em down a bit and discover a thing or two about some of the most commonly utilized AHA’s (and BHA’s) used in skin science today!


How to Get Rid of Acne Fast with AHA's (a little-known secret)!

Glycolic Acid comes from the tall perennial sugar cane stalks native to the warm climates of Southeast Asia and New Guinea, and is also used for sugar production!  It’s the most widely used AHA among dermatologists and skin-care professionals favored for it small molecular structure (the smallest of all the AHA’s in fact) and optimal skin-penetrating properties; allowing it to do it’s exfoliating and brightening magic deep down in the pores for optimal lightening, brightening and skin-clearing results!  A 10% concentration is a good, potent strength for home care use, especially acne!


Lactic Acid comes from milk and dairy products or can be manufactured bio-identically as a safe synthetic for maximum stability. This second runner-up as the most commonly used acid shares all of the same properties and benefits as glycolic acid + superior moisturizing capabilities in comparison to other AHA’s. Lactic has a slightly larger molecular structure than glycolic making for a slower penetrate time which helps to make it less stimulating on sensitive skin. It’s ideal for all skin types, especially acne, aging, rosacea, and of course sensitive skin types as mentioned! 2-4% concentrations are ideal for unlocking its moisturizing effects, and concentrations of 5% and up unlocking its exfoliating properties. In my experience, 10% is a good, potent marker for acne serums, creams, and leave-on treatments to be used as a home care regimen.

…Did you know?

Cleopatra was rumored to have bathed in milk and rose petals? From a natural beauty perspective, this actually makes sense as the natural lactic acid in the milk would have surely softened and exfoliated the sultry seductress’s irresistible physique! 


How to Get Rid of Acne Fast with AHA's (a little-known secret)!

Salicylic Acid, which is derived from willow bark, is a little different from an AHA in that it belongs to the beta hydroxy acid family (BHA). BHA’s are comprised of oil-soluble molecules while AHA molecules are water-soluble. AHA’s and BHA’s are similar but perform optimally on different skin types over others. AHA’s work well for truly ALL skin types, but are best suited for aging (glycolic, lactic), sensitive (lactic acid), rosacea (lactic acid), and sun damaged (glycolic, lactic, etc.) concerns as surface exfoliants; resurfacing the upper layers of the skin’s pores and surface. BHA’s are truly excellent for all skin types as well but work optimally for oily and acne-prone individuals as they have the ability to penetrate and push their way through the skin’s layers of lipids (oil) due to its oil-soluble nature. Salicylic acid is best described as being like “draino for the skin’s pores”! It acts as a keratolytic, which is a substance that breaks up the thick protein binds that bind the dead skin cells together while annihilating oil grime from even deeper within the pores than their AHA counterparts. 

Salicylic acid works best at strength 1-2% in home care products. It’s also not uncommon to see a blend of AHA’s like glycolic acid and lactic acid together with salicylic acid (BHA) to optimize results by employing multi-level resurfacing!

How to Get Rid of Acne Fast with AHA's (a little-known secret)!

Mandelic Acid comes from bitter almonds. This particular AHA isn’t implemented in skin care products quite as much as the more popular kids in school (glycolic-the homecoming king, and his royal posse, lactic and salicylic) but is recently gaining so much-deserved traction!  Mandelic acid is the largest of all AHA’s and the slowest penetrating acid. This large molecular structure coupled with its slow release time makes it an intriguing choice for sensitive skin. I think we’ll be hearing more and more buzz about mandelic in the near future!

How to Get Rid of Acne Fast with AHA's (a little-known secret)!

Citric Acid comes from (you guessed it) citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and limes. It’s a bit strong and irritating for most skincare formulas, however, it’s commonly used in small amounts as an excellent preservative. As a matter of fact, all AHA’s have naturally build-in product preserving properties!


The coolest think about working with AHA’s is that they really work – and help a lot of skin conditions – especially acne! Most skin care formulations whether it be for professional use or homecare use contain a combination of AHA’s and sometimes BHA’s like salicylic acid for superior multi-level exfoliation!!


I personally use Clarifying Elixir Serum at night and recommend this it to most all of my acne clients for it’s ultra-light, deep-penetrating, liquid consistency that seeps right into the skin almost instantaneously. 

Clarifying Elixir Serum has an optimal blend of glycolic, lactic, salicylic acids which have small molecular structures that easily penetrate the skin and get down to some serious acne annihilating business – PLUS – the added benefit of another ingredient superstar- licorice root! Licorice root helps to naturally and safely lighten-up old dark marks in areas when you had broken-out before,  helping to brighten the skin tone and even-out the complexion! 


  • The first couple of ingredients containing the key actives (the AHA’s). This will ensure a powerful and effective concentration of the actives your skin will need to truly make a difference
  • A professional strength serum with around 10% glycolic, mandelic, and lactic percentages is a good potent range for most acneic skin types; adjusting down in percentage for more sensitive and reactive skin types. 1-2% salicylic acid is a good marker for salicylic acid. 
  • Look for a cream or preferably a serum (liquid or gel) with a PH of around 3.0. Most acids won’t really work and do their jobs at PH levels any higher than that! As a note: human skin is slightly acidic around 4.5-5.5, so as you can imagine, the acids PH needs to be a bit lower to do their magic and break-up those dead skin cells and follicular debris! 

Clean deck of ingredients without the nasties: artificial fragrance aka perfume, parabens, mineral oil/petroleum, phthalates, dyes/colorants, or pore-clogging ingredients


The key to starting out on an AHA serum or any exfoliating acid type of product is to go SLOW – slow and steady wins the race! As acids go hard to work in our skin’s pores, it’s normal to experience a little dryness and even some light flaking at times – which is usually harmless. This typically happens when too much product is used both too soon and too frequently; you’re not pairing a sufficient moisturizer with your AHA serum to combat dryness! Here are a few key tips I always advise to my clients when I et them going on my Clarifying Elixir:

  • One pump every other night is a great starting point; gradually increase to nightly use or as advised by your skin care professional. 
  • Use an ultra hydrating, oil-free moisturizer or gel containing non-pore clogging water-based humectants like panthenol, aloe vera, glycerine, and hyaluronic acid under your AHA serum. This will help ease any initial dryness while you get used to using AHA’s on your skin.
  • As always, wear SPF daily when using  AHA’s as they can make the skin a little more sun sensitive


  • You’re using “retinoids”– Retinoid-based skin care products like Tretinoin, Retin-A, retinol, Differin, Refissa, Adapalene, etc. Trust me, these killer ingredients are already rapidly turning-over dead skin cells for you – we certainly don’t want to overdo it!
  • You’re prego (or a nursing mama) Salicylic Acid is not advised for pregnant women (particularly in strengths above 2%), however, these acids are safe: Mandelic, Malic, Glycolic, and Lactic. *Note: Clarifying Elixir contains salicylic acid at a low concentration of 1.7%–which IS considered safe by most dermatologists and OBGYNs, so if your think this serum might be helpful for you, just run it by your doc first!
  • You’re using of Accutane or generics of the similar kind.  
  • You have open wounds or cuts (or cold sores) on the face – It’ll sting and make the lesion worse. Best bet is to wait until the skin is healed before use.
  • You’ve had recent skin peels, chemical peels or laser treatments – Wait until the skin resumes to normal and is completely healed!
  • You’re sunburned– Wait until the skin resumes to normal and is completely healed!


I highly recommend that if you have any degree of acne that’s got you down in the dumps and banging your head against the wall (whether it be just a few blackheads or full-fledged breakouts), to get on a quality AHA serum like Clarifying Elixir serum ASAP! And don’t wait around in a continuance of wasted time and money going down dead-end drug store aisles only to meet disappointment square in the eye every time you look in the mirror.

There’s a saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. If using the same slew of bottled-to-the-brim of inactive, cheap drug store products aren’t clearing-you-up, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things my friend!

If you follow my trusty advice and get going on a steller AHA serum, you’ll surely be surprised before your very eyes at just how fast it’ll get to making pure magic in your skin! In my experience, diligent use of AHA’s in my clients yield noticeable results in as little as one week and just keeps accelerating from there!


If your REALLY wanna knock acne on it’s behind, I’d say don’t stop at AHA’s! Kick it up a notch and pair Clarifying Elixir with a dang good benzoyl peroxide product like Purity Elixir, and use on alternating nights as part of your skin care regimen. I find that my clients do remarkably well when they use my AHA serum in combination with my Benzoyl Peroxide. The AHA rapidly exfoliates the skin, while the BP goes hard to work at killing the bacteria – two of the MAJOR players that lead to acne in our skin’s pores! This dynamic duo is how you get rid of acne fast (AF) and keep it gone! 

My Skin-Clearing Set has both the Purity Elixir and the Clarifying Elixir along with some of my most popular, trusty acne picks like: the Peppermint Purifying Cleansing Gel, a deep pore cleansing gel with white willow bark + hints of pure peppermint and tea tree, Hydration Repair Gel, and the Petals of Dew Hydrating Mister!


Is Clarifying Elixir right for your skin?… 

Do you need an expert opinion regarding your specific skin issues..? Feel Free to contact me for a Complimentary Personalized E-mail Consultation—I’d love to help! 

We’ll cover my best tips, solutions, and recommendations unique to your concerns and complexion!

Kristina  💜

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