NIOD NAAP / Non-Acid Acid Precursor 15% Review

After chatting about chemical exfoliants I've been preparing a post with all the current exfoliants I've tried, but meanwhile I'm reviewing the NIOD NAAP or Non-Acid Acid Precursor 15% in a dedicated post. I've never tried any alternative products for acid exfoliants before and I was curious if NAAP would help with my skin concerns in a gentle way without redness or excessive peeling. Thank you Laura at NIOD for sending me this product to try!

Alternative to acid exfoliating?

NIOD NAAP is called a non-acidic alternative to epidermal resurfacing - like AHA, BHA or retinoids. If you're still unfamiliar with AHAs or BHAs I highly recommend you checking out my earlier 101 post! Instead of these acids, NAAP uses fermentation bio-derivatives and amino isolates that should have the benefits of acids without the inflammation, irritation or redness some acids may cause to sensitive skins. This redness does pass, but especially if you're a newbie or very sensitive to acids, you should start with a low dosage and apply only ~every other day. Personally I don't remember having very significant redness issues while using acids, but I have experienced strong tingling from glycolic acid (an AHA) and sometimes my skin does flare up just from my cleansing/skincare routine - which I'd like to avoid. NIOD NAAP retails on their website 42€ for 30ml and has a worldwide delivery.

Packaging and product

NAAP is a semi-opaque white liquid packed in a brown glass bottle with a pipette. The pipette gets all soaked in the product but distributes only little product, so I feel like applying some on my hand by touching the pipette - not good for hygiene. But double dipping the pipette back to the bottle is a nuisance to me. Can I get this in a pump? 

Ingredients

Aqua (Water), Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Bisabolol, Glycerin, Ethyl Linoleate, Hexanoyl Dipeptide-3 Norleucine Acetate, Myristoyl Nonapeptide-3, Yeast Extract, Soy Amino Acids, Pseudoalteromonas Exopolysaccharides, Lecithin, Sorbitan Isostearate, Isohexadecane, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Polysorbate 60, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Salicylate, Citric Acid, Sodium Chloride, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Pentylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

According to COSDNA there is no irritants or acne causing ingredients, the ingredients are listed mostly just as emulsifiers, viscosity controllers with a couple of preservatives. Niod explain some of their technologies on their website: Basically, the 2nd ingredient is a suspension of a probiotic bacteria purified through lysis and acts as a precursor. The amino isolates and oligopeptide are their alternatives for retinoids and AHAs, paired with ingredients to support hydration and make the product more comfortable to use. 

Using NAAP

After using NAAP once or twice I noticed my skin flaking. I didn't get any nasty dry patches, but the outermost layer started peeling when applying foundation with a duo-fibre stippling brush. As my skin is overall dry, I need to refrain from using a stippling brush for my foundation for now and stick with softer natural hair bristles. I've had the same experience with a BHA, Benzyl Peroxide and Retinol products, but I expected the NAAP to be more gentle. The instructions do advice you to use the product every other night to build up tolerance, but since there was no stinging, redness or other irritation, I proceeded with using it every evening (vs BHA two times a day). I've used NAAP in my evening routine like this:

1. Double cleansing
2. Vitamin C serum (currently Niod ELAN) + 15 min wait time
3. NAAP + 15 min wait time
4. Retinol serums
5. Hydrating toners and the rest of the routine

My skin concerns and results

I didn't use any chemical exfoliants while I was on Accutane, and after the medication ended I was left with annoying bumps and texture issues on my forehead. I'm happy my break-outs are drastically reduced, but looking at the mirror with uneven skin still bothers me a ton. There's also a couple of stubborn blackheads on the side of my nose that won't go away. 

After ~a week of using the NIOD NAAP the texture and my forehead 'bumps' were clearly diminished, which I almost find hard to believe. I had already tried one of my topical acne medications with benzyl peroxide and prescription retin-A, retinol serums, etc., but none seemed to have an effect on the bumpy texture. There hasn't been difference to the stubborn comedones on the side of my nose, I might have to go see a professional about those or just wait a little longer. But overall my skin looks so clear and smooth after using NIOD NAAP. No signs of bumpiness on my forehead and make up applies beautifully. I wish I had taken a before and after pictures, but honestly I was sceptic and didn't expect results so quickly.

The flaking has decreased over time I've used the product, but hasn't completely disappeared. I'd like to add the season is changing to colder and I do also use a gentle retinol serum in the evenings, but I don't think it has lead to over exfoliating. The peeling won't occur if I skip a night using NAAP, but I love the results it gives me. If I need my make up to apply extra beautifully I gently remove the dead skin cells by using my Cure Natural Aqua Gel (reviewed here).

Overall

I'm pretty impressed with the results I've got with NIOD NAAP. I honestly expected the product to be on the more milder side and show only subtle changes over time. For me, the results were quick. If you're not used to medium-strong acids (like BHA 2% or AHA 10%) I recommend you start using every other night or so. NAAP would be a dream product if there was zero flaking, but I doubt the results would be as effective. I'll try to update this post after I'm nearly finished my bottle and tell if did the flaking totally diminish. I'm also thinking of incorporating a bit of BHA into my routine and see if it has any effect on the stubborn comedones as NAAP isn't designed to control acne issues. Considering everything, I love how smooth and radiant my skin has looked lately and I will purchasing a second bottle.

Have you tried any NIOD products? What's your current exfoliant?

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This post contains product(s) that were generously provided for consideration. Regardless, my opinions are my own honest and unbiased views. The links are for your convenience and do not contain ads.

Chemical exfoliating 101

When I'm preparing my skincare posts, I want to provide an enjoyable read for both beginners and HC skincare enthusiasts. Some of these pieces of information seem so mundane and general knowledge to me I wonder if sharing them again is worth it? After having multiple chats with my friends, only a few had heard of chemical exfoliants. I think they're unsung heroes of skincare, especially where I live the importance of chemical exfoliating isn't loudly hyped up. Personally I love chemical exfoliants, I think every one should know how to use - or in some cases avoid them!  (PS. never put lemon on your face, they're just for decorative purposes)

Why should one exfoliate?

The uppermost layer of our skin consists of dead skin cells with a cell turnover of ~28 days, which slows down as we age. A packed layer of these dead skin cells can make our skin appear appear dull, uneven texture or congested. Most common form of acne is caused as a hair follicle gets clogged by excess dead skin cells and sebum. Exfoliating gets rid of the dead, old skin cells revealing younger, plumper skin underneath. It helps to brighten our skin, safely get rid of pigmentation or scaring over time, help with texture issues and even acne and blackheads. After exfoliation other skincare products will also penetrate better, making them more efficient.

Chemical exfoliation or scrubs

Scrubs are lotions, gels, etc. which contain small grains of salt, sugar, coffee, oats, powders and unfortunately in some cases microbeads, which pollute our environment. Scrubs can also be washing cloths, dry brushes and gloves, basically any mechanical/physical exfoliator. I find them especially beneficial for my body skin like elbows, knees, legs or anywhere I can use more abrasive exfoliating. The problem with facial scrubs is you can make micro cuts on your face, which can damage your skin, cause redness or sensitivity.  I almost never use mechanical exfoliators on my face, except for my favorite Cure Natural Aqua Gel, which is a very delicate scrub. 

Chemical exfoliators are mild chemical peels that come in two general types: AHA and BHA with various strengths. Not to be confused with putting battery acid on your face, chemical exfoliators can be even gentler than traditional scrubs. Most of chemical exfoliants are toners or lotions you apply on a clean face and don't wash off. This is an effective and safe way to mildly exfoliate your skin many times a week (instead of scrubbing 1-2 times/week), treat acne, congestion and texture issues. A mild strength chemical exfoliator can be well-suited for even sensitive skin types.

What are the differences between BHA and AHA?

AHA and BHA have a lot in common regarding smoothing or evening out your skin, but there are some unique qualities that benefit different skin concerns. Please notice AHA and BHA strengths don't go hand in hand and the you should start from a lower dosage (<1% BHA or <8% AHA) – especially if you're sensitive. Experimenting will show what works the best for you and how often you should apply: from 2 times a day – every other day, for example. Like with all skincare, please use a common sense, patch test and step away if you're irritated. Your skin shouldn't peel or burn.

AHA is short for alpha hydroxy acid, such as glycolic acid (from sugar cane), lactic acid (from milk) and mandelic acid (from almonds). Sometimes called 'fruit acids', as most commonly they can be deprived from foods, such as fruits. AHAs help getting rid of dead skin cells by loosening up glue-like lipids between the cells, revealing reveal brighter and healthier skin underneath. Shedding the dead skin cells can treat hyperpigmentation effectively. They can also plump the skin and help with wrinkling, as all AHAs have some humectant properties. AHAs do increase photosensitivity, so always use a stable sunscreen during the day!  

BHA is short for beta hydroxy acid aka salicylic acid is known acne treatment, as it can penetrate deeper in to pores and get rid of the gunk inside a pore. If you have blackheads, acne or clogged pores is BHA potentially your best friend. BHA can be drying and is often a good choice for combo or oily skin. Personally I have dry and acne prone skin, and I haven't had any problems using BHA. Salicylic acid is derived from salicin and not recommended if you have an aspirin allergy. 

Recap

- AHA is great for: loss of firmness, signs of ageing, treating pigmentation such as scars or sun spots, texture issues, dry skin. Causes sun sensitivity.
- BHA is great for: blackheads, clogged and enlarged pores, oily skin, bumps under skin

pH and concentration

The concern with picking a hydroxy acid product is pH. Too high pH and the acid won't penetrate the skin, too low and you have the risk of irritation. Usually in commercial products, the problem is the former. Also, there's the issue of concentration of acid in the product. In proper chemical exfoliants, the concentration and pH should be listed on the packaging or manufacturer's website. As I said above, you want to start from milder and work your way up, but here's an example what the pH and effective concentration for a leave-on chemical exfoliant should be:

- AHA: pH less than 4, concentration 4-10%
- BHA: pH less than 3.5, concentration 1-2%

Acids in a skincare routine

On Accutane, I don't use any chemical exfoliants to avoid irritation and peeling, but normally my routine would go something like this: I rarely use a traditional toner so I apply AHA/BHA or combo of both after cleansing, both AM and PM. If I'm using combination of both, I'll apply BHA first - assuming it's lower pH (as it should). If I'm using a Vitamin C serum like LAA, I'll apply a pH adjusting toner after cleansing, then the Vitamin C with ~15 wait time to let the product absorb, then acid(s), hydrating essences, toners and so on from water soluble to oil soluble. Recap:

Cleanse (single/double) > pH adjust > LAA Vit C + wait time > BHA > AHA > rest of routine

Use what works for you

As I said, experiment and chose your exfoliant according to your own skin concerns. I'll save the differences between types AHAs and product recommendations for a future post. I hope this introduction post was helpful and gave you more insight about chemical exfoliants and what wonderful benefits they can have for your skin! 

Have you tried chemical exfoliants? Please leave me a comment if these type of basic 101 posts are helpful or should I get into product recommendations and particulars right away.

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Japanese cult beauty: Cure Natural Aqua Gel Review

Peeling gels are a huge thing in Asia, one of the most recognised being the Japanese Cure Natural Aqua Gel. When talking about classics in Japanese skincare, Cure often pops up, although there are competing peeling gels from various brands. But how do they work and do a gel really remove your dead skin cells?

Packaging

Cure Natural Aqua Gel comes in a large clear pump bottle, made of plastic, which looks pretty plain. I wonder why haven't they tweaked the packaging or typography to more interesting one? If you're picking up the bottle in Japan look out for 'dupes', as some brands imitate Cure's clear packaging. I use about 3 pumps per use for my whole face, around 2-3 times a week. One bottle lasts me months and months to finish, maybe a year. Some times the pump clogs a bit from the dried gel and might squirt if you're not careful. It's not a big deal, but always remove the gel residue from the pump. Cure Natural Aqua Gel retails ~¥2625 for 250g. Some places to purchase are Loft, Tokyu Hands and Plaza.

How to use a peeling gel

Apply ~3 pumps of gel on cleansed, DRY skin and massage into your skin. Like with cleansing oils, Cure won't give you the best results if your skin is too damp. Gently rub your nose, chin and forehead – or any of the areas where you have dry patches, make up turns uneven or you have used chemical exfoliants. During massaging the product little bits of loose "skin" will appear. It's so gross it's kind of cool. Very cool, in fact, true skinentertainment. After massaging for about a minute, you can rinse off any gel residue and pat dry. 

Ingredients

Water (activated hydrogen water, non-acidic and purified), glycerin, acrylates/C10-30, alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, dicocodimonium, chloride, steartrimonium bromide, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, gingko biloba extract, rosmarinus officinalis/rosemary leaf extract, butylene glycol

Don't you just love a short ingredient list? Cure Natural Aqua Gel consists mainly of water, solvents, viscosity controllers, emollients and a couple of plant extracts: aloe leaf, ginkgo biloba leaf and rosmary leaf.

The MYTH BEHIND THE 'DEAD SKIN' CELLS

As you probably know, there are typically two types of exfoliants: chemicals such as AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) or mechanically removing the dead skin cells with abrasive particles like as beads, sugar etc aka scrubs. In a gentle gel like this, I'd expect to see chemical exfoliants like AHA or BHA as ingredients, but no safe acid would ever remove your skin cells within a minute.

So what are those bits and balls? I tested applying the gel on my bathroom counter and the white bits showed up whether or not the gel touched my skin at all. This has been discovered by many other bloggers as well, but still many reviews falsely claim the bits to be dead skin cells. It's the gel. If you add a little bit of oil and rub your hand, there will be even more bits forming, gently scrubbing your skin. I won't deny some the bits aren't skin cells, dirt, make up etc., but the effectiveness of the gel is based on you manually scrubbing your skin with those bits.

Results

Knowing  Cure Natural Aqua Gel is a very gentle scrub instead of a chemical or "magical" exfoliant, you'd expect this product to be a total gimmick. Personally I even try to avoid any abrasive scrubbing, but I assure you – Cure works wonderfully. Bad looking make up or dry patches, I remove my make up and apply Cure for a gentle exfoliation. If I haven't used it in a while I do see more bits forming while massaging the product into my skin. After rinsing the gel off my skin feels so smooth and soft, not dry, squeaky or irritated at all. It won't remove blackheads, but skincare products sink in better and my make up applies like a dream after using Cure. After years of using, I'm still in love. Totally a back-up worthy item.

Have you tried peeling gels?
Edit: Lol I forgot to mention the correct prices - fixed!

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