What is AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) ?
AHAs are one of the most commonly used chemical skin exfoliants found in the skincare world that work to deeply cleanse the surface of our skin and deep into our pores and cause quicker cell turnover. As we age skin cell turnover occurs less frequently making skin appear dull. When dead skin cells build up they clog the pores and make skin appear less youthful and dull. AHAs assist this skin cell shedding cycle resulting in smoother and more vibrant-looking skin.
AHAs are water-soluble made from sugary fruits such as sugar cane and they don’t interfere with hair follicles or penetrate through the skin’s natural oils. They exfoliate the surface layer of the skin to allow new skin to regenerate.
The most commonly used AHAs found in skincare products are Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, Malic acid, Tartaric acid, Citric acid, and Mandelic acid. Glycolic acid and Lactic acid are the most widely used AHAs. These acids are quite small and can effectively penetrate deep into the skin.
AHA’s are found in a whole heap of skincare products like peels, masks, cleansers, toners, creams, lotions, exfoliates, and serums.
What Alpha Hydroxy Acids are there?
- Glycolic acid is a very popular AHA and is found in many skincare products around the world because it is very effective and potent. Glycolic acid is typically derived from sugar cane. It’s very small molecular size can penetrate deep within the skin and for this reason, it is advisable to not use very high amounts. A maximum of 10% of glycolic acid is ideal. Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, pores, smooth uneven skin tone, and improve radiance.
- Lactic acid is made from the fermentation of beet sugar, cane sugar, corn, grapes, and tapioca. It has a larger molecular size and is, therefore, more suitable for people with sensitive skin. It works as an exfoliant and in anti-wrinkle products. And can help retain moisture in our skin. Lactic acid is a milder AHA rather than Glycolic acid which would not be recommended to use every day. Lactic acid on the other hand can be.
- Mandelic Acid is derived from bitter almonds and is often used for acne-prone skin to smooth out Acne marks, evening out skin texture, and tone. It is a very lightweight ingredient that very quickly absorbs into the skin and works to gently exfoliate the skin. It has antibacterial properties and can be useful for acne-prone skin and is great for sensitive skin types.
- Citric Acid
Citric acid is derived from citrus fruits and can assist in brightening the skin, help regulate pH levels in the skin as well a preservative.
- Tartaric Acid is derived from grapes and works to moisturise the skin and has healing properties.
Who can use AHA?
AHA works best for;
- Normal skin
- Dry skin
- Sun-damaged skin
- Bumpy skin
- Rough skin
- Dry rough skin
- People who wish to lift the build-up of dead cells on the skin’s surface using a non-abrasive exfoliant rather than granular substances or an exfoliation tool.
What are the benefits of AHA on the skin?
AHA’s are used for a variety of benefits primarily to reduce;
- Old skin cells from the surface of the skin
- Age spots, scars, and visible signs of sun damage
- Fine lines & wrinkles
- Uneven and uneven bumpy skin
- And to maintain water in the top layer of the skin
An awesome exfoliate
Smooth the skin
Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
Increase collagen production
Skin brightening and reduce age spots and colour discolouration
What concentration of AHA is required?
You will often see the percentage of an exfoliant acid in a product. The higher the percentage does not mean the better the product. AHA molecules are small so they can penetrate the skin deeply which increases the rate of skin turnover. By using such acids that bring about efficiency you do not require a high percentage of acid within the product. Too much concentration of AHA does not necessarily mean better and you could increase the risk of side effects and irritation. Your selected AHA should have a maximum concentration of 10 – 15%.
- Avoid using skincare products that contain vitamin C or retinol after using AHA. This will reduce the risk of adverse skin irritation or unintended reaction.
- When starting off with AHA it is important to go slowly and not use too use much, too soon.
- Reduce the risk of side effects or skin irritation by testing AHA in small doses with a day in between for your skin to rest.
- Look at the pH level of the acid you are using. Water has a pH of 7 and our skin is naturally acidic ranging with a pH of around 4-6. Therefore, a pH of 1 is highly acidic, and a pH of 14 is highly alkaline.
- Extremely dry and sensitive skin types should slowly build up use to avoid skin irritation.
- Ensure you do patch testing to ensure you know what reaction the product will have on your face.
- The exfoliating effects of AHAs make your skin more sensitive to the sun so it is very important to protect your skin with sunscreen.