Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHAs) are natural acids found mostly in fruits, sugarcane, and milk. These acids are used in many cosmetic treatments and products to exfoliate the top layer of the skin by removing dead skin cells hence increasing skin cell turnover and also helping to treat specific skin conditions like acne. They are also considered chemical exfoliants because they use acids and enzymes to remove dead skin cells.
The AHAs used in skincare products are;
- Glycolic Acid (comes from sugarcane)
- Lactic Acid (comes from dairy products and fermented vegetables)
- Mandelic Acid (derived from bitter almonds)
- Citric Acid (derived from citrus fruits)
- Malic Acid (present in apples)
- Tartaric Acid (present in grapes)
- Hydroxy Caproic Acid (from jelly)
- Hydroxy Caprylic Acid (from animals)
The most popular AHAs are Glycolic acid and Lactic acid. Glycolic acid easily penetrates the skin hence getting a natural glow and lactic acid helps to reduce the appearance of large pores, age spots, and hyperpigmentation.
Why you should add AHAs to your skincare routine;
- Gentle exfoliation; one easy way to boost the glow on your skin is to exfoliate regularly. Exfoliation is of two types that is chemical exfoliation and physical or mechanical exfoliation. Both types help to speed up skin cell turnover, remove dead skin cells and other debris. With mechanical exfoliants, the products contain small particles like abrasive brushes, scrubs, or face clothes and work by scrubbing away the dead skin cells. These can be too harsh and damaging to the skin. Chemical exfoliants use acids to dissolve and loosen the dead cells hence increasing cells turnover and improving the skin’s complexion. The chemical exfoliants are gentle on the skin and are suitable for those who have sensitive skin.
- Help to reduce acne; acne occurs when your skin pores are clogged with a combination of dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil. AHAs can help to loosen and remove dead skin cells and other debris. They also help to reduce the appearance of acne scars.
- Increase product absorption; AHAs like glycolic acid help to remove dead skin cells that don’t allow other products to penetrate into the skin. Once the new skin cells underneath are revealed, the products are able to work effectively hence increasing their absorption into the skin.
- Reduces wrinkles and fine lines; it’s always important to wear sunscreen when going out during the day. When you constantly expose your skin to the sun rays, the new skin cell turnover slows down hence increasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But with the constant use of AHAs, they increase collagen and elastin in the skin, making the skin look healthy, youthful, and plumper.
- Improve skin texture and complexion; exfoliants like AHAs help to remove rough and flaky skin that is caused by dead skin cells. The new cells underneath are exposed hence having a more radiant, brighter skin tone. Skincare products that have citric acid help to brighten the skin.
Possible Side Effects
Just like any other skincare products out there, the first time you start using these products, you might experience some minor side effects like itching, burning, and a few blisters. But with time, the skin adjusts to the product. Before using AHAs, consult a doctor to know which product works best for your skin type and needs.
If you are looking for exfoliants in soaps, toners, cleansers, and moisturizers, AHAs are the best to use to remove dead skin, improve skin texture, reduce visible signs of aging, and reduce dark spots. Always wear sunscreen after applying the AHAs daily to prevent sunburn and sun sensitivity. Don’t combine retinol and AHAs because they are both exfoliants that can irritate the skin.