Alpha Hydroxy Acid: taking the acid test

AHAs are a group of acids, from fruits and other natural substances, that speed cell turnover and improve texture, reduce fine lines and even out skin tone.

AHAs are key to unclogging embedded cellular debris from pores and shedding the outermost layer of dead skin. They work by consistently peeling away dead and thickened areas of the skin, in essence thinning the build-up. If you stop using AHAs, your skin's turnover rate will gradually become more sluggish. With continued use, AHAs improve a wide range of skin conditions including wrinkles, acne, blotches, and brown spots. Other benefits include their moisturising, oil reduction, and pore-cleansing abilities, as well as bleaching properties for lightening discolouration.

Over-the-counter AHA strengths vary from 4-15 percent, but are often neutralised to a degree that they are not very effective - 8 percent is considered the baseline level needed to see results. Sensitive skin type may only be able to tolerate the mildest, like polyhydroxy acids. Gylcolic acid is considered to be the most effective AHA for skin rejuvenation because it helps draw other treatments deeper into the skin. At a low pH, it can also aid in stimulating collagen production within the dermis. As the skin becomes conditioned to AHAs, stronger concentrations can be used.

When trying any new product, use it regularly for at least a month before evaluating its effectiveness. Your skin fluctuates with your monthly cycle. In order to determine whether a product is working, you need to use it during each phase of that cycle. Don't try more than one new product at a time, as it will be hard to tell how your skin responds to any of them. Buy products with adequate labeling: for example, a list of ingredients and the name and address of the manufacturer of distributor. Stop using a product immediately if you experience any adverse reactions, including stinging, redness, itching, burning or increased sun sensitivity.


Natural Exfoliants

Glycolic acid: Most common AHA, derived from sugarcane or made from synthetic ingredients. Because it is a small molecule, it penetrates the skin easily.

Malic acid: Derived from apples and white grapes.

Tartaric acid: A type of glycolic acid that results from the fermentation process used in making wine.

Uses: Exfoliation, reducing surface oils, unclogging blackheads, smoothing fine lines.


Beta hydroxy acid: Also referred to as salicylic acid. It does not penetrate as deeply into the dermis as glycolic acid, so it is less irritating.

Uses: Exfoliation of epidermis, prevention of clogged pores.


Citric acid: Derived from citrus fruits. Acts as an antioxidant on the skin.

Uses: May stimulate collagen production, has mild bleaching properties.


Lactic acid: Comes from sour milk. Works as an exfoliator and to hold water in the skin as a component of the skin's natural moisturising mechanism.

Uses: Softening thick, rough skin, moisturising.


Polyhydroxy acids: considered one of the mildest formulations because they are larger molecules so are limited in the way they can penetrate the skin.

Uses: softening thick, rough skin, moisturising.


If you�ve applied creams with AHAs, then try to protect your skin before going out with a SPF of at least 15.Wear a hat with a brim and cover up with lightweight, loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants.

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