Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs for short, are a group of organic compounds including glycolic acid (from sugar cane), citric acid (from citrus fruits), lactic acid (from milk and pickled vegetables), malic acid (from apples) and tartaric acid (from grapes).
Glycolic acid and lactic acid are widely used in the cosmetic industry as chemical exfoliators. They help with signs of aging and fine lines. Brightening complexion, correcting discolouration and age spots.
So how do they work?
Over time and with sun exposure there is a gradual slow down in rate at which old skin cells leave the surface of the skin to be replaced by newer cells. This results in a surface layer of the dead skin cells that are responsible for the appearance of aged skin. AHAs encourage the shedding of these dead skin cells. This is gentle and safe procedure.
They help to loosen the glue-like substances that hold the surface skin cells to each other, therefore allowing the dead skin cells to peel off gently. The new skin underneath has a fresher, healthier look with more even colour tone and texture.
So how much do I need?
Not all AHAs are the equal. They do not all have the same exfoliating power. The FDA recommends AHA products with an overall concentration of less than 10%. This helps to prevent side effects of AHAs. Daily use of products such as toners, serums and moisturisers should contain around a 5% concentration. It can take anywhere from 4 -6 weeks to see improvement with your skin. Be sure to take care when using AHAs as they can cause sensitivity when applied for some people. It is suggested to use them every other day until your skin builds up a tolerance. You must always wear a sunscreen when you are using AHAs as it can make your skin more sensitive to the suns UVA and UVB rays. So, it can be best to use an AHA at night.
So, who can use AHAs?
Anyone can use AHAs. The are recommended for those whose skin is showing the first signs of aging such as fine lines and discolouration. Or for anyone who is wanting to see an improvement for their hyperpigmentation and more even-toned skin.