When it comes to skincare and anti-wrinkle treatments, Alpha Hydroxy Acid or AHA has been one of the most popular ingredients in skin care products because of its amazing ability to smooth fine lines, repair dead skin cells, and even out skin tone.
But what is Alpha Hydroxy Acid? And is it safe for the skin?
Is Alpha Hydroxy Acid Safe For Skin?
In general, AHA is safe for most people. Just be smart about how you use it.
First some background. AHAs are a family of chemicals found in many fruits and other foods as well as in skincare products.
The most widely used AHA is glycolic acid, which comes from sugar cane. Other AHAs include citric acid (found in citrus fruits), lactic acid (found in sour milk), malic acid (found in apples and pears), and mandelic acid (found in almonds).
AHAs have been shown to improve the look of sun-damaged skin, wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, and acne scars. In fact,
AHAs have been used for decades to treat these skin problems by dermatologists and plastic surgeons.
They also improve acne by reducing oil production in the skin and unplugging pores — which is why you will find them in many facial cleansers today.
How Does Alpha Hydroxy Acid Work?
Alpha hydroxy acids work by loosening the bond between dead cells on the surface of your skin and the healthy cells below.
This allows the dead cells to slough off, revealing smoother, younger-looking skin underneath.
How To Use Alpha Hydroxy Acid Safely
Here are tips to help you safely use alpha-hydroxy acids:
1. Start small and work your way up
Everyone’s skin is different, so it’s hard to know how your skin will react to AHAs until you try them.
To be safe, start with a low concentration (8% or less), once a week, and increase the frequency gradually over time.
2. Wear sunscreen daily
AHAs can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. So if you’re using AHAs, it’s especially important that you wear sunscreen every day — even on cloudy days.
Sunscreen helps protect your skin from sunburns, dryness, wrinkles and cancer.
3. Avoid direct sun exposure
While you’re using AHAs, avoid tanning beds and prolonged direct sunlight — at least during peak hours (10 am to 4 pm). If you have to be in the sun, wear a hat and reapply sunscreen often.
4. Exfoliate regularly
Cleanse and exfoliate your skin before applying the AHA cream or lotion, which will help it penetrate more deeply.
5. Apply AHA products at night
Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher during the day after using AHA products.
PRO TIP: Use AHA with a concentration between 5%-8% for sensitive skin types, 10%-15% for normal to oily skin types, 15%-20% for thick or oily skin types, and 20%-30% for those with mature or sun-damaged skin (with physician supervision)
How Can You Find Products That Contain Alpha-hydroxy Acid?
When looking for products containing alpha-hydroxy acids, you should first determine which type of acid is right for your skin. Some alpha-hydroxy acids work better on dry skin while others work best on oily skin.
Another option is to check out your local beauty store for products containing alpha-hydroxy acids.
Many stores have a selection of skincare products in their makeup section or in the pharmacy aisle.
However, if you have specific questions about a product, it is best to ask the salesperson before purchasing it.
How Does An Alpha Hydroxy Acid Work For Acne Or Fine Lines And Wrinkles?
Alpha Hydroxy Acids exfoliate dead skin cells to reveal newer, fresher-looking skin underneath. They also increase collagen production which plumps up skin so fine lines and wrinkles appear less noticeable.
Their main effect is on the epidermis (the skin’s outer surface) but they can also work on the lower layers of the skin to stimulate new cells and collagen production.
How To Choose The Right Alpha Hydroxy Acid For Your Skin Type
There are several different types of AHAs, including glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid.
Each has its own unique benefits and uses. If your skin is looking dull or uneven in texture, here’s how to choose the right AHA for your specific needs:
Choose your acid according to your skin type.
Make sure that the product you choose has a pH of 3.0 or less.
Start by using the product once every three nights, and then up your usage frequency to every other night, then every night depending on your skin’s tolerance.
Do not use an AHA product if you are currently undergoing any kind of medical treatment for your skin (or at all if you are pregnant or breastfeeding) unless you first consult with a medical doctor.
Always use an AHA product with an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen, even when using it during the winter months and indoors.
Do not use a glycolic acid product if you have rosacea.
If you have sun damage or hyperpigmentation, look for products that contain kojic acid, bearberry extract, or green tea extract for additional brightening benefits.
The takeaway is that alpha hydroxy acid appears to be an effective, non-irritating exfoliant for use in skincare, and there’s little reason to avoid it as long as you take some precautions to protect yourself and your skin before using it.