You may not of heard of AHA's or what they actually are, but you can almost guarantee that glycolic, lactic or citric acid will appear in the ingredients of your favourite exfoliators, cleansers and serums. AHA's have become more of a talking point in the skincare industry as more and more brands realise how valuable they are in your daily products.
Need a bit more help understanding what they are and how they work? Then keep reading'
What are alpha hydroxy acids?
So, to get all sciency about it AHA's are a class of chemical compounds that can be either naturally occurring or synthetic. For example, glycolic acid comes from sugar cane and lactic acid from milk.
What are the benefits of AHA's?
Alpha hydroxy acids are renowned for their exfoliating properties and smoothing the texture of your skin. Rather than a manual exfoliation, with scrubs or beads, AHA's are a chemical exfoliation. They help to loosen and get rid of the dead skin cells on the surface of your skin. Regular exfoliation help keeps your complexion naturally bright by preventing the build up of dead skin cells which dull the appearance of your skin. Stronger doses of the acids can also work at a deeper level to boost collagen production which will plump and firm your skin. Over the counter products are usually low concentration and are therefore perfectly safe for home use.
How to use AHA's?
Most products that contain alpha hydroxy acids are perfectly safe for home use, however using every other day is the best way to minimise irritation. A bit of tingling is perfectly normal when you apply the product, this just means the acid is penetrating. An effective product will leave your skin looking immediately refreshed and glowing. Unlike scrubs and exfoliating cloths the skin is not damaged by the abrasives, rather the acids trigger your skin to repair itself with new cells.
Can anyone use alpha hydroxy acids?
Yes! Even if you have sensitive skin the use of AHA's will be beneficial for you. They are much kinder to the skin than any abrasive scrubs so are actually a better option for you. If you find you are having some irritation after using products with AHA's then just decrease the amount to use them and build it up, your skin may just need time to adjust to the routine.
The pros and cons of using AHA's?
As we've said AHA's definitely offer smoother, brighter skin which is why they are almost in every anti-aging product. Since they act of the surface layer of the skin they can reduce fine lines, pigmentation and acne scarring. They also work extremely well for acne sufferers, glycolic acids in particular can be used to treat acne and oily skin since it will help clear the cells that cause blocked pores and trapped bacteria.*
However, irritation can occur from using AHA's. A tingling sensation when you apply the product is normal however you shouldn't feel any burning or inflammation. This means the acid concentration is too high for your skin. Begin with a low concentration product. AHA's can also increase photosensitivity so using a daily sunscreen (SPF) is even more important as your skin will be more sensitive to the sun.
Now onto our favourite AHA products!
Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser Age Reform Men's Society Daily Face Wash & AHA ExfoliatorKarin Herzog Anti Ageing Cream Vita-A-Kombi AHA Karin Herzog Correct and Treat Face Cream AHA Anatomicals We Never Forget A Face Glycolic Cleansing Pads Jack Black Deep Dive Gylcolic Facial Cleanser
*Read more about acne in our full guide on what it is and how to treat its various manifestations.