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Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) for Skin: What They Are, How They Work



What is Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) ?

Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of natural and synthetic ingredients that, when properly formulated, can exfoliate the uppermost layers of skin. Doing so reveals fresher, refined skin that appears much smoother, is more hydrated, and, over time, becomes visibly firmer. Anyone concerned with looking younger, longer should consider adding an alpha hydroxy product to their skincare routine.

Types of Exfoliation from AHA’s

There are two forms of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical.

Chemical exfoliation occurs when using products that contain hydroxyl acids to dissolve the dead skin.

Manual exfoliation occurs when using a product with an abrasive in it where you mechanically scrub the face to loosen up the dead skin cells.

Both are effective. In general the chemical forms are more effective than the manual.

Using AHA’s for Skin Care

Alpha Hydroxy Acids are found in many skin care products:

cleansing creams
moisture lotion for dry skin
moisture lotion for oily skin
eye creams
liquid foundations
and specialty products


How do alpha hydroxy acids work?

The main benefit of an alpha hydroxy acid is its ability to exfoliate the skin. They essentially remove the “glue” from the upper layer of skin that holds onto the old, dead skin cells. By effectively removing that top layer of skin, the alpha hydroxy acids serve to help new skin grow.

Alpha hydroxy acids reduce the look of wrinkles, help to reduce the likelihood that winkles will develop, make skin smoother and (with months of daily use) can help skin that’s uneven and hyper pigmented become smoother and more even.

It’s also believed that in addition to helping new (younger looking and fresh) skin to grow, alpha hydroxy acids also stimulate the growth of elastin and collagen, both of which become depleted with age.

Though some people with very sensitive skin might have a hard time using alpha hydroxy acids with any regularity, most people can use them once they discover what the right concentration is for their particular skin. Alpha hydroxy acids seem to work best for most people in a concentration of 5% to 7%, and that’s the concentration found in most products that contain the AHAs.


What are the side effects?

There are two major side effects to using AHA products: sun sensitivity and irritation.

Though we have already discussed sun sensitivity, it’s important to reiterate that point. AHA products can increase your sensitivity to the sun by as much as 50%, so it’s essential that a good sunscreen is used.

Irritation is another possible side effect of Alpha Hydroxy Acid use. Some of these symptoms might include redness, burning and itching. If the symptoms continue after you have used the product for some time and your skin has had a chance to adapt, try using a product that contains less of the AHA concentration.



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