- citric acid (found in citrus fruits)
- glycolic acid (found in sugarcane)
- lactic acid (found in sour milk)
- malic acid (found in apples)
- tartaric acid (found in grapes and tamarinds)
Benefits of Alpha Hydroxy Acid
- Moisturizing dry skin
- Reducing acne scars, dark spots and uneven skin ton
- Improving the appearance of photo-aged skin
- Firming and smoothing skin
Most of the research showing these benefits were however conducted with glycolic acid or lactic acid. It is not known whether the other AHA (e.g. malic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid) are equally effective.
What Makes Alpha Hydroxy Acids Effective?
- The type of acid: AHAs that are small in size per volume are more active and penetrate the skin more deeply than larger-size AHAs. Glycolic acid is the smallest in molecular size followed by lactic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, and citric acid. This is why Glycolic acid and lactic acid are considered the most effective AHAs
- The concentration: The effectiveness of AHAs also depend on how much of the acid is in the skincare product. The greater the concentration, the stronger the product is going to be. Products containing AHAs between 5% to 15% can be used at home to exfoliate, smoothen, and treat photo-aged skin. Other skin concerns (e.g. acne, hyper pigmentation, wrinkles) might require professional facial peels with higher concentrations of the acids, from 20% to 70%. These chemical peels are usually performed by a dermatologist. As a general rule, products with greater than 15% AHA should not be used without the supervision of a dermatologist.
- The pH: pH measures how acidic the AHA-containing skincare product is. As a general rule, the lower the pH of the skincare product containing the AHA, the more rapidly the AHA is absorbed into skin and the more effective it is at exfoliating the skin. To act as exfoliants, AHA products must be in a pH of 3 to 4.
AHAs are usually well tolerated. They can cause skin irritation, tingling sensation, burning, stinging, and redness.Alpha Hydroxy Acids increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, so it's best to use these products at night and always wear sunscreen in the morning.Click To Tweet These side effects usually occur with high concentrations of the acid. Since everyone’s skin is different, always test the product on a small surface (e.g. back of hand) before applying to face.
- AHA-containing products are effective exfoliants that can be used to produce clear, younger looking skin
- When purchasing a product containing AHA, check the type of AHA, concentration, and pH
- Glycolic acid and lactic acid have the best evidence and I would recommend using products with these ingredients
- Don’t use AHA products with concentrations greater than 15% at home.
- The higher the concentration of AHA, the greater the risk of side effect (irritation, sensitivity to sun, redness)
Below are links to some of the best AHA-containing skincare products that you can purchase. These are products I have personally researched and used. I highly recommend them for anyone seeking to incorporate AHA into their skincare routine.
(NB: I participate in select affiliate advertising programs. This means that if you click and/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or any related social media platforms, I may make a commission from that click and/or purchase. All opinions are my own, and all brands featured represent what I personally like and support).
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