For centuries natural compounds containing Alpha Hydroxy Acids have been used to promote youth, dating back as far as the Egyptians. AHA's were first used in the early nineties by dermatologists for in-office facial peels, and their dramatic results led to the development of over-the-counter products. In 1992, Alpha Hydroxy Acids were approved by the FDA for at-home use.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids are naturally occurring acids, derived from the sugars in particular plants. They not only prevent clogged pores, but also enhance cell renewal through exfoliation. They are able to improve the skin, because the molecules are small enough to penetrate the outer layer (horny) of the skin, as well as reach the lower layer (dermis). AHA’s help hydrate the skin, increase collagen production, and improve its texture, making it appear more radiant.
Unlike surface or manual exfoliation, AHA's have been proven to have both epidermal and dermal effects. Alpha Hydroxy Acids have a substantial effect on keratinization, dissolving the cement that holds dead skin cells together, increasing cell turnover, and sloughing off dull, rough skin on the surface. AHA's that penetrate deep into the skin have been shown to produce increased amounts of mucopolysaccharides and collagen, as well as increased skin thickness without causing inflammation. This improves the long-term appearance of sun damaged and aging skin.
When choosing an Alpha Hydroxy Acid, it is important to pay attention to the formulation. In order to determine how active an Alpha Hydroxy Acid product is, look at both the concentration of AHA and the pH of the product. An effective concentration should contain at least 8% Alpha Hydroxy Acid with a pH between 3.5 and 4.0. A pH of up to 4.5 is acceptable on products with high concentrations of 20-25%. Products for use at home should never contain over 25% Alpha Hydroxy Acid content. For those desiring to use concentrations over 15%, a doctor's supervision is required.
Not all Alpha Hydroxy Acids are created equal. Some are more irritating or more moisturizing, some are better for breakouts, and some are stronger than others. Be sure to choose the right AHA formulation for your skin type.
Types of Alpha Hydroxy Acids:
It is also important to note that a sunscreen should always be used when treating the skin with Alpha Hydroxy Acids. We recommend using a stable, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more.
Click to read about some common Alpha Hydroxy Acid Myths