Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of natural and synthetic (lab-made) ingredients added to skincare formulations like serums, chemical peels, toners and creams to help exfoliate the top layers of dead skin cells. This helps reveal fresh, refined and healthier skin that looks more hydrated, smoother, younger and plump. Over time AHAs visibly make seen appear firmer, and wrinkles and fine lines are minimized. AHAs also brighten a dull complexion, fade dark spots and help reduce acne and blackheads.
There are several types of AHAs commonly used in skincare products which include citric acid (from citrus fruits), glycolic acid (from sugar cane), lactic acid (from sour milk), malic acid (from apples), and tartaric acid (from wine grapes), among others. AHAs are primarily used to exfoliate, which forms the basis of all the other benefits that we’ll discuss below:
- Exfoliate Skin
AHAs are primarily used to exfoliate your skin. In fact, this is the foundation for all of the other benefits AHAs offer.
Exfoliation refers to a process where the skin cells on the surface shed off. This helps remove dead skin cells but also makes way for new skin cell generation.
As you age, your natural skin cell cycle slows down, which can make dead skin cells build up. When you have too many dead skin cells, they can accumulate and make your complexion look dull.
Dead skin cell accumulation can also enhance other underlying skin issues such as wrinkles, age spots and acne.
- Visibly Brighten Skin
When these acids exfoliate your skin, dead skin cells are broken down. The new skin revealed beneath is brighter and more radiant. AHAs with glycolic acid can help break down skin cell accumulation, while products with citric acid can brighten your skin even further.
- Reduce the Appearance of Surface Lines & Wrinkles
Wrinkles and fine lines are the bane of many women, but imagine if you could keep them away! AHAs increase blood flow, preventing the formation of early signs of aging like fine lines and wrinkles.
Alpha hydroxy acids take off the top, damaged layer of skin, revealing less-damaged skin beneath and allowing for the re-growth of skin cells. They may also enhance your body’s production of collagen, the protein that plumps and firms the skin surface. Still, it’s important to remember that AHAs work for surface lines and wrinkles only, not deeper wrinkles.
- Enhance Collagen Production
Collagen is a protein rich fiber that helps keep your skin plump and smooth. As you age, these fibers break down. Sun damage may also accelerate collagen destruction. This can result in tired, sagging skin.
Collagen itself is in the middle layer of your skin (dermis). When the upper layer (epidermis) is removed, products such as AHAs can go to work on the dermis. AHAs may help promote collagen production by destroying old collagen fibers to make way for new ones.
- Promote Blood Flow to Skin
AHAs have anti-inflammatory properties that can help promote blood flow to the skin. This can help correct pale, dull complexions. Proper blood flow also ensures that skin cells get the necessary nutrients needed via oxygen-rich red blood cells.
- Minimize & Correct Discoloration
Your risk for skin discoloration increases with age. For example, flat brown spots, may develop as a result of sun exposure. They tend to develop on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun most often, such as your chest, hands, and face. Discoloration may also result from post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation and acne scars.
AHAs promote skin cell turnover whereby new skin cells are created with a more even tone. AHAs reduce skin discoloration by encouraging the old, discolored skin cells to turn over (enhanced cell renewal).
- Treat & Prevent Acne
Tired of stubborn blemishes? AHAs help treat and prevent recurring acne. Acne pimples occur when your pores are clogged with a combination of dead skin cells, oil (sebum), and bacteria. Exfoliating with AHAs can help loosen and remove the clog. Continued use may also prevent future clogs from forming.
AHAs may also reduce the size of enlarged pores, which are commonly seen in acne-prone skin. Skin cell turnover from exfoliating glycolic and lactic acids can even reduce acne scars. Some acne products also contain other AHAs, such as citric and malic acids, to help soothe inflamed skin.
- Increase Product Absorption
AHAs can make your existing products work better by increasing their absorption into the skin. Surface debris and dead skin inhibits your skin’s ability to absorb the active ingredients in your skincare creams and serums. Alpha hydroxy acids remove these surface deposits to expose the underlying cells.
For example, if you have too many dead skin cells, your daily moisturizer just sits on top without hydrating your new skin cells underneath. AHAs like glycolic acid can break through this layer of dead skin cells, enabling your moisturizer to hydrate your new skin cells more effectively.
- Skin Brightening Effects
Sun damage, scars and other health problems can lead to hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration on your face. Alpha hydroxy acids can help to ‘inhibit melanin formation’ and remove discolorations that leave your skin tone dark. They also help in bringing out an even skin tone by lightening dark patches on the skin.
- Oil control
Excess oil can make your face look greasy and dull. If you’re tired of trying all those face powders and face washes that promise an oil free skin but fail to deliver, its time you embraced the good quality products containing AHAs. They are good at controlling oil production thus keeping your skin oil free and truly matte, without rendering it dry.
There you have it…
If you’re looking for significant exfoliation, then AHAs may be the right products for you to consider. You can opt for daily exfoliation with AHA-containing serums, toners, and creams. AHAs are among the most-researched beauty products because of their effectiveness and reliability, but they aren’t for everyone. If you have preexisting skin conditions, talk to your dermatologist or skin care specialist first before trying these types of products. They can help you determine the best AHA for your skin type and skin care goals.