Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are among those skin care ingredients that have been very much in demand since some time. According to experts, products rich in AHAs contribute positively to smoother and clearer skin. Chemically, these acids are a series of compounds that are made from well-known food products. Few examples of these acids, which are most widely used, include glycolic acid made from sugar cane, citric acid made from citrus fruits, lactic acid from sour milk, and malic acid extracted from apples.
Interestingly, these acids have a long history for their use for younger-looking skin. This history traces back to ancient Egyptians who used these natural compounds widely. Today, their popularity has shot up like a missile. Present in dermatologistâ€™s in-office facial peels and in several skin care products after approval by FDA, AHAs have become vital ingredients in several creams, shampoos, sunscreens, lightening lotions, and acneÂ moisturizers.
The Working of Alpha Hydroxy Acids
These acids mainly work as exfoliants. They break the bond between the cells and epidermis so that the dead skin cells are dismissed. This makes space for growth of new skin. Apart from exfoliators, alpha hydroxy acids can even boost or kindle the production of elastin and collagen. Moreover, these acids help cleansing the skin by lightening the appearance of wrinkles, dryness, blotchy pigmentation due to sun, and roughness. However, this is only possible if the acid is used consistently and constantly for a few months. According to experts, alpha hydroxy acids act as ideal exfoliators, blood circulation boosters, fine line andÂ wrinkle reducers, dark spot lighteners, and blackheads and acne fighters.
Alpha versus Beta Hydroxy Acids
The main difference is oil solubility. While alpha hydroxy acids are soluble only in water, beta hydroxy acid is soluble in oil. Salicylic acid is the only beta hydroxy acid present on the planet. This means that beta hydroxy acid is better for oily skin with whiteheads and blackheads, while alpha hydroxy acids are for thickened, photo-damaged skin that is not prone to breakouts.
The Pros and Cons of Using AHA Skin Care Products
The benefits include subtle improvements with fresher skin look, quick aging sign reductions without downtime, and inexpensive availability. Although there are so many pros of using an AHA skin care product, there are some limitations to bear as well. If you are using products to be used at home with low concentrations of acid, it might take months to heal your skin. Further, the most useful peels need a doctorâ€™s supervision, which can add up to your skin care cost. Moreover, in case of deep peels, the skin tends to appear sunburned for some days before being peeled. Even the rejuvenated skin is sensitive to sun due to which sunscreen application becomes essential.
Choosing the Most Suitable AHA Skin Care Product
As such, there is no best formulation or concentration when it comes to AHA skin care products. Therefore, in order to choose the right product, you need to know yourÂ skin type along with the desired level of improvement. The two main factors that help in distinguishing one AHA product from another are concentration and pH level.
Products available at over the counter have alpha hydroxy acids that are usually safe for a majority of people. However, they might be unsuitable for those having sensitive skin,Â seborrheic dermatitis, and rosacea due to increased risk of rash. In this case, these people need to stop using them and look for a different product. Usually, over-the-counter AHA products like lotions and moisturizers have not even 5% of glycolic acid, while cosmeceuticals of medical-grade tend to contain 8 to 14%.
Although these products are formulated for smooth daily use, they can take months to demonstrate signs of improvement. This is the reason why products having 20-30% of glycolic acid are recommended, as they ensure better and swifter outcomes. Nevertheless, the outcomes are temporary and that you need to apply them repeatedly and frequently. Mostly, peels with this percentage of acid are suggested, which should be use only by a trained cosmetologist. For long-lasting and best results, peels having 50-70% of acid are preferred, which are only applied by dermatologists. However, they are powerful enough to trigger side effects.
Because these acids can result in irritation and sensitivity, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released buying guidelines for safe use. According to these guidelines, the AHA concentration should be 10% or less, and that the final product must have a pH of at least 3.5 along with an effective sunscreen or alert people to use sunscreen products. To play safe, makes sense to consult your dermatologist and then choose a right skin care product that has the right concentration of one of the alpha hydroxy acids. And yes, do also buy a proper sunscreen not only for overcoming the weakness of AHAs but also because of averting further premature aging of your skin.
Bio: Fermin White is a beautician as well as a consultant who advices to use only organic products when it is the matter of skin care. She just tried an organic anti-wrinkle serum called Lift Serum Pro (www.youtube.com) and was happy using it for its effectiveness.