Alpha hydroxy acids (known as AHAs), are a class of chemical compounds that are either natural or synthetic – derived from sources such as organic sugars, glycolic acid, mandelic acid or lactic acid. When applied topically, AHAs are a wonderful way to chemically exfoliate the skin.
AHAs dissolve the bonds between skin cells, which in turn thoroughly sloughs away any dead skin cells. The result? The subsequent unveiling of the smoother layer of skin underneath. AHA’s are a wonderful alternative to manual exfoliants, which some may prefer to avoid as they find them too harsh on their skin. Unfortunately, AHAs are not oil soluble, so, unfortunately, they won’t penetrate deep below the surface of the skin, but they CAN reduce the appearance of fine lines, as well as pigmentation and scarring.
AHAs are suitable for all skin types – but go easy on these if you have sensitive skin.
A common misconception is that AHAs are solely found in peels and exfoliating solutions, when they can be found in a vast variety of products. AHAs can be found in face washes, masks, serums and moisturisers. My preference is lactic acid as the molecule is larger, making it more gentle as it penetrates a little slower. AHA serums are great as they have a higher potency, directly applied to the skin and left on, so they have a little longer to work their magic. And, as always, when introducing any new product into your routine, build up slowly. Begin by applying just once a week, with a low-concentration product, as they can cause irritation.
As AHAs increase any photosensitivity, make sure you wear a sunscreen daily (on that note, however, even if you’re not using AHAs…wear sunscreen daily!)