Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Skin

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are one of the most widely used ingredients in skin care preparations. Derived from a number of fruits as well as milk, alpha hydroxy acids can improve a number of skin conditions including dry skin, wrinkles and skin discoloration.

Historical records show that even Queen Cleopatra used AHAs in the form of milk baths (milk contains lactic acid) to improve the look of her skin. Now, a number of skin care products contain these acids as an essential component that can help improve your skin and help maintain it looking even toned and smooth.
Alpha hydroxy acids are very efficient in their ability to exfoliate or remove the dead surface layer of your skin; this dead layer of skin cells give their way to a new layer of healthy and fresh skin cells on the surface. Regular use of AHAs will improve the texture and appearance of skin, leaving it with a subtle, but distinguishable glow.

AHAs commonly found in skin care formulations include:
1. Glycolic acid derived from sugar cane. Glycolic acid is one of the more well known and widely used AHAs.
2. Lactic acid which is found in milk. It is not as irritating to skin as glycolic acid, yet still delivers significant benefit.
3. Citric acid which comes from citrus fruits.
4. Malic acids from fruits like apples and pears.
5. Mandelic acid from almonds. It is a gentle AHA and ideal for treating darker skin complexion, as the risk of developing hyper-pigmentation (as is more common with the use of glycolic acid) is quite remote.

You can use alpha hydroxy acids in several different ways:
1. As chemical peels in administered by a qualified skin care specialist. Chemical peels tend to contain AHAs in concentrations over 20%.
2. As cleansers or toners to mildly exfoliate skin.
3. In creams, serums or lotions. Because the AHA stays on skin, these types of formulations will deliver more substantial results than cleansers or toners, which are removed quite quickly.

How Do AHAs Benefit Skin?

AHAs are effective skin exfoliants that can help your skin many ways:
Effectively remove dead skin cells that reside on the surface of your skin
· Help the growth of new skin cells,
· Studies have shown that AHAs may aid the production of collagen and elastin, which are the two important skin components that help to provide structure to skin
· Reduce the appearance of wrinkles, skin roughness and skin discoloration

Alpha hydroxy acids work best when formulated at low pH to ensure their efficacy. Sensitive skin types may want to start with lower concentrations, around 4% before gradually building up to using higher strengths. Concentrations above 20% should be administered by qualified professionals.

AHA Side Effects

Because of their acidic nature, you may experience skin irritation including local redness and itching. Some individuals may also have low intensity pain at the site of application. AHAS also increase skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, which could possibly lead to sunburn. Ensure that you cover up with a good broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sun blocking sunscreen each day along with your AHA preparation.

Individuals with medium to darker skin complexions can suffer from pigment changes. This may be more problematic with glycolic acid. Mandelic and malic acids as found in a product like MaMa Lotion tends to be better tolerated by these individuals.

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