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.


La Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreens

I always talk about the importance of sunscreen in any anti aging skin care routine. And while you can easily get confused trying to sort through the myriad of brands sitting on drugstore shelves, one brand that I recommend and use most is La Roche Posay Anthelios. Unless you have very sensitive skin and must use physical blockers that contain only zinc oxide and titanium, this line will meet the sun protection needs of most individuals.

As a pharmacist, I’ve done my research and there are several reasons why I stand behind this line.

  1. L’Oreal, the cosmetics giant that manufactures La Roche Posay Anthelios sunscreens, has invested years of research into developing its patented sun filtering system that includes Mexoryl SX, Mexoryl XL, avobenzone (Parsol 1789) stabilized with Octocrylene and titanium dioxide. Mexoryl SX is water soluble and protects against short to medium range UVA rays, affording protection in the UV spectrum that is missing from many other sun filters. Mexoryl XL is its oil soluble cousin and it delivers protection from UVB rays as well as some UVA rays. Rather than any one ingredient being the key to Anthelios’ efficacy, it’s the combination of the two Mexoryl molecules plus the addition of the others that makes it work so well.
  2. Photostability. Clinical studies have demonstrated that the Mexoryl molecules hold up well when exposed to UV rays. Many sunscreen formulations degrade upon exposure to sunlight leaving you unprotected and prone to sunburn and other long term skin damage. In fact, studies have shown that Mexoryl retains its UV blocking ability for as long as 4 to 5 hours after initial application.
  3. La Roche Posay Anthelios formulations feel great on the skin. Many sunscreens feel thick, heavy and greasy. And while they might work, they feel uncomfortable, make you break out and often leave a white cast on skin. This can be particularly noticeable if you are not fair skinned. The Fluide Extreme formulation, in particular, is very light and can be used by all skin types with or without moisturizer every day.

Choose from a range of formulations developed for all skin types. Top selling La Roche Posay Anthelios sunscreens include Anthelios XL SPF 60 Cream, Anthelios Fluide Extreme SPF 50+, Anthelios XL SPF 50+ Crème and Dermo Pediatrics SPF 50+ Spray and Lotion. One of my favourite products is La Roche Posay Hydraphase UV SPF 30. While not a sunscreen – it’s a moisturizer with SPF protection – it has a wonderful hydrating formula perfect for normal to dry skin types. Because it is a moisturizer and not a sunscreen it is ideal for daily use on days when you won’t be exposed to the sun for long periods of time.