Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), or fruit acids, have been used in cosmetics for many years. The most popular are lactic acid, glycolic acid, and mandelic acid. AHAs also include malic, tartaric, citric, and shikimic acids. In this article, we will look at what AHAs are and their importance for your skin.
What are the characteristics of the AHA group? These acids can penetrate deep into the skin because they are water-soluble, overcoming the top layer of sebum and cleansing the pores. They reduce the adhesion between the cells of the stratum corneum, i.e., they exfoliate dead cells.
The most effective AHAs with an exfoliating effect are glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acids. Glycolic acid, even in low concentrations, can be applied twice a day on the skin. It stimulates epidermal regeneration.
The result? Fewer wrinkles!
Let's take a closer look at the three most common acids in-home preparations.
Lactic acid comes from the natural fermentation of milk. It is one of the basic components of the natural moisturising factor (NMF), thanks to which AHA is successfully used in moisturising treatments. It exfoliates and moisturises because when new epidermal cells are exposed, it is easier to moisturise them.
It binds water in the epidermis and restores the tightness of the hydro-lipid barrier of the skin. Besides, AHA acids stimulate the biosynthesis of ceramides. And the more of them there are, the better protection the epidermis receives: that is, it does not lose moisture, it better defends itself against UV radiation, and the complexion retains a smooth appearance. Thanks to this broad spectrum of activity, alpha hydroxy acids are a precious cosmetic ingredient.
Glycolic acid gets from sugar cane. It has the smallest molecule among AHAs, thanks to which it quickly penetrates the skin. Stimulates the functioning of live epidermal cells, stimulates fibroblasts, and synthesis of collagen and elastin.
It normalises the exfoliation processes of dead epidermal cells and unclogs the ducts of hair follicles, which prevents the first non-inflammatory symptoms of acne.
It also eliminates wrinkles and discolourations, makes the skin more elastic, firms it, evens its colour, and reduces scars.
In low concentrations, up to 10%, it has moisturising properties.
Mandelic acid is obtained by hydrolysis of bitter almond extract. It is one of the milder acids but has a high potency. It is recommended even for sensitive, irritated skin.
The skin well tolerates it. It rather does not cause erythema (apart from small redness appearing during the salon treatment, but the concentration of the acid used for the procedures is higher).
It regulates sebum secretion, acts against irritation, has the most potent anti-bacterial properties - which means that treatments with mandelic acid are recommended first of all for mixed, oily skins, with the problem of seborrhoea, acne vulgaris, and adults (acne tarda).
It rejuvenates, lightens discolorations, moisturises, restores the hydro-lipid balance, and most importantly, does not make the skin sensitive to UV rays.
How efficient are cosmetics with AHA?
The effectiveness of preparations depends not only on AHA concentration in the product. The pH of the preparation has a fundamental influence on the effect - the lower it is, the more acidic reaction, the more effectively AHAs act.
The recommended concentration of acids is from 5 to 20%. Weaker ones have a moisturising effect, whereas, with increasing concentration, an irritating effect occurs. That is why it is so important not to use acids on your own. The beautician should choose the right type and concentration depending on skin type and potential problems. Acids from 20-40 % brighten spots, discolouration, shallowing of small scars, and smoothing wrinkles.
I recommended it for all skin types, young, mature, acne, pimples, or for skin heavily damaged by sunbathing, solarium, or smoking.
What are the basic rules for using acids on the face?
It would be best if you started your adventure with chemical peelings in a beauty salon, where a professional will choose products suitable for your skin. Thanks to that, you will know how your skin reacts to acids, you will learn what to avoid when using this type of substance at home (of course, in lower concentrations). You will become more alert to negative reactions or the occurrence of allergies, thanks to which you will react faster.
I recommend caution with acids. If you start using them yourself without consultation, you could end up with irritation or even significant skin damage. Also, rebuilding your skin will cost you a lot of time and money (and possible visits to the dermatologist).
However, if you want to try acids at home, I recommend starting by trying ready-made cosmetics such as toners, serums, masks, or creams.
Remember that the skin after peeling is sensitive and becomes more susceptible to any irritation. Even more so to the harmful effects of UV rays - it is necessary to use protective creams with high filters.
We, the professionals, are here to help, so we will be happy to select the suitable acid for spring, summer, or winter and choose a filter with the right concentration.
Do you have any questions? Drop me a line in the comment!