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AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) is a collective name given to a group of fruit acids. The more common of the AHAs are glycolic (in sugar cane), citric (in citrus fruit) and tartaric (in grapes). They are used to exfoliate the skin chemically.
How AHAs Work
The Alpha Hydroxyacid is known for its anti-aging effects and the fact that it is not toxic to skin. The AHA acids are derived from fruits and flowers that help in making skin smoother and look healthier. Alpha hydroxyacids are naturally occurring acids like lactic acid from sour milk; citric acid from citrus fruits like oranges and lemons; and glycolic acid from sugar cane.
The most common AHA is glycolic acid. Being small, it is well absorbed. It promotes the skin to be more regular in its inevitable progression from the bottom layers to the top. Connections (desmosomes) to other cells are stronger. Deeper in the dermis, collagen is stimulated. The result is a smoother skin, with a better luster and less pigmentation.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) work by releasing the “intracellular glue” which hold skin cells together, allowing the newly released cells to “slough off”. This activity stimulates or speeds up the cellular turnover process, which naturally slows down as we age.
In addition, glycolic acid, the most popular AHA, has a low molecular weight that allows it to penetrate deeply in the skin and stimulate collagen production.
AHA for Skin Exfoliation
Low-concentration alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and salicylic acid (called cosmetic acids) are chemicals promoted to improve signs of photo-aging such as rough skin surface texture, fine lines, and uneven pigmentation.
Home use of cosmetic acids originally became popular because they provide quick results on areas of rough skin by peeling off or exfoliating the upper layers of the epidermis, exposing smoother skin underneath.
Unlike physical exfoliates that removes debris through gentle abrasion, hydroxy acid-based exfoliants smooth the skin by dissolving the intercellular “glue” that attaches the cells to the surface.
AHA’s are one of the safest methods of skin renewal. Their effectiveness depends on the type and concentration of the AHA, its pH (acidity), and other ingredients in the product.
Choosing an AHA
Products containing AHAs are recommended for those whose skin is showing signs of aging and those who want to keep the signs of aging at bay for as long as possible. Fine lines, brown marks and dry spots (solar keratosis) can improve with regular AHA applications. Glycolic and salicylic acid may also prove helpful for those prone to acne.
Selecting the appropriate AHA is very important depending on the condition and needs of your skin. Some AHAs are best for moisturizing, others work better to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and still others are better for breakouts: Glycolic Acid – With the smallest molecular structure of all AHAs, Glycolic Acid most easily penetrates the skin’s surface to remove excess cells and help moisture retention in the surface layers.
Safety of AHAs
Cosmetic products with alpha hydroxy acids are safe to use. Alpha Hydroxy-acids (AHAs) come from fruit and milk sugars. They are found in many creams and lotions.
Many people buy products with AHAs, because they claim to reduce wrinkles, spots, sun-damaged skin, and other signs of aging. Some studies suggest they may work. The most common risk associated with a chemical peel is developing skin irritation. The irritation is generally very mild, feeling like a light sun burn.
Irritation and AHAs
AHAs are not simple moisturizers, rather exfoliants that actually affect a change in the skin to lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin tones, etc. Just like many dermatological procedures irritate the skin for a period, AHAs may cause some level of irritation at the onset of use.
Glycolic Acid, the most effective in the treatment of aging or sun-damaged skin has the highest level of irritation along with the highest level of results.