Is it purely coincidental that Dr. Nick Lowe, dermatologist extraordinaire, has chosen to marry promoting his new skincare range with speaking out on the “dangers” of AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids)? Without bombarding you with too much technical dermatology jargon, Dr. Lowe is arguing that using products containing AHAs can increase the risk of skin cancer by diminishing our skin’s ability to defend itself. Curiously, these three little letters are not present in his new “Secret Is Out Lifting Cream with SPF 15 and UVA”, which makes his contribution to the debate appear more than a tad opportunistic. Now, I hate to be cynical (not really, I LOVE it) but it strikes me as unlikely that Alpha Hydroxy Acids can be so devastatingly detrimental to our well-being, especially as the majority of anti-ageing products that include them, contain barely enough AHA to strip a gnat’s eyelid.
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, Dr. Lowe is claiming that products such as AHA scrubs and facial peels, designed to restore that youthful ‘glow’ can make us more susceptible to sun damage through thinning the stratum corneum – our skin’s first line of defence against all manner of nasties. This layer is composed primarily of dead skin cells, hence by sloughing them away chemically (gently dissolving the ionic bonds that hold them together) our complexion reflects the light better making the skin’s surface look less dull and smoother. But are the short term benefits worth the risk?
Everyone wants to look their ‘best’ and, unfortunately for many of us, society dictates that our ‘best’ isn’t good enough, unless we look like a 15 year old and weigh even less. Helpfully, while AHAs can’t transport us miraculously back to our teens, they can at least give us a nudge in the right direction. It therefore strikes me as absurd that Dr. Lowe would go and throw his lab-coated cat amongst the beauty industry pigeons over something that can be counter-acted with an SPF moisturiser and a bit of sun-sense. We’ve all, by now, got the memo about perennial sunscreen and NEVER EVER EVER EVER leaving so much as a toe exposed to the evil effects of holiday sunshine, so surely a little bit of skin brightening exfoliation can’t be so bad?
Hence, while I am not dismissing Dr. Lowe’s argument out of hand (he is an expert after all) my advice would be not to go and bin half the contents of your bathroom cabinet quite yet (as ole’ Nick is no doubt hoping). AHAs can still have a role to play in your quest for eternal youth, just don’t get too carried away… verity douglas