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Skin Care Smarts: All About AHA’s

Posted Dec 29 2009 2:06pm

Even if you don’t follow skin care, at some point or another you have probably heard of an AHA.  AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids are often used in skin care to aid in the exfoliation of the skin.  Many moons ago (about 15 years ago I think), the Alpha Hydrox line was released and constant ads were touting its amazing skin rejuvenating powers.  I kept saying to myself, it sounds promising, but put acid on my skin – is that really safe?  This is also about the time that chemical peels were becoming popular and the tabloids would report about “deep peel horror stories” and women being scarred for life.

The pH level of the skin ideally should be slightly acidic (at about 5.5).  The skin is designed create an Acid Mantle which protects the skin from the elements and other nasty intruders (like bacteria and fungus).  To learn more about the Acid Mantle, there is a very informative article on the site about maintaining the proper pH balance of the skin:  Maintaining the Ideal pH:  Create beautiful skin that will last a lifetime.

So back to the topic of AHAs – currently there are many skin care products using various types of AHAs in different concentrations and that make various claims.  And like me, you might ask – can AHAs benefit my skin and which ones are the best suited for my particular skin type?  Hopefully this post can help.

The main purpose of an AHA is to stimulate skin exfoliation.  AHAs penetrate to the base of the epidermis and allow dead skin cells to release and slough off.  When dead skin cells do not release properly (due to sluggish or damaged skin) – dull, uneven looking, and congested skin generally results. Regular use of an AHA will fade unwanted pigmentation, prevent clogged pores, boost collagen production, and improve the overall texture and hydration of the skin.  Not a bad combination!

AHA’s vary and serve the skin in different ways, depending upon your specific skin type and tolerance level, you should choose an AHA skin care product that will work best for your skin.  Unless you have used an AHA before, I would select one known to be less aggressive and take an “easy does it” approach. It might also be wise to only apply every other day (or as tolerated without excessive peeling or redness), and then eventually increase to a daily application.

  • Glycolic Acid – is the most commonly used AHA and has the smallest molecular structure.  It also tends to be less tolerated than other AHAs and works best for those with tough or mature skin.
  • Lactic Acid & Malic Acids – are gentler AHAs that have a larger molecular size and also have humectant properties.  These acids are ideal for dry skin and sensitive skin types.
  • Mandelic Acid – both oil-soluble and contains antibacterial properties – ideal for those with oily and/or acne-prone skin.

There are many cleansers, toners, serums and moisturizers that contain AHAs, however serums and/or treatments are preferable because they remain on the skin.  It is also recommended to stay out of the sun and use extra sun protection while treating your skin with an AHA.

For the last few months I have been using SkinCeutical’s newest Retexturing Activator, which contains a 20% Glycolic Acid treatment that is able to deliver results without the traditional harsh irritating side effects.  I really have loved this stuff, and have found no accompanying sting or itchiness which I generally associate with a stronger % Glycolic treatments- it actually feels soothing and hydrating on my skin!

And like Mo, I am also a huge fan of the M2 Skin Care line. M2 comes in both a 12% (for more sensitive skin types) and 20% concentrations and incorporates both Malic & Mandelic Acids to exfoliate, increase hydration, and adds the antibacterial element.  Great stuff for those with acne or acne scarring!

Please feel free to chime in your favorite Alpha Hydroxy Acid skin care and experiences.  As always, love to hear from you!

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