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How safe and beneficial is AHA in Skincare products?

  • 4 min read

Apply acids on our face! Doesn't that sound like a bizarre concept? However, it is not. It is one of the most rewarding things you can do for your skin. Don't worry; we are not saying that out of the blue; we have plenty of reasons, and today we will present them to you. We will look at AHA in skincare products and understand all there is to know about this ever-growing beauty industry staple.  

It's important to know what you put in your mouth, and so is knowing what you're applying to your skin. That's why we are beginning with the most basic question:  

What are AHAs?   

AHAs refer to alpha-hydroxy acids, which are a naturally occurring group of chemical compounds. They are extracted from organic sugars, sugar cane, sour milk, grapes, or citrus fruits. These animal and plant derivates are most commonly used in skincare products.  

The seven types of AHAs that are found in various skin care products, namely, Glycolic Acid, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Hydroxycaproic Acid, Malic Acid, Hydroxycaprylic Acid, Tartaric Acid. However, only a few, like glycolic and lactic acids, are widely used in skincare products.   

Why are AHAs used in skincare products?  

Products containing AHAs are widely used as exfoliants and have also been proven to show various benefits for the skin. These include cleansing pores, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, improving skin texture and tone, and many more.   

AHAs act as chemical exfoliants by dissolving intercellular bonds and boosting the natural shedding process.  

What are the benefits of AHAs in Skincare products?  

  • Excellent exfoliation: Shedding and regeneration of cells is a regular cycle for our body. However, this process slows down with age, causing an accumulation of dead skin cells on your skin. This makes the skin look dark, dull and even causes spots. That's where alpha hydroxy acid products step in by aiding your skin with its natural process of shedding dead skin cells. Shedding of dead skin cells causes the skin to appear fresh, clean, plump, and more elastic.  
  • Boosts collagen production: The fiber that keeps your skin young and smooth is called collagen. Due to multiple factors such as increasing age, photodamage, sun exposure, environmental damage adversely affects collagen production. AHAs prevent this deterioration and help collagen regeneration by eliminating the old collagen fibers.  
  • Reduces wrinkles and fine lines: AHAs are great for fine lines and wrinkles. A study with a group of volunteers for 21 days showed a significant improvement in skin texture after using AHA in skincare 
  • Helps in treating acne: When it comes to mild to moderate levels of acne, AHAs should be your go-to. They cleanse the acne-causing clogged pores and prevent further clogging.  
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation: Hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and melasma show reduction with continuous use of alpha hydroxy acid products. AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid are commonly used in chemical peels and dermatological procedures for treating dark spots. Glycolic acid is known to penetrate the skin tackling freckles and hyperpigmentation. Similarly, lactic acid has shown promising results in treating melasma.   

Just because an ingredient has an extensive range of benefits doesn't mean that everyone has accepted the products in a blink of an eye. That is probably why so many questions on its side effects and usage. Whether it has any side effects to how well they suit people's sensitive skin, the questions are important, so we are here to answer!   

Are there any side effects of using AHA?  

When we talk about the side effects of alpha hydroxy acid products, it is mostly a matter of finding a stable and effective balance for your skin. You need to be conscious while looking for the correct acid combination for your skin type.   

If you're using the product for the first time, you might experience redness, swelling, itching, burning sensation, skin discoloration, or dermatitis. These reactions are not universal rather depend on your skin type and concentration of AHA used.  

 What's the correct way of using AHA in skincare products?  

Before including AHA in your skin routine, keep the following things in mind, and you'll find the right balance to use these products for yourself:  

  • Skin Type: Know your skin type before choosing the concentration of AHA in your products; if you have sensitive skin, then go with a lower concentration, while if you have normal to oily skin, feel free to use a higher concentration.  
  • Type of AHA: You need to know your skin type and requirements before choosing the kind of AHA to include in your daily routine. Glycolic acid is the smallest out of these and therefore penetrates deeply. This acid should be used in mild concentration by people with sensitive skin. In comparison, lactic acid has larger molecules that are less likely to cause skin irritation, making them safe for sensitive skin.  

Pro tip: It is safer to use various concentrations of different AHAs rather than a higher concentration of just one.  

  • Concentration: It is recommended is to use an AHA concentration of 10 percent or less for the face and 15 percent or less for body application. The recommended pH level of the final product should be 3.5 or greater.  

Additional tips 

  • AHAs tend to make the skin a bit photosensitive and therefore should be followed by sunscreen and aversion from the sun.   
  • Consumers should also read the directions behind the package carefully and follow them for a safer and more effective experience.   

AHAs are generally safe and effective options for brighter and healthier skin. However, one needs to start slowly and gradually build up the frequency of use as tolerated. As they say, slow and steady wins the race, so never use more than the recommended amount and be ready for the skin of your dreams!