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Your Guide to Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)

by Rick June 12, 2017
alpha hydroxy acid

There’s a lot of hype and misinformation on the internet about the best kinds of skin care ingredients on the market.  Unfortunately, most of it is just that, hype. There is one ingredient, however, that’s been talked about a lot that does have proven results and a long history of safe usage to back up the buzz. This ingredient is Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA).

Smoother, More Vibrant Skin

We all want beautiful, smooth, glowing skin and a product containing Alpha Hydroxy Acid can help you get that natural glow by boosting your skin’s exfoliation. These types of acids work by helping your skin to slough off unwanted dead skin cells to aid the skin’s cell renewal process as well as collagen production.

The benefits of boosting your exfoliation include:

  • Younger, more radiant-looking skin is revealed and brown spots (sunspots) are minimized (reducing uneven skin tone naturally) as a result of accelerating your skin’s turnover rate and lessening excess melanin deposits.
  • Fine lines and wrinkles are reduced, skin looks tighter, and pores appear smaller, and because the surface of your skin is now properly exfoliated, its better able to absorb nutrients efficiently.

Not All Alpha Hydroxy Acids Are the Same

AHAs are a family of mild acids that have each been derived from a different source. While most of them are used in skin care products of some kind, they all have different levels of effectiveness. Although the skin’s pH balance itself is acidic, Citric Acid (which is commonly used in the flavoring of soft drinks) can usually only be used in very small amounts due to its extreme acidity.

Another factor to look at in terms of finding an effective Alpha Hydroxy Acid is its molecule size. For example, Glycolic Acid has the smallest molecules of any AHA, and is therefore the best at penetrating the skin’s surface. Since easy permeation is ideal for topically applied skin care products. According to a study done by Yuki Yamamoto and others in 2006, Glycolic Acid was better in reducing melanin deposits in the epidermis than other Alpha Hydroxy Acids.

The Problem with Concentration

You’ll almost always see “concentration” listed as a determining factor for which AHA product to buy, but in reality this way of thinking has some flaws. Yes, of course you don’t want anything too concentrated, otherwise you could risk burning your skin, and you also don’t want to pay big bucks for a product that is just dusted with Alpha Hydroxy Acid and contains lots of filler ingredients. This makes sense. Here’s the problem though: different acids have different pH levels and pH is a percentage itself so, when you’re taking about the concentration of the acid in the product, it’s really a percentage of a percentage making it very difficult to compare one product to its competitor.

We all want the most beautiful, smooth, glowing skin we can have, and an Alpha Hydroxy Acid can help you get that natural glow by boosting your skin’s exfoliation.
alpha hydroxy acid

What to Look for

AHA-containing products sold to consumers are not allowed to contain a concentration of more than 10% so even if it’s a strong acid (with a low pH level), there’s not such a need to worry about having too much. Because of this, we recommend finding a cream that contains Glycolic Acid as one of the first 4 ingredients on the label. A Glycolic cream that is intended to stay on overnight is your best bet because, to work, AHA needs time to absorb into your skin. Cleansers that contain Alpha Hydroxy Acids are not very effective since they are rinsed off before the absorption can happen.

Make sure to read product instructions carefully and look for how specific products are designed to be used. AHA products are best when they work with your skin’s natural system. For example, as the skin works to exfoliate and restore itself at night, AHA products designed to be used at night while avoiding exfoliation during the day (when photo sensitivity is a concern) are smart and effective.

Getting the Most

After cleansing and drying your face, neck, and chest before you go to bed, smooth a liberal amount of the your Glycolic cream all over (taking special care to avoid the delicate skin around your eyes as well as any wounds or cysts). Your skin most rapidly exfoliates itself overnight while you sleep, so having your AHA product on your skin while you sleep will boost the product’s efficiency. When you wake up in the morning, wash your face and make sure to moisturize liberally to nourish and hydrate all of those new, youthful skin cells that have been revealed during your overnight exfoliation boost.

It’s important to remember any skin care product should work harmoniously together with (and enhance) the rest of your skin care routine (and any other products you may use) as well as your body’s own natural skin process.

Before and After

Before applying any new product to your face, always test it first on a patch inside your wrist to test for any reactions. If there are no signs of irritation, go ahead with the treatment the following night.

After you’ve given yourself a nice, healthy dose of AHA, make sure to adequately protect the treated skin from the sun the next day. Photosensitivity caused by the product increases the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, and this is also one of the reasons not to use a daily moisturizer that contains Alpha Hydroxy Acid, and instead to opt for an overnight Glycolic treatment.

Feel the Glow

Navigating the world of Alpha Hydroxy Acid can be tricky to fully comprehend, but don’t let that get in the way of finding an effective Glycolic treatment to improve your skin’s exfoliation. Using an AHA, like Glycolic Acid, a few times a week will help you achieve smoother, healthier skin that’s better able to absorb nutrients and moisture, resulting in a more natural glow.

You can find Glyolic Acid in Step 1 (Revitalizing Glycolic Complex) of our Accelerated Performance System which complements our proven METRIN Skincare System by providing the skin with more intensive exfoliation as well as additional moisture and nutrients.

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Rick

Rick is a digital editor and storyteller obsessed with both high and low culture.

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