How much do you know about skin care’s best and brightest, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)?
Derived from food and plant-based sources, these alpha ingredients have something for every skin. AHAs are highly effective multi-taskers whose main strength is exfoliation. They work by dissolving the cellular glue that binds dead skin cells together and encouraging them to shed off, making room for healthy new cells. AHAs significantly improve skin condition by smoothing, tightening, firming, thickening and brightening. They help promote the production of collagen and elastin, lift excess pigment, clear and refine pores, and diminish signs of aging.
In a clinical study that tested the efficacy of alpha hydroxy acids on photo-aging, subjects saw a 25% increase in dermal thickness with improved quality of elasticity and greater density of collagen after treatment for an average of six months.
AHAs are used frequently in cosmetic peels, but also in plenty of skin care treatments from creams to serums to improve tone and texture. Here’s a roundup of the acids that are always top of the class.
Probably the most popular of the AHAs, glycolic acid (from sugar cane) works hard to be the alpha among alphas. With the smallest molecules of any AHA, glycolic acts faster on the skin. That makes for some serious cell turnover, plus a big boost for collagen and elastin. Glycolic is good for rejuvenating aging skin, brightening dull skin, clearing acne and reducing hyperpigmentation and melasma. However, glycolic is not for everyone. Sensitive skin may find glycolic irritating.
As the name implies, this AHA comes from citrus fruits and is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. In addition to its ability to exfoliate, it functions as a pH adjuster. Good for treating photo-aging and inflammation, citric acid is also an essential element in collagen biosynthesis. It’s important to note that citric acid is not the same as ascorbic acid, AKA vitamin C, however, when used together, citric acid aids in vitamin C absorption into the skin.
The choice of royals and nobility throughout the ages, lactic acid is derived from sour milk. Gentler than glycolic, it offers natural humectant properties making it ideal for dry or sensitive skin. This all-star AHA exfoliates and moisturizes to leave skin soft, smooth and radiantly glowing.
Mandelic acid represents the skin care trifecta, winning big in three major areas: acne, aging and irregular pigmentation. And it does all this with less irritation than glycolic due to its larger carbon chain. This makes mandelic a particularly good choice for darker skin that may be more prone to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Mandelic is also anti-microbial so it helps to reduces the chances for breakouts.
Kojic acid is best known for its ability to lighten skin by inhibiting the melanin synthesizing enzyme tyrosinase. It’s also a potent anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, and iron-chelating agent, meaning it binds the iron particles in your skin, which would otherwise fuel age accelerating free radicals. Kojic acid is a good choice for promoting more even skin tone and fighting the the signs of aging.
The only beta hydroxy acid (BHA) on this list, salicylic acid is in a class by itself. An exfoliating, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory agent, salicylic is frequently used for treating acne because of its superior ability to penetrate pores, remove impactions and reduce excess oil.