Skincare products containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and for good reason: these natural compounds benefit the skin in numerous ways, from reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles to protecting against early aging.
What Is Alpha Hydroxy Acid?
AHA is essentially a group of naturally occurring compounds found in foods like oranges, acid, red grapes, and cane sugar. The use of AHA products was originally limited to facial peels performed by licensed dermatologists. It wasn’t until the early 1990s when the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved AHAs for use in over-the-counter products. Today, AHAs are found in dozens of beauty and skincare products, including moisturizing creams, sunscreen lotion, acne-fighting creams, shampoo, conditioner, anti-wrinkle creams, and more.
Some of the most common types of AHA include the following:
- Glycolic acid
- Lactic acid
- Tartaric acid
- Sorbic acid
- Malic acid
- Citric acid
How It Works
You might be skeptical of the effectiveness of skincare products containing AHA. After all, how can compounds like malic and sorbic acid promote healthier skin? Just because AHAs are natural doesn’t necessarily mean they are weak. On the contrary, there are some powerful acne creams and facial peels which use AHAs as a primary active ingredient.
It’s important to note that over-the-counter skincare products typically contain a lower percentage of AHA than a dermatologist-prescribed product. A standard AHA moisturizer, for instance, may contain just 5% alpha hydroxy acid, whereas a prescription product may contain 10-20%. Assuming this is your first time using an AHA product, it’s recommended that you begin with an over-the-counter product to see how it works. The high concentration of AHA in prescription skincare products may cause irritation in people with sensitive skin or other preexisting skin conditions.
Benefits of AHA
There are several notable benefits of AHA-based skincare products, one of which is increased bloodflow. These naturally occurring acids encourage the blood to flow more freely to the area on which it is applied. And when there’s more blood flowing, skin injuries heal faster and more efficiently. AHA is also known to combat whiteheads, blackheads and other forms of acne blemishes. The next time you experience a breakout, try using an AHA facial mask. The acids will break down the blemishes, leaving your skin looking clean and youthful. Of course, these are just a few of the many reasons why so many people are using AHA products.