Like most living things, skin cells die, and when they do, they don’t make a hasty, clean exit when we get older. Instead, they pile up and sit on your skin’s surface, robbing you of a youthful glow. One way to rid your face of these pesky squatters: Use a product containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHA).
What are AHAs? Often described as chemical exfoliants, these water-soluble chemical compounds are derived from sugar cane (glycolic acid), milk (lactic acid), and various fruit (malic and citric acids). When applied to skin, they work to loosen the bond that causes the top layers of dead cells to stick, allowing skin to naturally shed them.
Suffice to say, once you remove a few layers of dead skin cells, you’ll reveal healthy skin cells — aka, newer, softer, glowing skin. This is why AHAs, which work on the skin’s surface, are often associated with products and treatments that aim to brighten aging, dull, or dry skin. But beyond that, AHAs clear the way for other skin care products to better penetrate the dermis, thus allowing these products to more effectively and deeply deliver their benefits.
If you suffer from hyperpigmentation, sun damage, fine lines, and wrinkles, AHAs also work to even skin tone and smooth texture. And that’s not all: AHAs have also been found to increase collagen production and skin thickness as well as stimulate natural moisturizing factors within the skin, which in turn hydrates and plumps it. Though AHAs certainly deliver on many skin care fronts, one quick word of caution: They tend to increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so wearing sunscreen is imperative when using AHAs.
The Best Bets
If you have dry skin, wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation and/or rough skin texture, or you simply feel your complexion looks a bit lackluster, over-the-counter (OTC) products with AHAs would be a stellar addition to your skin care regimen. OTC serums and lotions have a lower AHA concentration, typically 5 to 10 percent, making them gentle enough for daily use, though if you experience skin sensitivity, you should decrease usage. Those looking for a more dramatic effect can opt for in-office AHA peels administered by a skin care specialist, which typically contain a higher concentration (50 to 70 percent).