Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA's) are acids occurring naturally in foods such as apples, sour milk and sugar cane. Some examples of these acids are:
How do AHA's Work?
AHA's help to dissolve the thicker dead cell layers of the epidermis. This helps to increase the cell renewal rate, and improves the skin's ability to hold moisture.
AHA'S are able to do this more effectively than a mechanical exfoliant, yet they are gentle to the skin.
Types of Exfoliation from AHA's
There are two forms of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical.
Chemical exfoliation occurs when using products that contain hydroxyl acids to dissolve the dead skin.
Manual exfoliation occurs when using a product with an abrasive in it where you mechanically scrub the face to loosen up the dead skin cells.
Both are effective. In general the chemical forms are more effective than the manual.
Using AHA's for Skin Care
Alpha Hydroxy Acids are found in many skin care products:
They will be most effective in the products that remain on the skin and not washed off like a cleanser. Acids need to be absorbed.
Over the counter sales of these acids cannot be more than 10%.
Higher concentrations can be had but only through trained cosmetologists and estheticians. Concentrations from 10 to 30% are usually found in chemical peels administered by a professional.
Even higher concentrations are available through doctors' offices, but along with that come skin irritation, and treatments need to be done on a regular basis.
Choosing an AHA
Some guidelines for deciding on an AHA formulation:
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