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Alpha Hydroxy Acid

Updated on September 27, 2007

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA's) are a potent tool in anti aging skin care. They help to gradually lift the veil of dead skin cells, revealing a more youthful glowing appearance in its place. Sound like hype? Actually not, AHA's are something we all should consider in our daily skin care regimen.

There are basically five acids that are considered AHA's and commonly used in skin care. These are Citric Acid, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid, and Tartaric Acid. Of these, the most commonly used are Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid.

For an Alpha Hydroxy lotion or cream to be effective several rules need to be followed by the formulator. The pH of the product is optimally at 3 to 4. It drops beginning at pH 4.5. Maximum effective concentration rates are 5 to 10 percent. Now, you may not find the pH on your product label, but you may find the concentration. The FDA will not allow more than 10 percent.

The action of any of the AHA's is a simple loosening, or ungluing of the layers of dead skin cells. This allows them to slough off gradually, revealing the healthy complexion below. Getting these dead cells out of the way makes the skin appear retexturized. This diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids have come to the rescue of sun damaged skin by reducing the tell tale mottling. It does take time. But with patience, religious use of high SPF sunblock, and using a good AHA cream, this mottled appearance for most people is much reduced-along with the dryness and rough look.

There are other things to note on AHA's. There is some evidence pointing to AHA stimulating collagen, elastin, and ceramide production in the skin. AHA's are by nature humectants, and generally allow better absorption of moisturizers. All of these promoting healthy skin.

Some people can be sensitive to Alpha Hydroxy Acids. They may experience itching, stinging, burning, redness, pain, and in severe cases even scarring. Individuals with darker pigmentation can be at a higher risk for pigment changing scars. Some slight tingling/stinging is normal for some, and goes away generally within a minute or so after application. Also, it seems for many your skin seems to build a tolerance for it also, mine has, and I no longer get that few seconds of stinging.

Another very important note that cannot be missed is the issue of photosensitivity (sun sensitivity). When using any Hydroxy Acids it is so important to use a good UVA and UVB sunscreen. Some estimate that the skin may have increased sensitivity to the sun by up to 50 percent. So sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. It would not make much sense to be using an anti aging cream only to be increasing your photo aging by not using the sunscreen. Also there is the danger of having a scarring event with a burning sunburn. Just not worth the risk.

Another Hydroxy Acid to consider is Beta Hydroxy Acid. BHA is a good alternative if you are unable to tolerate the AHA's. It also has a number of other properties worth checking out to see which is right for you.

One thing to consider with any of the Hydroxy Acids, the benefits stop as soon as you stop the treatment. There is no lasting effect, eventually you will go back to the state you were in.

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