Sep 21, 2012

Know the Ingredient: Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

AHAs or alpha hydroxy acids are becoming increasingly familiar ingredients in a lot of skincare products, from moisturizers and face washes to chemical peels at the dermatologist's office.  The reason for their popularity - their skin-penetrating properties that help to smoothen skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging, and give a healthy glow to the skin.

Skincare Ingredients Chemical Peel Treatments Antiaging Wrinkles Fine Lines Reduce Indian Beauty Makeup Blog

Some of the common AHAs used as skin treatments include:
  • Glycolic acid - derived from sugarcane
  • Lactic acid - derived from sour milk
  • Malic acid - derived from apples
  • Citric acid - derived from citrus fruits

How do AHAs Work?

Alpha-hydroxy acids work by dissolving the protein layers between cells, making it easier for older dull skin to exfoliate and newer cells come to the surface of the skin faster, making the skin look healthy and fresh.
  • Promote skin exfoliation - gives a healthy appearance to the skin.
  • Provide a temporary skin smoothing effect.
  • Higher concentration treatments need an appointment with the dermatologist and claims include reducing acne scarring and pigmentation.
When used at recommended dosages, AHAs are quite safe, especially as ingredients in products like moisturizers and cleansers.  However, some common side-effects do include mild skin irritations, redness, flaking of the skin (severity depends on the concentration).  Stronger concentrations such as in chemical peels have more severe side-effects including blistering, burning, skin discoloration, etc, which should ideally resolve in a day or two after treatment.

General Precautions with use of AHAs:

Alpha hydroxy acids makes the skin more sensitive, and it gets easily irritated by harsher products like scrubs or even sun exposure.  Things that help include

Skincare Ingredients Chemical Peel Treatments Antiaging Wrinkles Fine Lines Reduce Indian Beauty Makeup Blog
  • Avoid exposure to the sun since the skin would be more sensitive and can be easily damaged.  Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen and physical protection like umbrellas and hats if you do have to be out in the sun.
  • Avoid using harsh products on the skin like scrubs when adding AHA's to your skincare.
  • Since they cause some degree of skin irritation, I do not think AHAs are the best option for people with already sensitive skin.
Personally, the only AHA treatment I have tried is a lactic acid peel from Kaya, and I really didn't see any difference with it.  It was only 1 treatment, and I didn't bother following up, so never know.  Have you tried AHA's as part of your skincare routine or as peels?  Do share!

Disclaimer:  This article is merely for informational purposes and is not qualified medical or expert advice.   Please consult a dermatologist or other qualified professional before beginning any skincare regimen and/or before opting for any skin treatment.

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Know the Ingredient
Kaya Everyday Radiance
5 Ways to Add Olive Oil to Your Beauty Routine


  1. hi,,,very informative post :)citric acid is necessary for new collagen formation too :)

    1. Thanks for the info, Ray :) I do hope a big glass of orange juice helps then :D

  2. great post , even i had the lactic peel from kaya & i could see some change but dint last long , i ahd bad experience with kaya , even i had lazor hair removal for my upper lips & it dint disappear completely

    1. I haven't had any bad experiences as such with Kaya, but I really didn't see much of a difference. Their salicylic acid peel did work once or twice for me, but you do have to keep doing it every month or so..and I much prefer the relaxing massages and facials at regular parlors over these. Once in a while is okay..but not always. Plus the packaging system....even if they are pushy about it, I don't understand why people sign up for it! Pay so much and take packages...I tho am totally antipackage :D

      Oh how was the laser treatment? Does it hurt or is it like threading? If you read the fine print at the bottom of laser treatment ads most of them write that it needs regular maintenance visits, so I don't think it is a permanent solution, though they make it sound that way in ads :)

  3. Thanks for the info :) I've been using yoghurt facial masks these days and they really help my skin. I'm trying to smoothen it a bit as I have two really old spots where the skin cells have regenerated too actively from my teenage days that refuse to go away.

    I usually apply yoghurt with ground cinammon, nutmeg and honey. Works wonders for my skin but I don't know why I don't do it often enough.

  4. Hi Fieran! People mix besan and yoghurt too and apply, don't they? Somehow that never did anything for me, but I have a cousin who did (probably still does) that routinely and has awesome skin..

  5. great one, Radhika...I totally love sugarcane juice...its amazing for skin :)


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