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The EV guide to Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Types of AHA’s, where to find them and how they’ll transform your skin

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a class of chemical compounds that work like an exfoliator, dissolving the bonds between skin cells and encouraging dead cells to shed while also promoting cell turnover.

What AHAs should I look out for?
Often derived from organic sugars, popular AHAs include glycolic (derived from sugar cane), citric (from citrus fruits) and lactic acid (from milk). Want noticeable results? Glycolic is the smallest of the acids so has the ability to penetrate the skin effectively and deeply; it’s the active ingredient found in clinic peels.

What skincare products contain AHAs?
Chemical peels containing higher strength AHAs (up to 70%) are available in clinic; home use/over the counter products usually contain lower concentrations of around 4-18%. You find AHAs in cleansers, anti-ageing products, toners, facial pads and facial exfoliators. Skin specialists advise that the products’ pH should be low, in-between 3 and 4, to prevent redness and flakiness.

Will my skin type benefit from AHAs?
While beneficial for most skin types, AHAs are ideal for helping to improve the appearance of sun damage or uneven texture, and help to unclog pores making them suitable for treating acne. Those with skin on the sensitive side will benefit from the chemical (as opposed to physical) exfoliation, but may want to choose formulas that include an amino acid or peptide which works to slow their penetration into the skin, or opt for gentler lactic acid-based AHAs. If you’re unsure as to how your skin will react, it’s advisable to err on the side of caution at first.

Are there any side effects?
It’s all about the concentration with AHAs—if your chosen acid is concentrated enough to penetrate the skin, you should feel a tingling sensation on application which is normal. Any irritation can take a few days to surface, so take it slowly to start with. Very mature or dry skins, and those with skin conditions such as rosacea or eczema should avoid using glycolic acid as it may be too irritating.

What results can I expect?
Results include fresher, smoother, strengthened and more even toned skin. If using an AHA peel, it’s vital to use a high factor sunscreen during the day as skin may be more sensitive to UV light.