Alpha hydroxy acid products are very useful in skin care. These acids are used to chemically exfoliate the skin. In low concentrations, they remove dead skin and encourage better product absorption. In higher concentrations, they peel live, damaged skin to treat wrinkles, discoloration, scars, and stretch marks. Over time, alpha hydroxy acid use can increase collagen production and make skin thicker.
Alpha hydroxy acids include many different types of acids including lactic acid, glycolic acid, malic acid, tartaric acid, mandelic acid, and citric acid. They are often derived from natural food sources. Lactic and glycolic acids are the most common in skin care products. These acids are found in product like peels, lotions, creams, and serums. They are often one of the active ingredients in both acne and anti aging products.
Alpha hydroxy acid products can be irritating to new users. Most creams and lotions are mild enough for daily use in the beginning, but products with concentrations of more than 10% are likely to produce side effects. It is important to give your skin time to adjust to using alpha hydroxy acid products. Start with mild formulations like a lactic acid lotion to prepare your skin for stronger products like peels and serums. Give your skin a few weeks at each new strength level before moving up.
Alpha hydroxy acid products cause your skin to become photosensitive. This means that skin will react differently to sun exposure than normal. It burns much easier, and is more likely to develop discoloration like sunspots. This effect last for about a week after each application of mild products, but can last for 2 weeks of more for a stronger concentration. Since people often use these products daily, in a sense it can become a permanent effect. It’s very important to use sunblock daily on any skin that is treated with alpha hydroxy acids. These products should also only be used in the evening, because the sun sensitivity is a lot more intense if it is still on your skin. Many people stop using their alpha hydroxy products in the summer to reduce the chance of sun damage.
You need to have your skin care goals in mind when you are trying to determine what the best alpha hydroxy acid products will be for you. If you are looking for something to control acne or for daily exfoliation, a mild product like a cream or lotion will do just fine. Most mild alpha hydroxy acid products contain between 3% and 10% of lactic or glycolic acid. This percentage is sometimes on the label, but often not. If you have more ambitious goals, like getting rid of wrinkles, age spots, acne scars, or stretch marks, you’ll eventually need to work your way up to products that produce a peeling effect. Most alpha hydroxy acids will start to peel skin in a concentration above 15% with a pH below 3.5. Severe damage like deep wrinkles and scarring will need even stronger concentrations, usually 30% or above for facial skin, and 50% or above for body skin. Some lotions and creams will meet these requirements, but most strong products will be serums and peels.
Your goals will also determine how frequently you’ll use your alpha hydroxy acid products. Many people use a mild alpha hydroxy acid cream or lotion daily to exfoliate. Some people use it every other day or sporadically. People who are using stronger product usually have schedule. Some people peel every 2-4 weeks, or weekly if they are using chemical peels for acne scar removal or wrinkles. Your peeling frequency will depend on how well your skin tolerates alpha hydroxy acids and other lifestyle factors. Most people will peel once a week at most if they are working on their face. Body peels can be done anywhere from twice a week to daily, because the skin is thicker. Give your skin time to heal after each peel, and work your way up to aggressive peeling for scar and stretch marks gradually to avoid chemical burns and other chemical peel side effects.
It is important care for your skin properly after using strong alpha hydroxy acid products. Don’t use other forms of heavy exfoliation like a microdermabrasion treatment too soon before or after using a product that peels. You also need to be careful using strong anti aging products like a Vitamin C or retinol serum. You’ll want to use soothing moisturizers to help your skin heal faster and better. Try something with low levels of Vitamin C, copper peptides, antioxidants, or botanical ingredients like oat, aloe, and lavender.
Lactic and glycolic acid products are the most commonly used alpha hydroxy acid products. Other alpha hydroxy acids are effective too and are gaining in popularity. Mandelic acid has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and may be gentler than glycolic acid. Tartaric and malic acids have antioxidant qualities. If you have sensitive skin and do not respond well to lactic and glycolic acid, try using less common acids.
Alpha hydroxy acid products have many uses. Try a mild lactic or glycolic acid cream if you are just getting started. Creams have heavier moisturizers and ingredients that soothe irritation. Low strength products work well for exfoliation, acne control, mild discoloration, and preparing skin for stronger concentrations. Work your way up to a alpha hydroxy acid serum or a glycolic or lactic acid peel if you want better results for scar, stretch mark, or wrinkle removal. Glycolic acid skin care products are good for oily skin types because they have oil-controlling properties. Lactic acid products can improve hydration, so they may be a better choice for dry and sensitive skin types.
Alpha hydroxy acid products can be a valuable part of virtually all skin care routines. Be sure to start off with mild products and work your way up gradually. Pamper your skin with rejuvenating ingredients to enhance the results of stronger products. Use sun block daily to offset the increased risk of sun damage.