Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are known as good exfoliants. Often used in chemical peels carried out by doctors, they are also found, in lower concentrations in over-the-counter creams. These products aim to brighten skin, fade hyperpigmentation, treat blemishes and fight aging. Those most commonly used include glycolic acid, from sugar cane, and lactic acid, which occurs naturally in milk. As well as exfoliating, glycolic acid also boosts collagen, while lactic acid has moisturizing and whitening properties. Glycolic acid penetrates the skin more easily than lactic acid, making it the more likely of the two to cause irritation.
Create a Clean Slate
Glycolic and lactic acids boost the cleaning power of cleansers, making them good nighttime products. Not only do they get rid of the day’s buildup of grime, they help eradicate dead skin cells, leaving a smooth surface to absorb moisturizer. Clean skin is one of the first steps on the road to banishing blemishes; B.Kamins Acne Wash contains both types of acid to reduce oil and hydrate while cleansing. Battle fine lines and wrinkles with Philosophy’s Miracle Worker Miraculous Anti-Aging Lactic Acid Cleanser & Mask, which can also be left on the skin for up to 5 minutes as a weekly brightening mask.
Scrub the Surface
Chemical peels carried out by dermatologists almost always contain glycolic or lactic acid. Enjoy these same exfoliating and rejuvenating properties at home with an over-the-counter exfoliator or peel containing a lower dose of the same ingredients. Smooth on Avon’s Anew Clinical Advanced Retexturizing Peel to strip away dead skin for brightness and wrinkle reduction. The glycolic acid in Neutrogena’s Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser helps reduce pore size as well as improve skin tone. Fade dark spots with Garnier’s Skin Renew Clinical Dark Spot Overnight Peel which harnesses the pigmentation-reducing properties of glycolic acid.
Hydrate and Heal
Medical studies have shown AHAs are particularly effective at fighting signs of aging caused by the sun -- what’s known as photoaging -- as well as boosting collagen. Hydrate as well as treat your skin with Neostrata’s Face Cream Plus; this moisturizer contains 15 percent glycolic acid to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The lactic acid in Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar helps to also hydrate and brighten. Nighttime age-fighting moisturizers include Olay’s Regenerist Night Resurfacing Elixir with glycolic acid.
Eradicate Eye-Area Issues
Fine skin around the eyes is often a breeding ground for wrinkles, dark pigmentation and dryness -- glycolic and lactic acids can help combat all three. Because AHAs can sometimes cause irritation, it’s important to use products specially formulated for the delicate eye area. Lactic acid in Dermalogica’s Total Eye Care helps to hydrate and smooth wrinkles, while Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Eye Cream has glycolic acid to boost collagen and firmness. Both contain light-diffusing particles to disguise dark circles, while the AHAs work to fade them.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Cosmetic Use of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Human Skin of Japanese Subjects - The Rationale for Chemical Peeling
- Cleveland Clinic: Understanding the Ingredients in Skin Care Products
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Skin Wrinkles and Blemishes
- The International Dermal Institute: Glycolic Acid v Lactic Acid
- The Dr Oz Show: Seven Years Younger – The Ultimate Aging Plan
- Allure: Six Things You Didn’t Know About Acids
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: The Effect of Glycolic Acid on the Treatment of Acne in Asian Skin
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on Photoaged Skin - A Pilot Clinical, Histologic, and Ultrastructural Study
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Glycolic Acid Treatment Increases Type I Collagen mRNA and Hyaluronic Acid Content of Human Skin