Fruit acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA. When applied topically, fruit acids have a rejuvenating effect on skin. They are found in various concentrations in a number of acne and anti-aging treatments, including both over-the-counter and professional-grade facial peels.
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The Appeal of a Peel
Fruit acid is a mild chemical exfoliant that works by penetrating and breaking apart the uppermost layer of skin. This facilitates the removal of dead and damaged surface cells and exposes the newer, healthier layer of skin underneath. The amount of exfoliation that occurs during a fruit acid peel depends on factors like AHA concentration and the presence of other cosmetic ingredients.
Fruit acids are naturally derived from a variety of sources. Those commonly used in facial peels include malic acid from apples and pears, citric acid from oranges and lemons, and tartaric acid from grapes. A fourth well-known AHA, glycolic acid, is frequently categorized as a fruit acid, but it is actually derived from sugarcane, a type of tall grass.
AHA peels encourage cell turnover to help fade surface imperfections, fine lines and wrinkles associated with aging skin. Peels also help maintain younger-looking skin by boosting the production of collagen and elastin. As a treatment for acne, fruit acids work to dry up excess sebum and unclog blocked hair follicles. Fruit acid peels are relatively gentle, and even the strongest treatments must be repeated to achieve the desired results. Studies conducted by researchers at the Ohio State University and Massachusetts General Hospital suggest that over time, the use of AHA products result in smoother, more evenly pigmented skin.
DIY or Dermatologist
At-home AHA treatments, including homemade fruit juice-based peels and commercial skin-care products, are typically formulated for frequent self-application. Professional peels are stronger and must be applied by a dermatologist or aesthetician. A professional facial peel procedure typically takes less than an hour. The dermatologist uses a cleansing solution on your face, then applies the acid. After the prescribed amount of time, the peel is neutralized and washed off. Although some patients opt to use a local anesthetic, AHA peels are not typically painful.
The Down Side
Common fruit acid peel side effects include slight, temporary tingling and redness. However, these effects typically fade within a few hours. Facial peels can also result in slightly irritated or flaky skin. According to the FDA, the use of AHAs may cause skin sensitivity and increase the risk of sunburn. More serious reactions to AHA peels include swelling, irritation and pigment changes. If any of these side effects occur, stop using the product immediately.