Alpha hydroxy acids come in a few different forms, and these are commonly used in skin care products. You can find this ingredient in cleansers, moisturizers, masks and a wide variety of anti-aging formulas. The most common types of alpha hydroxy acids in skin care products include glycolic acid, which comes from sugar cane; lactic acid, which is found in milk; and citric acid, which is from different citrus fruits. In many cases, the hydroxy acid will be listed under one of these names, so understanding where each of these substances comes from is helpful when shopping for the best skin care treatment for you.
The primary purpose of alpha hydroxy acids is exfoliation. When you apply one of these substances to your skin, the top layer of dead skin cells is sloughed off, leaving smoother, younger looking skin underneath. Fine lines can also be diminished with these products, but deep wrinkles may need different ingredients to treat them. It is also thought that alpha hydroxy acids can stimulate the production of collagen; a substance that is lost as we age, which can contribute to lines, wrinkles and sags in the skin. Finally, alpha hydroxy acids can aid in the penetration of other substances, by getting rid of the outer layer of dry cells so that additional skin care ingredients can treat the new skin more efficiently.
Alpha hydroxy acids can be irritating to the skin, so there are some guidelines as to how much of a good thing should be included in your skin care regimen. Commercial products that are sold over the counter are not allowed to use a higher concentration than 10% of alpha hydroxy acids in the mix. Your best bet is to look for products that contain a concentration of between 8% and 10% alpha hydroxy acid for maximum benefit. Since you may not see the concentration level in the ingredient listing, look for the hydroxy acids to be listed second or third to ensure that you are getting the right amount of the substance. The pH level is also a concern with alpha hydroxy acids, so look for numbers between three and four for best results.
The major drawbacks to alpha hydroxy acids are the potential for skin irritation and a higher sensitivity to the sun. Make sure you wear sunscreen without fail when you are using these products, and use extreme caution when applying them if you have sensitive skin.
- Alpha hydroxy acids can effectively exfoliate the skin, diminishing the look of fine lines.
- This ingredient can promote collagen production.
- Alpha hydroxy acids can irritate sensitive skin.
- It will make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.
- This substance is not the most effective at treating deep lines and wrinkles, and it is more helpful when combined with other potent anti-aging ingredients.
The Bottom Line
Alpha hydroxy acids are a popular ingredient in many anti-aging products today. However, this substance is not without some risk of irritation and sun sensitivity. It is also not the ingredient of choice for treating deep lines and wrinkles that already exist. If you have sensitive or oily skin, use this substance with extreme caution and find a different product to get rid of existing wrinkles. Also, when using potent alpha hydroxy acid products, be sure to take extra sun precautions when spending time outdoors.