Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) have a proven track record as chemical exfoliants and skin refinishers. Today, you’ll find alpha hydroxy acids available in treatments promising improvement to dry skin, wrinkles, fine lines and skin discoloration. They boost collagen and gently exfoliate, resulting in the exposure of layers of younger, healthier looking skin. Does this mean you shouldn’t wear glycolic, malic, or ascorbic acids during the day?
If you’re cautious, you can wear an AHA by day. AHAs work by “ungluing” outer layers of dead skin and exposing the newer, healthier skin underneath. The exfoliation process increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and therefore makes it more prone to sunburn. Even if you are using your AHAs only at night, it’s essential to make daily sunscreen use part of your routine. Make it a broad spectrum, photostable UVA/UVB blocking sunscreen such as Anthelios or Keys Solar Rx. That way, you won’t risk sun damage and hyperpigmentation while trying to look your best. We recommend physical sunscreens such as Keys if you are using AHAs during the day, as their effectiveness comes from physically blocking UV light from reaching your skin. Chemical sunscreens work best on clean, bare skin, so they’re the best choice if you’re restricting your AHA use to nighttime.
What Concentration Should I Use?
You should always see a percentage associated with your favorite AHA. Studies have shown alpha hydroxy acids to be most effective at concentrations above 8%. Concentrations above 15 – 20% are generally best left to be administered by qualified specialists because of side effects that may be associated with their use. Concentrations below 8% are a good way to gradually introduce an alpha hydroxy acid into your regimen, without over sensitizing skin. While cleansers and toners formulated with alpha hydroxy acids are certainly useful, you’ll get the most benefit from serums, creams and lotions because they remain on the skin longer.
To explore products containing AHAs, please visit our alpha hydroxy acids department here.