You may not be familiar with the term AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) specifically, but chances are you’ve heard of lactic or glycolic acid. If the name still doesn’t ring any bells, check the packaging of your favorite deep cleansing exfoliator, anti-wrinkle cream, or serum – there’s a good chance you’ll find the name on the packaging. AHA’s ability to smooth deep wrinkles, erase skin pigmentation, and promote even, smooth skin makes it one of our must-have products in our beauty regimes, and one you should definitely be using, if you’re not already.
What Are AHAs?
Alpha hydroxy acids are basically a natural chemical exfoliator, so instead of using abrasive creams to rub away dead skin, AHAs have the unique ability to penetrate the skin and breakdown dead skin cells. AHAs are found in fruits, milk, and sugars: citric acid from citrus fruits (that figures), glycolic acid is sourced from sugar cane, lactic acid is found in sour milk, malic acid is extracted from apples and pears, and tartaric acid can be found in grapes – yes that means there are lots of DIY AHA masks you can create (more on that later).
What AHAs Do:
AHAs are an exfoliant that gently works to remove the top layer of dead skin by ‘ungluing’ the old cells still stuck to the epidermis. This gives way to new skin cell regrowth and also helps to stimulate collagen and elastin production. This spring cleaning of your epidermis helps to improve wrinkles and pigmentation, and will leave your skin super smooth! AHAs are amazing for everyone, especially aging skin, but they also work brilliantly for:
Acne: Introducing a weekly AHA peel is incredible for acne-prone skin. The acid will penetrate and strip away dead skins cells that can block pores and lead to acne.
Scars: For fast scar removal, buy an exfoliator with 4% or more of AHA, which will speed up the removal of dead skin and smooth any scar tissue. An overnight moisturizer or serum under 10% concentration will extend the process. If you’re looking to remove scaring fast, applying 70% glycolic acid in a series of peels helps immensely to reduce the appearance of scars.
Wrinkled or Dry Skin (Xerosis): For treating wrinkles, sun damage, and dry skin, AHA creams and serums around 8% concentration are incredible for erasing fine lines and tightening tired, damaged skin. AHAs’ ability to increase water retention in your cells will also help them combat signs of dryness, further improving the appearance of wrinkles.
How To Use AHAs:
In your skincare: AHAs work best in skincare products if the concentration is between 5% to 8%, and you can find them in your moisturizer, cleanser, exfoliators and even suncreams. Because AHAs should be left on your skin, they are most effective in a moisturizer or exfoliating mask. Look out for glycolic and lactic acids on your labels as these have been proven to give the best results. Because AHAs make your skin more sensitive to sunlight you should always wear SPF when using them to protect the new skin on the surface.
As a treatment: You can receive chemical peels from a doctor, dermatologist, or local beauty clinic. A chemical peel uses a much higher dose of AHAs (around 50% to 70%), and these give similar results to microdermabrasion and will help to improve acne, wrinkles, pigmentation, and uneven skin tone. It gets its name because it literally causes your skin to peel for up to a few days, or even a week afterward, but the results are much more effective than at home skincare treatments and can last up to 2 years.
Our fav formula: Ole Henriksen’s Power Peel is a 3-step facial system that includes a scrub, followed by a lemon AHA peel, and a soothing clay mask. This is the ultimate 3-step at home facial, check out the review here.
Our Fav DIY AHA Masks:
Fruit acid mask with strawberries and lime: Not only are most zingy fruits AHAs but citrus fruits like limes, lemons and kiwis are filled with antioxidants, which help combat free radicals and keep cells healthy and rejuvenated. Mash up two large strawberries or five or six small strawberries and mix with half a lime (you can either squeeze the lime juice into the strawberry mix or include the lime pulp as well). Leave it on your face for 10 to 20 minutes (whatever is comfortable for you), then rinse off with water thoroughly.
Lactic acid mask with yogurt and honey: Yoghurt contains lactic acid, another form of AHA, so if you’re looking to fight the clock, this one’s your boo. Lactic acid helps dissolve dead skin, tighten pores, and reduces the appearance of those pesky fine lines. Mix in honey (which is soothing and also has anti-bacterial properties), and you’ve got an extra powerful skin rejuvenating mask. Combine one heaped teaspoon of natural yogurt and one teaspoon of honey, (you can add a squeeze of lemon if you have any), and leave on for twenty minutes, before rinsing with a face cloth.
And don’t forget to use SPF 😉