Beauty glossary

What It Is

Forget harsh scrubs, we all know the best exfoliators are chemical. Enter Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs: a group of natural acids that zap zits and magic away wrinkles. Just think of it as a spring clean of your epidermis that also happens to leave your skin smooth AF!

What It Does

AHAs gently exfoliate the skin, dissolving the top layer of dead cells to reveal the smooth surface underneath. Usually fruit or plant-based, AHAs also stimulate skin renewal and regrowth, erase pesky pigmentation, improve uneven texture and increase collagen production. Plus, thanks to their humectant properties, they deliver intense hydration.

The most famous AHA is Glycolic Acid – a go-to anti-aging hero for those looking to jumpstart lazy skin cells into regenerating and repairing damage, or for those with dry skin. Citric Acid is heralded for shrinking pores and correcting dark spots, while Mandelic works great for hyperpigmentation and acne. Lactic Acid is the most hydrating of the bunch, and the best for sensitive skin.

Who Should Use AHAs

Safe for pretty much all skin types, AHAs work wonders for those with acne, scars and dry skin. But irritation can occur, so we recommend starting with the lowest concentration and patch-testing products first, especially if you have sensitive skin.

How To Use It In Your Routine

AHAs appear in everything from face washes to masks. Leave-on products, with a concentration between 5% and 8%, give acids the most time to work their magic. The caveat? AHAs increase photosensitivity, so they should only be applied at night, and you should always wear sunscreen during the day (but you already do that, right?).

Start by applying AHA-based products once or twice a week. After your skin has adjusted to the pH change you can up this, but always check the label – overuse can leave skin red, burnt and dry.

What To Avoid Mixing AHAs With

Using too many active ingredients can result in irritation and breakouts. As a rule of thumb, mixing AHAs with retinol or vitamin C is a big no-no.

Our Fave AHA Skincare Products:

Pixi Glow Tonic, $29: It’s all about the glow with this 5% Glycolic Acid toner, which removes dead skin cells revitalizing the skin’s surface for a major glow.

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Ole Henriksen Power Peel Transforming Facial System, $50: This revolutionary 3-step system includes a scrub, professional-strength peel, and soothing chamomile mask – it’s the ultimate at-home facial and we’ve been obsessed for years!

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The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA, $7: This 10% formula offers gentle exfoliation, infused with Tasmanian Pepperberry to reduce inflammation and sensitivity.