A For AHAs: All You Need to Know About Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Smoother, even-toned skin skin on your mind? If you are ready to say ‘AHA’ to revitalised skin, this quick guide on Alpha Hydroxy Acids is a keeper. Seen as a staple in all our beauty cupboards, Alpha Hydroxy Acids are proven for their skin enhancing mettle. Also known as exfoliating acids, they lift off the build-up of dead skin cells to reveal brighter, smoother complexions.

Acne. Skin problems. Two different halves of the face.

But first, what are AHAs?

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are natural or synthetic compounds that remove build-up on the skin through non-physical means like a face scrub. They simply dissolve dead skin to allow new, smooth skin to surface, resulting in a brighter, more hydrated and even complexion over time. You’ll find AHAs in a range of skincare products such as serums, toners, peels and creams. But head with caution as while acids can give you that amazing youthful glow, using them incorrectly can cause irritation and redness.

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Types of alpha hydroxy acids

There are different types of AHAs that are commonly used in skincare products. These include Citric acid, Glycolic acid, Hydroxycaproic acid, Hydroxycaprylic acid, Lactic acid, Tartaric acid and Malic Acid. For the uninitiated,  glycolic and lactic acids are the most researched of the lot and also least likely to cause irritation. In fact, most over-the-counter AHAs contain glycolic and lactic acids. These acids break up the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin and help to exfoliate the outer layer of skin giving it that smoothened-out appearance. As always when it comes to AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid, start slow by using a lower percentage acid a few times a week and then increase frequency or percentage based on how your skin reacts to it. We love SW1’s Sleep Mode, an oil-free Aloe Vera Gel with Glycolic Acid which is very beneficial for non-sensitive, normal to oily, and blemished skin types. It increases the skin’s natural rate of exfoliation while renewing native skin collagen.

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What can AHAs help with?

While everyone knows that alpha hydroxy acids can help improve skin tone and texture by exfoliating the outer layer of skin, there are plenty of other ways that AHAs can benefit the complexion too.

Collagen keeps your skin plump and smooth but with age and sun exposure, these building fibres can break down and lead to saggy, older looking skin. As collagen is found in the middle layer of the skin, when the upper layer is exfoliated with an AHA, it gives access to the hidden middle layer. Which means the use of AHA’s can help remove old collagen fibres to make way for new ones.

Acne. Acne or pimples occur when your pores are clogged with a combination of dead skin cells, oil and bacteria. Exfoliating with AHAs can help remove these blockages and also reduce the size of enlarged pores which are often seen in acne-prone skin. And AHAs aren’t just for your face! You can use AHA products on other acne-prone areas, including your backside and chest – but its best to consult with your doctor. While you are there, invest in a clinically made and approved skincare product like the Bespoke Facial Peel that comes highly customisable to accommodate all skin types. Simply pick and mix to your from classic favourites like alpha hydroxy acids and gentle lactic acid peels. You also get to add a dose of youth preserving active ingredients like Vitamins A, C and skin activating Tranexamic acid to suit your skin type!

Read more: Everything you need to know about antioxidants

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Brightening of the skin is another perk that comes with chemical exfoliation of dead cells. With newer skin revealed, that is brighter and more radiant, you’ll also notice lesser cell accumulation and a glowing, even tone. Try the Pure Gold Aquashine essence that is a pure, featherweight skin bio-tonic,  rich in vitamins and gentle alpha hydroxy acids (lactic and glycolic) which work to support elasticity and promotes brighter, healthier skin.

Wrinkles. AHAs are known for their anti-aging properties so their ability to manage fine lines shouldn’t come a surprise. They can effectively work and remove superficial lines – those that are found on the surface only. Should you want deeper lines to be removed, AHA’s alone will not be enough.


Young beautiful Asian woman scared of sunshine isolated over pink background. Concept for summer skin care and skin protection from uv sunshine

Are there any risks or side effects with AHAs?

If you are new to using AHAs you may experience a slight tingling of skin or minor side effects as your skin adjusts to the acid. These may include burning, itching or blistering. For this reason, most skin specialists advocate the use of AHA’s via a low and slow method. Start by using a low percentage of the acid only 2-3 times a week and slowly increase the frequency and percentage when you feel your skin has well adjusted to it.

You must also use extra caution when going out in the sun. The peeling effect of AHAs makes you skin more sensitive to UV rays and susceptible to sunburn. Apply sunscreen liberally and often to prevent this. Should you suffer from specific skin troubles such as eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, make sure you speak to your doctor before trying out an acid. A medical professional will be the best guide to determine the right AHA for your skin type and goals.

Read more: Spa at Home: The Ultimate Skin Survival Roundup

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