Alpha Hydroxy Acids

    Posted before Dec-31-2007

Alpha hydroxy acids better known as AHAs are basically feeble natural acid fruits derived from different sources including apples, lemons, grapes, sugar cane, pineapple, maple, papaya, lime, black berries, willow bark, sour milk, yoghurt, and cider. The most widespread alpha hydroxy acids comprise glycolic and lactic acids that have been utilized by people over centuries for skin care, including restoration of skin. In effect, the acids derived from fruits are organic exfoliates that execute several roles on the outer most layer of the skin also known as the stratum corneum. These organic exfoliates slacken and melt the lifeless cells on the exterior of the skin and facilitates the growth of new skin cells. In addition, fruit acid helps in managing acne or bad skin condition, soften the arid and coarse skin, perk up the feel of the skin bruised by sun and age as well as preserves moisture keeping the skin in good physical shape and lively. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the most extensively applied alpha hydroxy acids as they are able to break into the skin's surface and facilitates its growth and health. In addition, there are numerous methodical statistics relating to the usefulness and after-effects of glycolic acid and lactic acid.

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Different skin care products available in the market usually enclose five prominent alpha hydroxy acids, including glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid. Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane, lactic acid from milk, malic acid from apples and pears, citric acid from oranges and lemons and tartaric acids from grapes.

Functions of alpha hydroxy acids

As mentioned earlier, alpha hydroxyl acids or AHA basically function as exfoliates or scrubbers. They facilitate the skin regeneration and ensure better health and vigor of your skin by removing the dead skin cells. Alpha hydroxy acids act on the outer surface of the skin, and shed off the lifeless skin cells through a natural process. This allows growth of new skin cells making the skin glowing and healthy. Apart from facilitating the growth of new skin cells, alpha hydroxy acids also motivate the production of collagen (a natural protein that is healthy for skin) and elastin - a protein comprising the basic material of elastic tissue. In addition, regular application of alpha hydroxy acids for several months is also said to help in removing crease or wrinkles on the facial skin, coarseness as well as blotches caused by saturation of pigments. It may be mentioned here that the different types of alpha hydroxy acids enclosed in various skin care products are most effective when they are in the intensity of five per cent to eight per cent and at a pH ranging from 3 to 4.

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Aftereffects of using alpha hydroxy acids

Regular use of alpha hydroxy acids usually gives rise to two main aftereffects and may cause inflammation or/and make the skin subtle to exposure to sun. In such cases, indications of skin inflammation or soreness may comprise flushes, smoldering sensation, tenderness, prickling and perhaps even blemishes. In fact, dark complexioned people are more susceptible to formation of scars owing to pigmentation of the skin when they use alpha hydroxy acids more frequently. Regular use of alpha hydroxy acids has the potential to enhance the skin's precariousness to exposure to sun by as much as 50 per cent and lead to a remarkable problem. It has, however, been found that alpha hydroxy acids have the potential to overturn some of the harms caused by prolonged exposure to sun also known as 'photo aging', but simultaneously makes the skin more vulnerable to photo aging. Hence, it is advisable that any person using alpha hydroxy acids for a long period should also simultaneously use a sunscreen lotion including substances that are effective against UVA and UVB rays that comprise ultra violet radiation.

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Alpha hydroxy acids and chemical peels/ chemexfoliation

Chemical peels also known as chemexfoliation or derma-peeling that is used to treat the facial skin enclose different intensities of alpha hydroxyl acids. However, the dilution of alpha hydroxy acids in the chemicals is diverse for different persons depending on the permissible amount for an individual. While common consumers need to use alpha hydroxy acid products in dilution of 10 per cent, professional cosmetologist and beauticians are permitted to use products having a higher concentration of alpha hydroxy acid - around 20 per cent to 30 per cent. Medical practitioners, on the other hand, are allowed to use alpha hydroxy acid products with an intensity of around 50 per cent to 70 per cent depending on the requirement or acceptability of a patient.

The effects of applying such chemical peels for one to three times may be compared to the benefits of microdermabrasion - a process that includes wiping out faint contours from the facial skin and making it appear fresh and smoother. It may be noted here that it is essential to go over such skin healings once in every three to six months in order to preserve smoothness and vibrancy of the facial skin. Applying chemical peels or undergoing a microdermabrasion cure also help in removing faint creases and scars from the facial skin. In cases where the alpha hydroxy acid content in the products is to the level of 50 per cent to 70 per cent, the impact of such treatments usually continues for a longer period - around two to five years. It needs to be mentioned here that the more the intensity of the alpha hydroxy acid content in the chemical peels, the chances of aftereffects such as irritation is greater. When a person uses a chemical peel containing 50 per cent to 70 per cent alpha hydroxy acid, he or she is likely to endure acute flushes, cracking of the skin and skin discharges that may continue for any length of time between one week to one month.

Distinction between alpha and beta hydroxy acids

While five major alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid and tartaric acid) are normally used in the usual skin care products obtainable from the drug stores and pharmacies, salicylic acid is the only beta hydroxy acid available. It may be noted here that the most important dissimilarity between alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids is their ability to dissolve in lipids or oils. While alpha hydroxy acids are only soluble in water, beta hydroxy acids can dissolve in lipids. In effect, this property of beta hydroxy acid signifies that it is able to infiltrate the skin pores that comprise sebum and scrub or shed the lifeless skin cells developed within the skin pores. However, alpha hydroxy acids do not possess this ability and as a result of this dissimilarity between the two, beta hydroxy acid is more often used for people with oily skins with blackheads and whiteheads. On the other hand, alpha hydroxy acids are generally used for skin that is coagulated and harmed by sun burns and where penetrating the skin is not much difficult.

Selecting the right alpha hydroxy acid

Different alpha hydroxy acids are present in an assortment of skin care and cosmetic products such as sunscreen lotions, cleansers, moisturizers, eye lotions and foundations. But before using any of them, one must ascertain which type of alpha hydroxy acid is best suited for his or her skin condition. As using the wrong alpha hydroxy acid product may often turn out to be detrimental for the skin's health, we need to be careful while selecting the right one. Here are a few tips on choosing the correct alpha hydroxy acid skin care formulation.

  • While buying a skin care product containing alpha hydroxy acids, be careful to select the item that constitutes the appropriate AHA for use as exfoliate for your skin.
  • Ensure that the alpha hydroxy acid skin care product you are using has a moisturizer foundation as this is considered to be the best mishmash of the cosmetics.
  • It is advisable not to use any cleansing lotion containing alpha hydroxy acids as they never yield the desired results. In fact, cleansers with alpha hydroxy acids are seldom useful as they are hardly soaked up by the skin. Normally, people remove the cleansers even before they are sucked up by the skin and, therefore, prior to initiating any action.
  • It is important to note that currently there is no useful skin care produce that blends alpha hydroxy acids with sunscreen lotions. This is primarily owing to the fact that no sunscreen cream has been formulated that is steady at the pH level at which they can make the AHA more effectual.
  • When you are using any skin care product that contains alpha hydroxy acids always remember to simultaneously apply sunscreen lotions in sufficient proportions. It is essential to remember that the sunscreen lotion you are using possesses a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 to safeguard your skin from the effects of the UVB rays. In addition, the sunscreen should have chemicals such as avobenzone, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. This is again essential to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UVA rays.
  • It is regrettable that the law does not make it mandatory for the cosmetics producers to mention the requisite details regarding the intensity of alpha hydroxy acids in any of the products containing them. In such circumstances, when the alpha hydroxy acid used in any cosmetics product is mentioned as the second or third component, it expected that the item contains the AHA in the right intensity or concentration. Always look for this on the label of the product you are buying.


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