In the treatment of wrinkles and other signs of visible ageing, several leading skin care manufacturers utilise alpha hydroxy in their products' ingredients as the "secret ingredient" to prevent ageing and to keep the skin's natural glow. In fact, alpha hydroxy or alpha hydroxy acids are being used for thousands of years as a skin rejuvenating agent.
What are AHAs?
AHAs are minerals obtained from fruits and milk sugars. Types of AHAs are lactic acid and glycolic acid. These two are the most commonly used AHAs because of their ability to easily to seep through the skin pores. Glycolic acid is usually obtained from sugar cane while lactic acid is obtained from milk. Other types of AHAs include:
- Malic acid - found in apples
- Citric acid - found in Vitamin C fruits like oranges and lemons
- Tartaric acid - found in grapes
How do they work?
AHAs act as exfoliants, meaning they help the skin get rid of all dead skin cells to make the skin look rejuvenated, fresh, and young at all times. Apart from helping the skin exfoliate, AHAs also help the skin produce essential minerals such as collagen and elastin.
Research has shown that AHA has helped prevent wrinkles, remove skin roughness, and dark spots caused by pigmentation. Today, almost all skin care products contain AHAs as one of their ingredients.
Known side effects
Despite being effective, AHAs do have their side effects, however not severe. The two side effects of AHAs are skin irritation and sensitivity to the sun. Signs of irritation caused by AHAs include redness, itching, burning, and even pain in the skin. Dark skinned individuals are more prone to these side effects compared to light skinned people and should consult a doctor before taking AHA medications.
US FDA rules on AHAs
Despite of its side effects, AHAs have been approved by the US FDA to be sold commercially over the counter. In 1997, the US FDA has issued this decision, but with corresponding guidelines:
- AHA concentration in skin products should be 10% or less.
- Skin care products should have a pH level of 3.5 or higher.
- Skin care products must have adequate a sunscreen formula or warning about the possible side effects of the product.
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