The Skin-y On Alpha Hydroxy Acids
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Ancient Egyptians reportedly bathed in sour milk, a source of alpha hydroxy acids, to obtain glowing skin. Fortunately for us, we can get the same benefit with a more pleasant scent.
Benefits of AHAs
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are naturally found in milk (lactic acid), fruit (glycolic acid) and sugar cane (citric acid). Synthetic versions are also available. Dr. Debra Jaliman, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist (St. Martin’s Press), explains how AHAs enhance the skin: “They work by dissolving the glue that sticks the epidermal cells together so they help remove the dead skin cells off the surface. They exfoliate the skin and make your skin look brighter and smoother and even the skin color.” This simple process leads to some rather big results:
- smoothing fine lines
- improving skin texture
- providing a more even skin tone
- preventing breakouts by unclogging pores
- increasing moisture retention by binding water to skin
Scientific studies suggest AHAs stimulate collagen and elastin synthesis. This is a significant finding because collagen and elastin provide strength and elasticity in skin. .
How to Use AHA Products
While AHAs are effective, there are some recommendations by skin care professionals on the best way to use them:
One acid at a time. Jaliman recommends avoiding other acids when using AHAs. “(W)hen you use AHA’s you want to make certain that you don’t use a lot of other acids like salicylic acid and retinol because you can irritate your skin and make it red and it will start to peel. If you want to use other anti-aging products with the AHAs, it is better to use antioxidants or peptides which are gentler,” she says.
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Wear sunscreen. The dead layer of skin, while dull in appearance, provides some measure of protection from sunlight. Removing this layer exposes more delicate skin to more intense sun exposure. Janet Prystowsky, a board certified dermatologist in New York City, advises using sunscreen to protect your skin. “You’re likely to be more sun sensitive
after using an AHA so take care to avoid sunlight and wear a heavy layer of SPF 30 or higher sunscreen.”