Powerful Ingredient For Aging Skin – Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

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The AHAs, also known as Alpha Hydroxy Acids, are derived from fruit and milk sugars. There are several AHAs used in skin-care treatment. These include lactic acid, tartaric acid, malic acid and glycolic acid. The AHA most commonly used is glycolic acid, which is widely added to over-the-counter skin creams and by estheticians and doctors to perform skin peels to reverse skin aging damage and pigmentation.

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The benefits of AHAs

AHAs produce exfoliation by removing dead surface cells and stimulate the production of new collagen in the dermis, so they are a valuable component of most anti-aging skin care regimens. A recent study also showed that glycolic acid treatment of the skin increased the hyaluronic acid (HA) content of both epidermis and dermis, a very exciting finding since, as we know, the loss of HA is an important cause of dryness in aged skin.

AHAs, particularly glycolic and lactic acid, help aging or sun-damaged skin by making the surface smoother, lessening lines, wrinkles, roughness and splotchy hyperpigmentation. Long-term use improves barrier function, resulting in much better hydration, enhanced barrier function due to normal cell renewal, increased firmness and significantly healthier looking skin.

AHAs can also help other conditions including oily and acne-prone skin.

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AHAs May Cause Irritation

AHAs can be very irritating. The FDA estimates there are 10,000 adverse reactions to AHA containing products each year, reactions that can include redness, swelling of the eyes, rash, itching and skin discoloration.

In most cases, doctors will prescript AHAs for patients who cannot tolerate Retin A. AHAs works well on most patients with rosacea (just like me) as long as they are not overused and do not have a pH lower than 3.5.

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Strengths and Effectiveness of AHAs

AHAs can vary extensively in their strengths. Products have been formulated with as little as 2 or 3% to as high as 20% in higher strength treatment preparations. It is claimed that in order to show result, the products require to contain at less 8-10% AHAs.

The stronger solutions of AHAs are used by doctors to produce a chemical peel, which blisters or removes the epithelium and irritates the dermis in order to encourage more new collagen production.

Skin care products sold over-the-counter, which contain glycolic or lactic acid, contain at most, only 10% AHAs. Trained cosmetologists may use products which contain 20-30% AHAs. Doctors may use products with as much as 50-70% AHAs, but at these concentrations, a deep chemical peel is produced.

The AHAs, glycolic acid & lactic acid, are safe for you when :

The AHA concentration is 10% or less.
The pH is 3.5 or higher.
The product contains sunscreen or the label clearly recommends that you use sunscreen.

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pH Factor For AHAs

The pH is also a very important factor in AHA efficacy. The lower the pH, the higher the strength of the acid, the more cells will be removed from the skin. Also, though, the lower the pH, the more potentially irritating the acid will be to the skin. AHA leave-on products of 8% or higher sting slightly when applied, indicating some irritancy, even though this is probably very small at this concentration.

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Sunscreen Is A Must!

An SPF-15 or higher broad-spectrum sunscreen should be used daily on all skins treated with AHAs, but especially aging or already sun-damaged skin.

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