JAN 4, 2022 · Written by Stripped Beauty
Your skin naturally renews itself every 30 days or so. This process happens when the outer layer of the skin, or epidermis, sheds dead cells and replaces them with new ones. You can speed up this process by exfoliating your face with different methods such as physical scrubs and chemical exfoliating acids.
Today, we're talking about AHA, otherwise known as an Alpha-hydroxy acid. AHAs are water-soluble exfoliating acids that work by peeling away dead skin cells on your skin's surface. They help smooth, brighten, fade hyperpigmentation, and prevent new acne from forming.
AHA's exfoliate at the surface level by "attacking the glue" that holds your skin cells together. This makes for an even resurfacing of new skin, revealing a fresh, bright complexion. It's best to use AHA acids at night, as they can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, increasing the chances of sunscreen. Always use an SPF during the day to prevent sun irritation.
The two AHA's you'll see most:
Glycolic Acid - a common AHA derived from sugarcane and sugary fruits. It has a small molecular size and is excellent for exfoliating at the skin's surface level. Glycolic Acid has been said to irritate super sensitive skin as well as dry, so always patch test or consult your derm/esthy if you're concerned.
Lactic Acid - Another common AHA and our favorite, Lactic Acid, is derived from fermented food, milk, and also in your muscle and red blood cells. It's a gentler alternative to Glycolic Acid, making it suitable for sensitive skin types. The main reason we love Lactic Acid is because of its dual benefits. Besides exfoliation, Lactic Acid can also help improve the skin's natural moisture barrier, keeping it hydrated.
Other great AHA acids you might come across:
Mandelic Acid: This mild AHA is derived from almonds and is usually combined with other acids.
Malic Acid - Another mild AHA, but derived from apples. Malic Acid is very gentle and almost always combined with more potent AHAs.
Citric Acid: This AHA is derived from citrus fruits. Citric Acid can balance the pH of a product and be used as a mild preservative.
So, how often should you use an AHA?
How often you use an exfoliating acid is based on multiple factors such as your skin's sensitivity, if you've used them before, and the percentage in the formula. Generally, you want to use your AHAs 2-4 times a week; you don't need to exfoliate every day. Exfoliation can provide excellent skin benefits, but overuse can also cause irritation and dryness. Make sure to listen to your skin, take a break from active ingredients if needed, and always wear a broad spectrum SPF during the day.
The Bottom Line
If you're looking for chemical exfoliation to help smooth skin and prevent breakouts, an AHA is an excellent choice to incorporate into your skincare routine. You can find AHAs in many products ranging from toners, serums, and creams. Remember to always talk to your dermatologist or esthetician before trying out new products. They can help you determine the best AHA and how often to use it for your skin type and skincare goals.