A quick guide to AHAs – alpha hydroxy acids

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Alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs, can sound pretty scary. I mean, the thought of putting an acid on the skin sounds mad, but when you hear of the skincare benefits of alpha hydroxy acids, you’ll wonder why you haven’t been using them before!

The most common types of alpha hydroxy acids that you might have heard of are glycolic, citric, malic, tartaric and lactic. And these have so many skincare benefits.

Benefits of Alpha hydroxy acids

AHAs exfoliate the skin, removing dead skin cells from its surface, leaving you with brighter, fresher, glowier-looking skin. Without those dead skin cells sitting at the surface, they won’t clog your pores, reducing the potential for breakouts. Also, removing the skin cells means that the rest of your skincare products can work more effectively. They’re not being slowed down or stopped from working by the dead skin cells.

AHAs also help with pigmentation on the skin, helping to fade the appearance of dark spots like sun damage. By helping to even out the skin tone, your skin will look more uniform.

They help with anti-ageing and plumping the skin by keeping it hydrated, another of their benefits. They smooth and soften the skin, too.

Here are some products that contain alpha hydroxy acids that are available from Meaghers Pharmacy.

Ella & Jo Clear Skin – AHA and BHA Clarifying Liquid – €32

Along with AHAs to help fade scars from blemishes or hyperpigmentation, bring radiance back to your skin, smooth, soften and hydrate the skin, this also contains a BHA, a beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, which works to reduce sebum, and it contains witch hazel to help calm any inflammation. The AHAs and BHAs in this exfoliate the skin, removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores.

Use this morning or evening, and avoid the eye area.

Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser – €49

This, as the name suggests, combines BHA, Salicylic acid with AHAs, lactic and glycolic acid in the form of a cleanser, which you can use two to three times per week to bring brightness back to the skin by dissolving dead skin cells and improving cell turnover. New, fresh skin cells are what we love! I like that it also has Sodium PCA and Jojoba Seed Oil to boost hydration and liquorice extract to reduce irritation and inflammation.

Skingredients AHA Cleanse Brightening and Exfoliating Lactic Acid Cleanser – €31

The name explains it all! But what makes this different is that it combines AHA with a Polyhydroxy acid or a PHA. The AHA, lactic acid, removes dead skin cells, and the PHA, a gentler exfoliating acid, attracts and retains moisture in the skin, helping it stay hydrated. You can use this 2-3 times per week but don’t use it around the eye area. You can also use this as a face mask, so work it into cleansed skin, leave it on for 7 minutes and then wash it off. If you’re going to do that, do it once a week maximum.

Trilogy Resurfacing Serum – €35.95

This contains a natural AHA derived from Australian Lime Pearl extract and Prickly Pear. It works to exfoliate the skin, removing dead skin cells and bringing radiance and an even skin tone back to it by promoting cell turnover. What makes this lovely to use is that it also has rosehip oil and plant-derived hyaluronic acid to add moisture and plump up the skin.

Tips when using alpha hydroxy acids

Start slowly and build up your tolerance when it comes to AHAs and BHAs. Start at a low concentration and try using it once a week. When you see that your skin can tolerate this, you can increase the frequency and concentration. Do a patch test if you have sensitive skin, or try using PHAs or polyhydroxy acids.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re about to incorporate AHAs into your skincare routine. And until you’re confident that your skin can handle your AHAs without irritation, use retinol on alternate nights. I find it best for my skin to use my acids at night to have time overnight to settle. And I make sure not to mix my acids with my retinol. I use vitamin C in the morning and then acids and retinol at night. It’s what my skin likes, and it’s the boss!

Wear SPF! We should be wearing SPF daily, but if you don’t and are thinking about incorporating acids into your skincare routine, think about this. You’re spending time and money using acids to get rid of the dead skin cells sitting on your skin’s surface. You’re actively trying to get newer skin cells to the surface. Do you really want to damage those brand-new baby skin cells with UV damage? I didn’t think so!


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