Alpha hydroxy acids are a group of several types of acids which naturally occur in foods, including but not limited to citric acid from citrus fruits, glycolic acid from sugar cane, lactic acid from milk, malic acid from apples, and tartaric acid from grapes. But why should you care? Well, interestingly enough, there’s a fair bit of evidence indicating that alpha-hydroxy acids could help even out and firm up your skin when applied topically. While more study is necessary to say for certain, alpha-hydroxy acids seem to be able to remove the top layers of dead skin cells, making them a powerful exfoliant, and cause deeper, living layers of skin to thicken, which may promote firmness, acting as a potential anti-aging ingredient.
So let’s go over a few of the ways you can use alpha-hydroxy acids to better your skin.
You can get commercially available creams that contain various alpha-hydroxy acids in moisturizers, peels, etc. For something you’re going to leave on long-term, you don’t want anything stronger than a 8% concentration for most alpha-hydroxys, and 14% for products using the alpha-hydroxy acid acid gluconalactone. Leave-on creams with this concentration are effective for treating sun-damaged and aging skin to help firm it up.
For exfoliation to get softer, smoother skin and/or help reduce the appearance of acne scars, glycolic acid is a good bet. You should use glycolic acid peels once every two weeks, starting with a 20% concentration and then building to 35%, 50%, and finally 70%, leaving the peel on for 2 minutes the first time, and adding a minute every time until you hit 4-5 minutes.
Remember how we said that alhpa-hydroxy acids are found in foods? You can take advantage of this fact by using fresh fruits right at home. You can apply lemon juice to your face (though you might want to water it down slightly, try one part lemon juice to one part water) and rinse after leaving it there for a few minutes. You can also used crushed papaya, tomato seed pulp (the juicy, seedy center of the tomato), plain yogurt (which contains lactic acid), or blended pineapple meat as an anti-aging mask. It might be a little messy and sticky, but the leftovers from your project mean you get an anti-aging treatment and a snack at the same time!
Talk to Your Dermatologist and Listen to Your Body
With all alpha-hydroxy acids (and, for that matter, beauty products in general) listen to your body, and immediately stop and rinse off the product or homemade treatment if it starts to cause uncomfortable pain, tingling, or burning (low-levels of tingling that do not cause discomfort are okay).
Finally, make sure you discuss your skincare with a dermatologist, and don’t forget to detail all aspects of your home care! And with potentially harmful acids (alpha-hydroxy acids are considered generally safe in the right concentrations and when used correctly, but they are still acid, and can quite literally burn you if misused), you should check with your dermatologist before beginning any homemade treatments. Tell them exactly what you intend to try and get the all clear first. It may sound like a pain, but “better safe than sorry” definitely applies here!