Everything you need to know about Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) peels

You might have seen it on the label of  skin care products often: AHA. But what does this AHA mean and what is it good for? Is it worth the hype? Let’s find out!

What are AHAs? 

AHAs or Alpha Hydroxy Acids are compounds that are often used in skin care products. There are various AHAs, but the most effective ones are glycolic acid and lactic acid. AHAs are chemical exfoliators, which sounds scary but really isn’t. The word ‘chemical’ unrightfully scares people away and it’s one of the reason that some people prefer face scrubs.

However, unlike scrubs, which are physical exfoliators, chemical exfoliators are less likely to do damage to your skin in the long run, as long as you follow the instructions. The problem with physical exfoliators is that they can often be abrasive and leave your skin with micro tears. Micro-tears are little scratches and tears in your skin that you can’t see with the bare eye, but they make your skin more vulnerable to aging and visible skin damage. The risk of getting micro-tears is higher if your face scrubs contains particles like apricot seeds and similar products. Unlike physical exfoliators, chemical exfoliators like AHA won’t cause micro-tears on your skin.

Why should you exfoliate?

While the top layer of skin exfoliates naturally, as we grow older this process slows down. This is not only due to age, but also sun damage, skin diseases, having difficult skin types and many more reasons. Exfoliation helps to support your skin by getting rid of dead skin cells, revealing the fresh, younger looking layer underneath that makes you glow and look beautiful. If you have acne, exfoliation is key, because it helps to get rid of clogged pores which in turn will reduce blackheads and other blemishes. In the long run  gentle, proper exfoliation will keep your skin healthy and younger looking!

How do AHAs work?

AHAs are water-soluble and they work on the surface of the skin. Because they’re water-soluble they have great moisturising properties, so they’re perfect for skin that is dry and sun-damaged. If your concerns are oily, acne-prone skin you should be using a BHA. That does not mean that if you have oily skin, you can’t use AHAs though. AHAs have been shown to improve your skin’s elasticity by improving the collagen production. This makes AHA a great way to reduce the appearance of fine lines and slow down the aging process as well.

To learn more about BHA, check out this article on BHAs and their benefits.

How to use AHAs?

You can use AHAs daily (once or twice a day), every other day or just a few times a day. For effectiveness I would recommend that you use it at least twice a week.  If you want to use a BHA or are already using one, adding an AHA is fine. For some people using both at the same time can be intense, so it’s best to use one in the morning and the other in the evening, OR you can alternate the days where you are using a BHA and an AHA.

While you should always be using sun protection, this becomes even more important when you start to use exfoliators. AHAs remove the dead skin layer on top, revealing your new skin layer underneath. You want to protect this new skin layer from sun damage, so always use at least a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 when you are using exfoliators (foundations and other makeup products with SPF do not work as effectively as a proper sunscreen!)

What to use?

First of all, don’t even bother with cleansers that contain AHA. A cleanser does not stay on your face long enough to actually let the AHA work. So spending money on an AHA face wash is a waste of your hard earned coins. Instead choose a toner, mask, treatment or cream.

If you are suffering from whiteheads like I am, the Cosrx Whitehead power liquidwill become your new best buddy. It’s a pretty intense treatment that will resurface your skin and gradually decrease your whiteheads. Because of the intensity, I like to use an extra serum or lotion after applying this and before applying my night cream.

I’m very passionate about this product, because I’ve tried so many different products to get rid of whiteheads and this one has really been working for me. Start off with once a week and gradually build it up, but never use it more than 3 times a week and do not use any other exfoliating products on the same day that you use this.

For daily use, I use the Cosrx AHA/BHA clarifying treatment toner. Even though this products contains both AHA and BHA, it’s gentle so it’s suitable for daily use. I apply it twice a day, after washing my face and together with the AHA power liquid it has done wonders for my skin. On the days that I use the AHA power liquid however, I don’t use this one or any other exfoliating products.

These are two of my favorites and in my opinion some of the better ones out there, but there are many other options on the market as well 🙂 Don’t be afraid to try them, but be critical of the ingredients and the product choice itself. Don’t forget to apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30!

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