Alpha hydroxy skin care products have become incredibly popular over the last few years. One reason for this popularity is that these products have shown positive results for one of the most common dermal problems people face, especially as they grow older. That problem is wrinkles. What may surprise some people is that while these products seem to be new, the essential components of alpha hydroxy (AH) products have been around for many centuries.
The active ingredients in alpha hydroxy skin care preparations are the various acids that are found in them. These acids come from fruit and milk sugars, and include such acids as lactic acid. These acids, as you might imagine, are fairly easy to produce with modern technology. In addition to the acids, products will usually have other ingredients in them. It is often the addition of these other ingredients (such as perfumes and base foundations) that can lead to higher prices for products. It is possible, however, to find good quality products at reasonable prices.
Alpha hydroxy skin care products came into being through research on wrinkles. There was a time, and this still happens today, when those who had wrinkles, especially facial wrinkles, were bombarded with advertisings that promised far more than they could deliver. Research on AH acids showed that there were possible benefits that could be observed and measured. This was much better than the hyped products of yesteryear, which often had little or no scientific backing. Today, you can find good quality AH products in such formulas as toners, cleansers, moisturizers, and masks.
When it comes to the actual chemistry of the AH acids, the acids are derived from various fruit and milk sugar compounds. The most commonly used are lactic acid and glycolic acid. These are popular choices because they penetrate the skin easily. Because of their popularity they are also some of the most studied and researched of the many different types of AH acids. The complete list of AH acids that are often found in skincare items include: Glycolic acid (which is made from sugar cane), lactic acid (from milk), citric acid (from citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges), malic acid (from pears and apples), and tartaric acid (from grapes).
There is really no mystery behind the process of how AH acids work. They work mainly as exfoliation products. What this means is that they allow the outer layer of dead skin cells to be released so that new skin cells can begin to grow. There is also some evidence that these acids may also encourage the stimulation of new collagen and elastin growth. AH acids are also reported to help improve wrinkling and rough skin if the products are used for a sustained amount of time. The amount of time is dependent on the product but one month to three months is normal.
In general, alpha hydroxy skin care products will work best when they are in a concentration of 5-8% and in the pH range of 3 to 4. It should be noted that cosmetic makers are not required by law to provide concentration level information on the labeling of their packaging. However, as a rule of thumb, having the alpha hydroxy acid listed as the second or third ingredient on the ingredient’s list makes it more likely it contains the proper concentration. Concentrations above this amount can only be administered by medical professionals.
Consumers should understand that AH products may have side effects. The two most common are skin irritation and sensitivity to the sun. The second is the main reason that most AH products contain sunscreen within the product or have a label stating that it does not contain sunscreen along with a warning that you should provide your own sunscreen when using the product.
The usual symptoms of irritation include itching, burning, and pain. As for sun sensitivity, there is the possibility that using AH products can increase sensitivity by as much as 50% in some people. This can cause sun burn in a short amount of time. It is very important that all persons using alpha hydroxy skin care products use a good sunscreen.
When shopping for AH products, it is best to choose a single product with the proper level of AH acid in it and then to avoid using any other cosmetics or products that contain additional acid. This will reduce the likelihood of irritation.
Remember, sunscreen is very important and should be used generously when you are using alpha hydroxy skin care products. The choice in sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 15 for UVB protection and should also contain titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide for UVA protection.