What are AHAs in skincare?
You’ve probably figured out by now that those of us in the skincare world love an acronym - hey, some of those ingredients are really wordy! Speaking of loving an acronym, one of our absolute favourites is AHAs, otherwise known as alpha hydroxy acids. If you haven’t had your ‘aha!’ moment on what AHAs are (pardon the pun), by the time you finish reading you’ll well and truly be a member of their fan club. Without further ado, let’s dive into alpha hydroxy acids for skin.
What are AHAs?
While we’re keen to shout about why we love AHAs from the rooftops, let’s take a step back and ask the million dollar question - what are AHAs in skincare?
They are acids (duh), but don’t let that word scare you - they are perfectly safe. They are often plant-derived and considered chemical exfoliants that buff away dead skin and congestion on the top layers of the skin. You may be more familiar with physical exfoliants (the gritty scrubs), but chemical exfoliants can penetrate deeper into the skin as they are water soluble. Plus, they won’t leave your skin red raw if used gently.
There are 7 types of AHAs, but the most commonly researched (and the ones we’re going to be discussing today) are lactic and glycolic acids.
AHAs benefits for skin
AHA skin care is a favourite among dermatologists, and for good reason. In fact, the list of reasons to get behind AHAs is extensive, but we’re going to narrow it down to our top four.
Great for acne-prone skin
If you’re someone who struggles with acne, AHAs could be your golden ticket to clear skin. We all know that acne occurs as a result of clogged pores, and the beauty of AHAs is their ability to loosen whatever is clogging your pores and remove any dirt or sebum. This also means AHAs can make pores appear smaller, as they’re not as congested. Thanks to their exfoliating powers, glycolic and lactic acids also help to reduce the appearance of acne scars and overall skin tone.
As we age, our skin is exposed to damaging environmental factors like pollution and UV rays. That, in combination with the cruelty of time means fine lines and wrinkles start to show up on our skin. The beauty of AHAs is their ability to promote collagen production. Collagen (the protein fibres that keep our skin plump) lies in the middle layer of the skin, where AHAs can reach. They destroy old collagen fibres to make way for fresh ones. Plus, AHAs in skincare also increase blood flow to the skin to give you a gorgeous radiance.
Hydrate the skin
AHAs will have your skin feeling soft and supple in a flash thanks to their hydrating powers. Some AHAs, like glycolic acid, are what’s known as humectants, meaning they draw water from their surroundings to the skin. Yup, that means while they exfoliate, you also get a hydrated glow. AHAs can also help other skincare products like your hydrating serum and moisturiser work more effectively, by removing dead skin cells that are stopping all of the good stuff from getting deep into the skin. Otherwise, your products are just moisturising dead skin and we don’t need to tell you that’s never going to work so well.
Using AHAs on a regular basis can help reduce the appearance of dark marks caused by sun damage, ageing or hormonal changes in pregnancy. AHAs increase cell turnover which allows newer skin, without pigmentation, to shine through.
Skincare containing AHAs
Like we said, there are at least seven types of AHAs, so knowing what to look for on your ingredients list can be a bit like acing a chemistry test. Luckily, we left tests behind in high school, so we’ve made it simple. Here are some esmi Skin Minerals products containing AHAs that will have people asking you who your facialist is (you can give them our details).
Our go-to is the Detoxifying Exfoliating Charcoal Serum. It contains 10% Fruit Acid Combination AHA's (5% Glycolic Acid and 5% Lactic Acid) to naturally and gently unclog pores and speed up cell renewal. It draws out impurities and works like a dream on blackheads, just FYI. If congested (rough and bumpy skin) has you down, reach for this little beauty.
After using the Charcoal Serum, lock in moisture and get an extra dose of lactic acid with the Detox Hydra-Fluid Moisturiser. It will help to increase cellular turnover to leave skin smooth and soft, as well as featuring Red Algae Extract to hydrate and revitalise the skin.
Before you lather on the AHAs, keep in mind the other ingredients in your skincare routine. You can layer your AHAs under any vitamin C serums, but they don’t play nicely with retinol as they are both exfoliants and can irritate the skin.
If AHAs aren’t already a part of your skincare routine, do yourself a favour! They speed up your cell turnover by exfoliating the skin without harsh scrubs, leaving you with a clear, and brighter complexion - um, big yes to that! If you need a little more help figuring out which AHA products are right for you, chat to our skin consultants.