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The 5 Minute Guide to AHA Anti Aging Skin Care Products

The 5 Minute Guide to AHA Anti Aging Skin Care Products

Effects of products containing AHAs

AHAs is an abbreviation for Alpha-hydroxy acids, also termed fruit acids in the beauty industry. This is one ingredient that definitely has effects – its has been proven to have an exfoliation effect on the top layer of skin (1).

The benefits for consumers are mostly touted as improvement in the skins texture, colour (sometimes paraphrased as ‘glow’), unclogged pores. Beauty writer Paula Begoiun also reckons using products containing AHAs may lead to better uptake of moisturisers (2).

How does it work?

The exfoliation effect on the outermost layer dead skin cells results in increased cellular activity. Dead cells at the ‘top’ of skin are exfoliated due to reaction with the AHA. This means new cells from deeper within the epidermis make it to the surface at a greater ‘turnover rate’ than normal. Et voila – you have both the effect and the advertising copy around ‘cellular renewal’.

There are 5 types of Alpha-hydroxy acids, probably the most common is glycolic acid. Anti aging products containing AHAs are likely to have a concentration of 5-10% (although check the label – if the percentage is listed!).

Use-at-home products aren’t the only application for AHAs – there are also professional treatments using high concentrations (say 70% or more). Dubbed the ‘chemical peel’ in the press, it should rejuvenate skin. It has potentially immediate effects, such as temporary skin reddening and really is something a trained professional should administer. It can also have a few odd side effects, such as making cold sores (Herpes Simplex 1) flare up in susceptible individuals. How good is it? The British Association of Cosmetic Doctors (3) are refreshingly down to earth on this one, stating clearly it won’t give you “25 year old skin” at 50, but it should help skin look, well, rejuvenated.


You’ll note the mention of temporary redness under side effects for the professional version. Redness is generally found in medical textbooks as a cardinal sign of inflammation. The skin is undergoing an inflammatory reaction and may well be achieving its ‘plumped’ up look via the same mechanism providing the concentration is adequate in over-the-counter isn’t a secret in the beauty industry, but the effects of long term use are not studied as yet (4).

Important Disclaimer: NONE of the above advice can be a substitute for medical or professional skin care advice – please only consult qualified general medical and/ or dermatology physicians for serious skin complaints.

References (where [online] these are linked from our site):

1. American Food and Drug Administration. (2009). Alpha Hydroxy Acids in Cosmetics. [online] Washington: Department of Health and Human Services.

2. Begoiun, P. (2004). The Complete Beauty Bible: The Ultimate Guide To Smart Beauty. Rodale. P.99.

3. British Association of Cosmetic Doctors (2009). Chemical peels (Glycolic peels). [online].

4. American Food and Drug Administration. (2009). The Office of Women’s Health Scientific Research Program: Abstracts. [online] Washington: Department of Health and Human Services.