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What Are AHAs: The Big Secret to Glowing Skin

Have you started using AHAs in your skincare? AHAs or alphadroxy acids are skin-friendly, gentle acids that can make your skin glow. They are suitable for any skin type and pack an anti-aging punch in any formula. They are naturally derived from fruits, milk, and sugar cane. The different AHAs include glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, mandelic acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid. We’re here to help find the right AHA for you. 

What are AHAs good for?

AHAs are a chemical exfoliant: they help to even and smooth the skin. Healthline tells us that any chemical exfoliant will work well to decrease inflammation, improve hyperpigmentation, improve texture, remove dead skin cells, and unclog pores to prevent acne. AHAs specifically tend to be used to improve skin tone and acne. The type of acid you choose will reach different surfaces of the skin, depending on their molecular structure as explained by the International Journal for Chemical Technology Research

AHAs work well with other skincare ingredients like vitamin A and E for the best anti-aging effects. This dermatological study had over 50 volunteers follow the same skincare routine which incorporated AHAs with vitamins B3, C, and E. They found that this combination helped to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve skin texture as well as elasticity.

AHAs are also water-soluble, meaning they draw upon facial moisture to hydrate the skin. This is great for all skin types but especially dry skin. If you’re an exfoliant connoisseur, you’ll know that AHAs pair wonderfully with BHAs. Just be careful not to irritate the skin, and always hydrate after! Using AHAs increases your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays from the sun, so it’s imperative to wear a high SPF daily. 

Which AHA should I use?

AHAs work with oily, dry, and normal skin types. It comes down to your preference in how you want to build your skincare routine. Here’s our suggestion:

  • Best all-around: glycolic acid. It’s made from a widely available plant: sugar cane. Improves hyperpigmentation, skin tone, and has antimicrobial properties to help fight and prevent acne. 
  • Best for sensitive skin: lactic acid. Same benefits as glycolic, but in a gentler formula, due to having larger molecules. Some products combine the two. 
  • Best for texture: citric acid. This organic acid improves skin elasticity while exfoliating. 

Supportive AHAs

Some AHAs play more of a background role to allow others to shine. The Journal of Clinical Dermatology lays out what to look for, like malic and mandelic acids. These will support better exfoliation when combined with other AHAs. Tartaric acid is another supportive AHA that will help balance the pH of your skin when using other products. 

How often can I use AHA?

When introducing any AHA into your routine, you’ll want to do it progressively. Start with once a week and allow your skin to adjust. For oilier skin types, feel free to use your AHAs 2-3x a week. If you’re using a gentler formula, you could build up to every other night. 

What concentration should I use?

 A perfectly normal concentration to start with is around 5-7%. It’s better to start gently because the pH associated with the concentration of your AHA can irritate or damage your skin. Remember, higher concentration doesn’t always mean better for your skin. If you see results after 6-12 weeks, you probably don’t need to increase your concentration.

The highest concentration of AHA you’ll probably hear of is between 10%and 15%. This is for treatments done by licensed estheticians. 

Where can AHAs go in my skincare routine? 

  • In your cleanser. We recommend the SkinMedica AHA BHA cleanser which contains lactic, glycolic, citric and malic acid. Fit for any skin type!
  • In your toner. To exfoliate lightly while adding hydration and soothing, we can recommend the Zo Skin calming toner. This is a simpler formula containing glycolic acid and witch hazel. 
  • In your exfoliants. For sensitive, oily, acne-prone skin, the Zo Skin dual action scrub does wonders. It contains lactic acid to gently exfoliate, jojoba and castor oil to nourish, and tea tree leaf oil to balance sebum production. If you prefer chemical exfoliants, Zo Skin offers these complexion renewal pads with a similar formula to the scrub. 

AHAs are a gentle but powerful way to achieve glowing skin. You can incorporate AHAs into just about any step of your skincare routine. As with any new skincare, you must pay attention to how your skin behaves over time and reacts to different products. Your skin should feel refreshed after using an AHA, not irritated.

Let us know which AHA you enjoy!

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