What Are Alpha-Hydroxy Acids & How Do They Work?

This anti-aging method might be right for you

Mature woman with wrinkles
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As anyone over 40 knows, as we age, our skin tends to become thinner, drier and dull. One of the best ways to combat these issues is to use alpha-hydroxy acids (or AHAs) once a week in the form of chemical peels or daily in the form of a moisturizer or topical cream. AHAs are also great for treating acne.

What Exactly Are Alpha-Hydroxy Acids?

AHAs are glycolic or lactic acids derived from natural products including milk, sugar cane and tomatoes.

They work as a mild exfoliant, breaking down dead skin cells and helping create new cell turnover. Use these often and you're left with smoother skin, a clearer complexion, and fewer blackheads.

How Do I Get AHAs?

AHAs come in the form of topical creams, scrubs, and moisturizers. You can also find AHAs in chemical peels that you get in a dermatologist's office and you can create your own with homemade masks and face scrubs.

I recommend using an alpha-hydroxy acid peel no more than once a week. You can use a milder cream every day. Great over-the-counter AHAs include Avon Anew Clinical Advanced Retexturizing Peel and Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion.

You can also get AHAs in the form of face masks and scrubs. Either make your own using my popular homemade face mask recipes or shop for a great chemical peel.

For best results, consider getting a glycolic acid peel from a salon or a dermatologist.

If you are looking to simply brighten skin and get rid of the dullness that comes with age and skin that collects dead skin cells. A glycolic peel will penetrate only the top layer of skin, sloughing off dead skin cells. They don't go as deep as TCA peels.

Who Should — and Shouldn't — Use These?

Anyone who wants a clearer complexion can use AHAs.

You will notice benefits while using these products, but they go away when you stop using them, too.

Avoid AHAs if you have sensitive skin or spend a lot of time in the sun. You are more susceptible to sunburn when using AHAs. Make sure to use a high SPF sunscreen on your face and wear a hat while in the sun.

Use AHAs to Combat Acne

 AHAs are great for keeping blackheads at bay with a good scrub. Instead of the abrasive, grainy scrubs with sugar or salt particles which can tear at the skin, these chemical scrubs work really well on people with acne.