Alpha hydroxy acid is an ingredient found in many anti aging skin care products. Alpha hydroxy acid is an exfoliant derived from fruit sources but also from such varied sources as sugar cane, milk, apples and wine. There are a variety of compounds that function as an alpha hydroxy acid, including citric acid (plain old vitamin C), glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid and tartaric acid.
Keep these various types of alpha hydroxy acids in mind when reading labels.
Alpha hydroxy acid is an acid derived from fruits. Various alpha hydroxy acids have been in use for centuries to help reduce wrinkles and exfoliate the skin of the face. In higher concentrations, alpha hydroxy acid is used in chemical peels.
Alpha hydroxy acid products sold over the counter must have a concentration of 10% or less. Licensed dermatologists and cosmetologists can purchase products with a 20% to 30% concentration of alpha hydroxy acid. Doctors have access to potent concoctions with a concentration of 50% to 70%!
Alpha hydroxy acid works as an exfoliant. It's an acid, which means it can degrade organic compounds. Alpha hydroxy acid literally eats away at the top layer of the skin, removing the top, dead skin cells and revealing the living cells underneath. Because dead skin cells protect those underneath from the sun, regular exfoliation creates an increase in sensitivity to sunlight.
Higher concentrations of alpha hydroxy acid, like those available to doctors, are capable of removing thicker layers of the skin, including surface scars and fine lines. Unfortunately, higher concentrations of alpha hydroxy acids result in greater irritation. After a 60% facial peel, a person could expect severe redness, flaking and oozing skin for four weeks!
Yes. Alpha hydroxy acid is a nearly universal ingredient in anti wrinkle creams in one of its many forms. Skin care products generally carry very low concentrations, however, to avoid the kind of irritation that higher concentrations can cause.