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What are alpha-hydroxy acids and how can they improve your skin?

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alpha-hydroxy acids

When it comes to ingredients we should be looking out for in our skincare products, they are always changing. It seems as though every month we are being introduced to new ones that claim to hold the secret to gorgeous skin.

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) refer to a few different types, all of which can be great for the skin when used correctly. Here’s what they are and why you should incorporate them into your beauty regimen. 

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What are AHAs?

AHAs are acids that can be created synthetically and are also found naturally in some foodstuffs. Lactic acid is one and it’s found in milk, while another popular variety, glycolic acid, is found in sugarcane. These ingredients have become popular in skincare products because they are effective without causing any damage.

While many of us might be used to exfoliating with scrubs, these can cause micro-tears on the skin’s surface. AHAs, on the other hand, loosen the ‘glue’ that is holding dead skin to the face and dissolves it. The result? Smooth, healthy, glowing skin, with no harsh scrubs required.

Related: What is hyaluronic acid and why should you be using it?

But which AHA is right for which skin concern? 

AHAs might all fall into the same category, but each one contains properties geared at addressing certain skin concerns. Here is a breakdown of each one so you know which acid will work best with your skin type.

Glycolic acid is the most popular AHA and is effective in reversing sun damage, treating pigmentation and unclogging pores. 

Lactic acid is a bigger molecule so doesn’t penetrate the skin’s surface as deeply. It’s ideal for those with sensitive skin. 

Citric acid, derived from citrus fruits, is a powerful antioxidant. It can help adjust the acidity levels in the skin and encourage regeneration. 

Mandelic acid, which comes from the bitter almond, has antibacterial properties, making this the AHA of choice for those with acne. 

PHOTO: iStock/PeopleImages

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