Cleopatra, it is believed, bathed in sour milk (lactic acid) to improve her complexion. In France, over 200 years ago, there is documentation of a “Youth Cream” made from aged wine. Lemon and fruits have been used in Hungary, and other parts of Europe for hundreds of years as skin toners. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) have been a part of skin treatment regimens since ancient times. This historic experience base has lead a to growing body of current research around the effects of photoaging. With this research, alpha hydroxy acids have become even more popular.
Photoaging was first coined in 1986 and is a direct result of ultraviolet light exposure on the skin. On sun exposed skin, up to 90% of skin aging is due to the deleterious effects of the sun. The natural aging process is dependent on time and genetics, and is unchangeable. However, photoaging can be avoided with good sun protection habits.
THE BENEFITS OF AHA
Alpha hydroxy acids work mainly as an exfoliant. The cells in the outer layer of skin detach and slough off, making room for regrowth of new skin. Alpha hydroxy acids may even stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. Alpha hydroxy acids are reported to improve wrinkling, roughness, and mottled pigmentation of photo-damaged skin after months of daily application. AHA found in skin-care products works best in a concentration of 5% to 8% and at a pH of 3 to 4.
Read the ingredients of your skin care products carefully. Those with AHA in them are likely to help diminish some of the signs of aging, but AHA can also increase sensitivity to the sun by 50%. It appears that alpha hydroxy acids may be able to reverse some of the damage caused by photoaging, but at the same time may make the skin more susceptible to photoaging.
AHAs have side effects that can include redness, burning, itching, pain, and possibly scarring. People with darker colored skin are at a higher risk of scarring pigment changes with alpha hydroxy acids. When using AHA it is important to protect yourself from the sun. A tanning alternative, such as spray tanning, would better serve the desire for a golden tan, than laying out in the sun and risking exposure to damaging UV rays.