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What Are Alpha Hydroxy Acids?

November 22, 2019

When you’re putting together a skin care routine, chances are you'll look at skin care product labels and come across at least a word or two that you don't know the meaning of. And if you’ve ever seen a skin care product like a serum or moisturizer that says it's formulated with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs for short), you might be curious as to what this ingredient is. Well, we’re here to fill you in on exactly that! Keep reading to learn all about AHAs and how you can incorporate them into your skin care routine via some of our best alpha hydroxy acid products.


According to the Mayo Clinic, AHAs are a substance that can help exfoliate dead skin cells from the surface of your skin, which can help with a variety of skin conditions. Which leads us to…


You may already know by now that dead skin cells can accumulate on the surface of your skin, causing your skin to appear dull. AHAs can help remove this buildup from the surface of your skin, leaving you with a brighter look. AHAs can also contribute to the appearance of younger-looking skin. That’s because exfoliating skin’s surface can help reduce the look of rough texture as well as diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles caused by the slow down of surface skin cell renewal that can happen as you age.

Some of the most common AHAs that offer these benefits are glycolic acid, lactic acid, and malic acid. You can find these AHAs in a variety of different skin care product formulas, including moisturizers, toners, and serums.


AHAs such as glycolic acid can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. This means that it’s important to make sure you’re taking sun protection measures to avoid sun damage when you’re using skin care products formulated with AHAs. Such measures include applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily as directed, limiting your amount of time in the sun (especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., which are the sun’s peak hours), seeking shade when you’re outside, and covering up exposed areas in long sleeves, pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.


The short answer is yes! Of course, this depends on the product you’re using and the directions that go with it, as well as your skin type. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to ease your way into daily AHA use or stick to using one every other day. Since AHAs exfoliate, it's important to remember that how often one should exfoliate will vary from person to person. We always recommend starting off slow when introducing a new exfoliant to your skin. You can see how your complexion reacts and increase frequency if your skin responds well. 


What about beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid? You may have heard AHAs and BHAs mentioned in the same sentence, so we don’t blame you for getting a tad confused about the difference between the two. Which should you use? Head over to our article, AHAs vs. BHAs: What’s the Difference?, for a breakdown!


If you’ve decided AHAs are for you, let’s get into how to add them to your skin care routine. The following skin care products are formulated with one such AHA, glycolic acid. (Remember to take sun protection measures when you’re using any of these skin care products!)

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum: One of our favorite ways to incorporate an AHA into our skin care routines is by using serums, which tend to have higher concentrations. This face serum is formulated with 10% pure glycolic acid to leave skin feeling smoother and visibly refined. Over time, your skin tone will be more visibly even, and dark spots and wrinkles are visibly reduced. Bring on the anti-aging benefits! Apply four to five drops onto cleansed skin every evening before moisturizing.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Scrub Cleanser: This daily scrub facial cleanser is formulated with glycolic acid and gentle micro-pearls to exfoliate dullness and impurities from the surface of skin. Immediately, skin looks brighter, while skin tone appears more even with continued use over time. Every morning and evening, lather the facial cleanser into wet hands and gently massage it onto your skin in circular motions, then rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Peel Pads: Formulated with glycolic acid, these multi-ply textured peel pads physically resurface dead skin cells from the surface of skin. Immediately, skin looks brighter and feels softer, while skin tone is more even and texture is more refined with continued use over time. Use nightly on clean skin by gently wiping a peel pad over your face in a circular motion.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Dual Overnight Moisturizer: This dual-action moisturizer features an exfoliating concentrate formulated with glycolic acid in one chamber and a brightening infusion formulated with vitamin C and Pro-Retinol in the other. This deeply hydrating overnight moisturizer glides onto skin and absorbs quickly. Every night, smooth the moisturizer gently over cleansed skin. Immediately, skin looks more radiant and feels hydrated, while skin tone looks more even and the appearance of dark spots is diminished with continued use over time.

L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Day Moisturizer SPF 30: Formulated with glycolic acid, Pro-Retinol, and vitamin C, this daytime moisturizer immediately makes skin appear brighter, while dull, uneven skin tone is renewed with continued use over time.

For more AHA-specific info, head on over to our article, The Beauty Benefits of Glycolic Acid, next.

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