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What Is An Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)?

What Is An Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)?
Team LF
Writer and expert3 months ago
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Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHA's as you may more commonly know them, have fast become a staple in most of our skincare routines. With multiple benefits, including helping to clear blemishes and brightening the complexion, it isn't any surprise that they've become the new alpha in skincare.

Where do AHA's come from?

Alpha Hydroxy Acids are naturally occurring acids, derived from citrus fruits, milk and sugar. There are lots of various kinds, but the ones most commonly used in skincare products are Glycolic Acid, derived from sugar cane, and Lactic Acid, derived from sour milk. Not only do they work in synergy with our skin much better than other forms of AHA's, but they are also gentler on our complexions.

Glycolic Acid is undoubtedly the most potent and powerful of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids. This is in large part due to the size of its molecules. As these tend to be smaller, they are much more effective at penetrating deeper into the different layers of the skin and repairing serious signs of damage from the sun and environment. It can also help to stimulate collagen production, making it brilliant to use on ageing skin to help keep it looking youthful.

Due to its potency, Glycolic Acid is best applied at night, and always needs to be followed with an SPF the following day as it can make your skin sensitive to the sun, which can then cause further damage.

Lactic Acid is brilliant for those who suffer with skin sensitivity, redness and signs of inflammation, as it is a much more gentler form of Alpha Hydroxy Acid. Our bodies naturally produce Lactic Acid themselves, so anyone who suffers with a particular skin sensitivity will receive it better as their skin will be more receptive to it. It'a also incredibly hydrating, making it a brilliant ingredient to use for those with dry skin. It can be confusing to think of an exfoliant as a way of achieving a more moisturised complexion, but one of the causes of dry skin is actually dead cells blocking new cells from appearing, so once these have been sloughed away, your complexion will be much healthier.

Although Lactic Acid doesn't cause the skin to thin, it's still always advised to wear SPF throughout the day to give your skin the best possible protection.

Why are Alpha Hydroxy Acids good for our skin?

A lot of people see the word "acids" and are immediately put off about using them on their skin. AHA's however, are actually incredibly effective chemical exfoliants, and can be much gentler on the skin than using a physically abrasive scrub. They slough away the dead cells sitting on top of your skin to prevent the signs of ageing and blemishes, so that your complexion has a beautiful and radiant glow.

By smoothing out the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, over time skin appears much healthier and more youthful looking; making AHA's an important part of your skincare routine. They are also brilliant at reducing the effects of sun damage and spotting on the skin, where environment and UV rays have taken their toll. Incorporating these acids into your routine can vastly improve your skin's health, and are brilliant if you suffer from sensitivity from using a physical and grain-based scrub.

What are the best AHA products?

PIXI Glow Tonic

  • PIXI Glow Tonic 250ml (Worth £25.00)

    PIXI Glow Tonic 250ml (Worth £25.00)

    4.68 Stars 398 Reviews
    £18.00
  • Caudalie Glycolic Peel 75ml

    Caudalie Glycolic Peel 75ml

    3.33 Stars 6 Reviews
    £22.00
  • Alpha-H Liquid Gold 100ml

    Alpha-H Liquid Gold 100ml

    4.65 Stars 112 Reviews
    £30.25

An industry favourite, it's no secret that the PIXI Glow Tonic leaves the skin looking radiant. The nourishing toner is powered by Glycolic Acid which gently buffs away dead skin cells and dirt, refining the appearance of pores to leave you with a clearer and brighter complexion. The Tonic also contains Ginseng and Aloe Vera which improve circulation and regulate moisture levels to keep the skin balances, smoother and softer.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% Superficial Peeling Formulation

  • Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant 75ml

    Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant 75ml

    4.69 Stars 36 Reviews
    £39.50
  • Omorovicza Blue Diamond Peel (50ml)

    Omorovicza Blue Diamond Peel (50ml)

    5 Stars 2 Reviews
    £155.00
  • Eucerin® Dermo PURIFYER Active Night Care (50ml)

    Eucerin® Dermo PURIFYER Active Night Care (50ml)

    4.64 Stars 11 Reviews
    £9.18

This powerful 10% Lactic Acid formula is a complete complexion transformer for anyone in need of some serious skin revitalisation. The potent Peel helps to resurface the skin, removing dead skin cells to reveal a more youthful looking, healthier layer. Not one for sensitive skin types, this can cause some irritation.

Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant

  • Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant 57g

    Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant 57g

    4.36 Stars 11 Reviews
    £55.00

The Dermalogica's Superfoliant contains a blend of Charcoal based Rice Powder infused with AHA's to effectively dissolve away signs of pollution on the skin and leave you with a clearer and much healthier complexion. A triple threat, the product offers, anti-ageing, anti-pollution and skin resurfacing benefits.

NIP+FAB Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads

  • NIP+FAB Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads - 60 Pads

    NIP+FAB Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads - 60 Pads

    4.64 Stars 39 Reviews
    £16.95

Made with Glycolic Acid, Hyaluronic Acid and Witch Hazel, the NIP + FAB Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads exfoliate and hydrate the skin to leave it feeling refreshed and looking healthier. The pads create a smoother skin surface when used regularly and can help even the tone and texture of the skin before makeup application.

GLAMGLOW Supermud Mask

  • GLAMGLOW Supermud Mask 15g

    GLAMGLOW Supermud Mask 15g

    3.84 Stars 38 Reviews
    £13.60

If blemishes and uneven skin texture is your main concern, the GLAMGLOW Supermud Mask is an effective, advanced treatment that helps to clear the skin. Made using Charcoal, Lactic Acid and Glycolic Acid, the mask draws out impurities from the skin and gently exfoliates to leave the complexion glowing.

REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic

  • REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic 250ml

    REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic 250ml

    4.44 Stars 102 Reviews
    £24.30

100% Vegan, the REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic helps to improve the tone and texture of the skin, gently resurfacing and exfoliating away dead skin, impurities and blocked pores. A blend of Lactic Acid and Willow Bark Extract work in harmony to reduce the appearance of pores and smooth the visage for visibly brighter results.

Shop all Glycolic and Lactic Acid on LOOKFANTASTIC.

Team LF
Writer and expert
View Team LF's profile
Our team of beauty experts cover everything from makeup to skincare, picking out the most effective products from the best brands and latest trends. Stay up to date on everything beauty with the LOOKFANTASTIC blog, and find all your essentials in one place.
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