From 10-step skincare routines to complicated formulations, there are so many different skincare products out there to choose from.1 If you’re wondering what AHAs are and how they work, we’ve got everything you need to know below.
What are AHAs?
AHAs stand for ‘Alpha Hydroxy Acids’. They’re a type of chemical exfoliating acid, which can help with uneven skin textures, pigmentation, wrinkles, and much more.2
There are a lot of different types of AHAs, many of which you might have heard of before. These include glycolic acid, lactic acid, and malic acid. They tend to work by sloughing off the top layer of dead skin, revealing a smoother complexion underneath. They’re also thought to stimulate collagen production, which might help with wrinkles and ageing skin concerns.3
Why are AHAs so popular?
AHAs have become increasingly popular in recent years, partly because of their accessibility. They’re available to buy as single-ingredient solutions and added to other skincare products, making a once salon-exclusive much easier to use at home.4
They can be a great addition to your skincare routine too, with many reported benefits. These might include:
- Reduced fine lines and wrinkles
- Faded acne scars
- Lightened dark spots or other pigmentation
- Smoother skin texture5
AHAs are also usually suitable for most skin types, which means that these types of products may work for you too.6 Be warned, though. Using too much can have harmful side-effects, like skin irritation and sun sensitivity. It’s essential to start with lower percentages to avoid redness and inflammation (and stop if your symptoms get worse or don’t improve).7
AHAs vs BHA
AHAs are often talked about in comparison with BHA, which is another type of skincare product. BHA stands for ‘Beta Hydroxy Acid’. Unlike AHAs, there is only one BHA, and you might already know it by its other name – salicylic acid.8,9
The difference between the two is in how they work. Salicylic acid is oil-soluble, which means it can penetrate below the skin’s surface (unlike AHAs). They do provide some level of exfoliation, but they’re best known for clearing excess sebum, bacteria, and grime that can lead to spots.10
BHA is often used by people with spot-prone skin or those with an oily complexion. It’s thought to help with reducing inflammation too.11
Different products with AHAs
If you’re interested in adding an AHA product to your skincare routine, there are plenty of options on the market. You may choose a single-ingredient product or one that incorporates other benefits too.
Some AHA products might include:
- Body lotions
Remember to look carefully at the amount of AHA in your chosen product, especially if you’re using multiple products that contain glycolic, lactic, or malic acids. It can be easy to overdo it without realising how much you’re using, and this could lead to inflammation.13
If you’re not sure whether to use AHAs, it could be worth researching how to introduce acids to your skincare or discover what natural skincare options are available. While AHA is thought to be safe for most people, there are plenty of other products that could deliver the same results too.
Last updated: 5 November 2020