Probably one of the most popular acids [ by name ] even if you're a skincare newbie is AHA aka Alpha Hydroxy Acids. But what is this acid? Where does it come from and what does it do?
I'll break down the AHA deets into 3 categories:
Glycolic Acid = Glowy Skin
This baby derived from sugar cane is a water-soluble acid that works on the outer layers of the skin, however due to it's molecular structure [ actually the tiniest one of the AHAs group ] it is able to penetrate deep into the skin. Glycolic acid is best known for it's skin-renewing properties by helping you smooth fine lines and wrinkles, improve your overall skin tone and texture and successfully helps to plump up the skin as well as boost hydration levels.
If this hasn't convinced you yet, it does more..
Glycolic Acid also helps fight free-radical damage, helps to treat hyperpigmentation and treat melasma It can also keep your pores in check [ looking at you with large pores and acne prone skin ] by preventing blockage, blackheads and breakouts from forming.
Lactic Acid = Lovely Texture & Tone
Meet Glycolic Acid's little sister derived from sour milk [ I wouldn't suggest making a DIY facial here although Cleopatra seemed to get the right idea with her milk baths.. ]. If you're using a vegan approach to skincare don't worry there are alternatives for you too. Unlike her counterpart Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid is on the more gentle side. Even gentle enough for people with skin sensitivities [ Yup the whole eczema, psoriosis, rosacea & keratosis pilaris clan! ]. Although please please do always consult your physician before adding this to your skincare routine when in doubt.
So what's the difference between the two?
Well for starters, there is something worth mentioning here is that Lactic Acid has the multi-tasking ability to increase ceramides in the skin's barrier, prevents congestion and helps keep the skin moisturized [ Sounds pretty good right? ]
Looking to brighten up your complexion, even out your overall skin texture & reduce your fine lines & wrinkles? Treat pigmentation?
Mandelic Acid = More Gentle
Lactic Acid not gentle enough? Then I would give Mandelic Acid a try, it's more gentle then Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid. Mainly sourced from bitter almonds, this acid does not penetrate as quick into the layers of the skin due to it's molecular size [ about twice the size of Glycolic Acid's ] which also makes it more bearable for those with sensitive skin. Cycstic Acne, acne, excess sebum? Mandelic Acid has antibacterial properties to help you address those issues.
Sounds good, go on..?
This super gentle acid is great for treating signs of aging and will help your complexion look brighter, buff out fine lines and wrinkles and even Firms up the skin by strengthening collagen.
The final takeaway
So now we know that all 3 categories of AHAs have similar properties such as: accelerate cell turnover by removing dead skin cells on the outer layers of the skin, treats hyperpigmentation as well as buffs out fine lines and wrinkles.
If you have normal, combination & oily skin type, try Glycolic Acid. It's a free-radical damage fighter and will keep your pores clear from any unwanted impurities.
Any skin type can benefit from Lactic Acid. This one works on improving the skin's barrier and retaining moisture.
Any skin type can benefit from Mandelic Acid. The more gentle of the three is even safe for the most sensitive skin types helps you deal with excess sebum, acne and even cystic acne.
Always consult a physician/ dermatologist before adding any of these to your skincare regime if you are not experienced or if you have serious skin concerns or reactive skin.
Let's not forget, AHAs are considered a chemical exfoliant, leaving your skin susceptible to sun damage and sensitivities. Always apply SPF if using an AHA product in your morning routine, and it can be beneficial to use a product containing Hyaluronic Acid afterwards.
I hope this helps you understand AHAs [ alpha Hydroxy Acids ] better.