Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are creating a huge hype across the globe with women rushing to buy the ‘it’ cosmetic products in the hunt for flawless skin. Here’s why this time it pays to be part of the crowd.

The purpose of AHAs is to remove dead skin cell build-up and encourage faster skin renewal, leaving our complexion looking bright and fresh, as well as skin baby smooth. While there are many AHAs out there, one, in particular, stands out – it’s called glycolic acid.

Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane and the reason behind its popularity is its molecular structure. It has the smallest molecules of all the AHAs, making it easier for it to penetrate the epidermis, squeeze under the dead skin layers and dissolve the ‘glue’ holding it stuck to the new skin.

glycolic acid skincare

Why Is Exfoliation So Important?

To simplify it, exfoliation has the same effect as scrubbing off dirt from surfaces – it reveals a surface that shines as if it were brand new. It’s a bit more complex than that, though, as it also encourages our skin to start forming new skin cells, eliminating fine lines, hyperpigmentation and dryness. Because our skin is no longer congested with dirt and dead skin cells, our pores are minimised and acne significantly reduced. Yes, it really is THAT good.

In this way, glycolic acid has a similar effect to retinoids and scrubs, but without the irritation. Retinoids repair skin by causing inflammation, while scrubs can damage the skin with abrasives, making them unsuitable for sensitive skin.

How To Pick A Glycolic Acid Product?

Concentration – In essence, a higher concentration means the product is more effective. While concentrations under 3% usually have water-binding purposes, a 5% concentration is suitable for everyday use, while a 10% concentration or higher would be considered a treatment to be used once a week.

pH – Glycolic acid is most effective in products with pH levels between 3 and 4. While most products don’t declare this value, you should be able to tell if the product is working by feeling a gentle tingling sensation for a few moments after application.

glycolic acid skincare

What If I Run Out Of Skin Cells?

According to the Hayflick Limit Theory of Aging, each cell is limited in the number of times it can divide before it finally dies. If this were true of skin cells, using exfoliators would eventually leave us without or with dead skin cells. Fortunately, the theory only applies to those human body cells that reproduce exclusively by dividing (keratinocytes). Our skin is comprised of both keratinocytes and a large portion of stem cells whose job is to produce new stem cells and new regular skin cells that will substitute the old cells once they die.

Stay Safe In The Sun

Glycolic acid increases the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays, so it’s important to wear effective sun protection while using it. For everyday use, using a mineral foundation will suffice, as most declare an SPF protection of at least 15.

glycolic acid skincare

Glycolic Acid Products That Broke The Internet

Pixi Glow Tonic (5% glycolic acid) – a wonderful everyday tonic with aloe vera, witch hazel, horse chestnut, ginseng and other botanical ingredients intended to calm inflammation and act as astringents (tighten up pores). Can be used twice daily. Tests show a pH of around 5, meaning the tonic is gentler and doesn’t tingle the skin.

Alpha-H Liquid Gold (5% glycolic acid) – Top Pick’ Cosmopolitan Beauty Awards  2016, Beauty Hot 100 Winner, Harper’s Bazaar 2013 and Best Anti-Ageing Product’ QVC Italy 2015 & 2016 are just some of the awards, won by this incredible product that sells in quantities of one bottle per minute across the globe. With a low pH, it tends to be more intense than the Pixi Glow tonic, so you can use it every other or third night.

Alpha-H Liquid Gold Smoothing and Perfecting Mask (15% glycolic acid) – another Harper Bazaar favourite, this mask is a once-a-week intensive treatment with a high glycolic acid concentration and incredible natural oils, including macadamia nut oil, rose and lavender extracts. Unlike the tonics, the mask should be washed off after 10 minutes.