Skincare Exfoliants and AHA
Exfoliation is a wonderful way to revive your skin, and at the heart of the process is the magic skincare ingredient AHA.
Face it. All women would love to have radiant, younger-looking skin … and why not? These days it’s easy and results are wonderful, largely due to the use of AHAs-or alpha hydroxy (fruit) acids-in exfoliants.
Research shows that gentle, progressive exfoliation is the best way to revive the skin and combat the effects of premature ageing. AHAs help with exfoliation because of two unique features:
- They progressively loosens the bonds holding dead skin cells together, initiating thorough exfoliation without trauma or pulling on the skin. Because this process is microscopic, it is not messy or drastic.
- The activity of AHA on the skin also stimulates collagen synthesis. Collagen is a protein in the skin that makes it firm and flexible.
AHAs do a wonderful job in helping to exfoliate and strengthen the skin. However, they can be overused-particularly with finer skins-so it pays to seek the advice of a qualified skincare therapist.
The role of AHAs
Think of the skin surface as a brick wall. The bricks are the individual skin cells, while the mortar that holds the bricks together is made up of an amazing array of different chemical components.
AHAs break down the chemical bonds holding individual cells together but have no effect on the actual skin cells. When the cells are freed from the holding bonds, they fall away from the skin’s surface leaving an even surface.
The most common AHA, glycolic acid, has a smaller molecular structure than other fruit acids and therefore penetrates the skin more efficiently. Other AHAs include lactic and malic acids.
How exfoliants work
Ageing causes skin cells to die off, leaving the surface looking dull and lacking in vitality. Exfoliants buff off dead cells, revealing the more translucent, younger-looking skin beneath.
There are many ways to exfoliate. The simplest is a granulated scrub, available from chemists and department stores.
This product usually contains microscopic granules in a cream base and removes dead surface cells when applied to the skin with a little water.
At the other end of the spectrum is chemobrasion, a derma-caustic solution-usually applied by a physician-which literally burns off the top layer. Laser resurfacing is another method of skin-removal for rejuvenating purposes. Both of these traumatise the skin which takes several days to heal.
The effectiveness of any exfoliating product depends on many factors. However, there are three prime variables:
1. Percentage of acid used
2. The pH level of the product (potential hydrogen)
3. Contact time of acid on the skin
The first two are controlled in the manufacturing process. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for the correct contact time.
What’s on the market
There are two main product groups-the leave-on take home products, and the much-stronger apply and remove products that must be applied by a qualified professional.
The leave-on products are usually found in moisturisers. Check pack details for an AHA strength of eight to 10 per cent and a pH not higher than 4. This indicates the product is an effective exfoliant.
The apply-and-remove products are much stronger, usually 30-40 per cent, with a pH level of 1.5 to 3 and must be applied by a qualified beauty therapist or medical professional. They work quickly, are excellent skin-boosting treatments-particularly for dry, sun-damaged skins-and are also highly effective for problematic oily skins.
If using an AHA product for the first time, you will feel a minor tingling sensation. This is normal and an indication that the product is working.
Article submitted by the Association of Professional Aestheticians of Australia.