Alpha Hydroxy Acids – A Cure for Photodamage?

We all have heard about them but do we know what they are and what they do for our skin? It turns out that a-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are important components of optimal skin care and their benefits have been studied and documented for some time now. These distinctive molecules provide us with plethora of opportunities for individualizing skin treatments to fit our unique needs.

They can be used as a monotherapy or be a part of a comprehensive skin care management. This article will review the current understanding of AHAs, their biology as well as their benefits and risks when used in cosmetic and medical applications. Information about other cosmetic procedures can be found on Cosmetic Surgery Procedures patient guide.

WHAT IS AN ALPHA HYDROXY ACID?

Alpha hydroxy acids is a group of compounds derived from food products including glycolic (from sugar cane,) lactic (from sour milk,) malic (from apples,) citric (from fruits) and tartaric acid (from grape wine.) For any topical compound, including AHA, it must penetrate into the skin where it can act on living cells. Small molecular size is one characteristic that is important in determining compound’s ability to penetrate the top layer of the skin. In that respect, glycolic acid (the smallest AHA) is a clear winner and accounts for the popularity of this product in both cosmetic as well as medical preparations. Further discussion in this article will focus on the properties and benefits of glycolic acid (GA).

ALPHA HYDROXY ACID AT DIFFERENT CONCENTRATIONS

In low concentrations, 5 – 10% as is found in many over the counter products (e.g. Reversa ® product line), GA reduces cell adhesion in the top layer of the skin. This action promotes exfoliation of the outermost layer of the skin accounting for smother texture following regular use of topical …