Alpha and beta hydroxy acids get their roots from nature and natural sources such as milk (lactic acid), sugar cane (glycolic acid), bitter almonds (mandelic acid), salicylic acid (willow bark), and phytic acid (plant seeds).

Today, most acids are purified and stabilized as a synthetic form. This means that your acids work by getting you the most potent effects with the fewest skin reactions.

Hydroxy acids are a class of compounds that are extensively used in a number of therapeutic and cosmetic products. Their use in cosmetic products to achieve beneficial skin effects is well established and documented. Hydroxy acids are of two types, Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs).

They differ in their sizes and chemical structure, making them suitable for different skin concerns and skin types.

Hydroxy acids have a number of positive effects on the skin. AHAs are often present in cosmetic products as essential ingredients, also sometimes referred to as “fruit acids”. Salicylic acid is the BHA used in skincare.

AHAs and BHAs are natural acids having a wide range of skin care applications including skin moisturizing and reducing wrinkles. Their ability to act as an exfoliant, makes your skin look younger, hydrated and smoother. They also accelerate your natural skin cell rejuvenation cycle. Commonly known AHAs are glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid, mandelic acid and phytic acid.

AHAs and BHAs have the following effects:

  • Breakdown bonds between damaged skin cells and loosen them. They then flake off and shed from the skin’s surface. This action smooths the skin by getting rid of rough skin.
  • Surface shedding cells are often pigmented, and the action of the hydroxy acids means that you are getting rid of surface pigments, resulting in clearer skin.

The different hydroxy acids:

Mandelic acid:

This is the least known of the AHAs, but our Melanopeel® favorite. It is the largest of all AHAs, resulting in slow penetration in your skin and making it a suitable candidate for sensitive skin types, rosacea, and dark skin. Mandelic acid occurs naturally in bitter almonds and has excellent anti-acne & anti-pigment properties.

Lactic acid:

This is the gentle hydrating AHA. It forms a key part of your skin involved in moisturization, called your Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF). This is the part of your skin that keeps it fluid and supple. Lactic acid is naturally derived from dairy products like milk and works well for persons with sensative skin & rosacea.

Salicylic acid:

This is the only representative for BHAs used as an acid peel in cosmetics. In addition to skincare applications, BHAs are also used in a variety of skin conditions like warts, dandruff, seborrhea and psoriasis. BHAs occur both naturally and are also prepared synthetically. Naturally, they are found in fresh fruits such as papaya, pineapple and berries, dairy products like milk and yoghurt, sweet birch and wintergreen leaves.

Glycolic acid:

This is the oldest and most used AHA in skincare. Therefore it is often considered the “Gold Standard” among all hydroxy acids in anti-aging. Glycolic acid is sourced from sugar cane, beets and grapes.

Other acids:

Phytic acid is a good supportive AHA that is used in cosmetic preparations and occurs naturally in rice.

Citric acid comes from a variety of citrus fruits. It can be more irritating, but when used in low amounts, it works as an antioxidant and as a pH adjuster.

Malic acid is large sized AHA and is often used in combination with mandelic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid to help produce enhanced results. Malic acid is derived from fruits such as apples and cherries.

If you are considering using AHAs and BHAs to do your home peels and skin resurfacing, Melanopeel® provides you with the safest and most effective choices for exploring stronger AHAs and BHAs. Click here to learn more about our face & body resurfacing peels.

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