What Is Alpha Hydroxy Acid?

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Alpha hydroxy acid is a chemical compound that is commonly found in products that reduce skin wrinkles and in treatments for acne. There are several compounds that fall under the classification of alpha hydroxy acid, and the one that is primarily used in skin care treatments is known as glycolic acid. Alpha hydroxy acid can be applied to the skin in low concentration levels through over the counter products and higher concentrations through chemical peels performed by a doctor.

How Does Alpha Hydroxy Acid Work?

Alpha hydroxy acid works by preventing cells from adhering to one another on the skin surface, which then causes the top layer of skin to peel and shed, revealing new and smoother skin underneath. It can be applied to the skin in the form of a topical cream or gel with a 5 to 10 percent concentration. Alpha hydroxy acid is also used to temporarily smooth the skin at 10 to 50 percent strength. Chemical peels, one of the advanced treatments for acne, involves the application of alpha hydroxy acid at 50-70% percent for a period of 3 to 8 minutes.

What Are The Benefits Of Alpha Hydroxy Acid?

Alpha hydroxy acid is effective in clearing skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and age spots. It is proven to help stimulate collagen growth in the cells so that the appearance of wrinkles and lines will be reduced. Those who are able to afford routine chemical peels that use alpha hydroxy acid are likely to see signs of skin aging reversal such as increased elasticity, higher collagen density, and improved thickness.

What Are The Side Effects Of Alpha Hydroxy Acid?

One major side effect that can occur from the use of alpha hydroxy acid in treatments for acne and wrinkles is a marked increase in sun sensitivity. Some people can become up to 50% more prone to sun damage and will need to use a high quality sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB radiation. Alpha hydroxy acid can sometimes lead to scarring on darker skin tones. Another side effect of this compound is irritation, redness, itching, or burning of the skin. Chemical peels produce a significant amount of skin irritation due to the high concentration of alpha hydroxy acid.

Alpha Hydroxy Acid For Acne Treatment

Alpha hydroxy acid is one of the treatments for acne, but the side effects that its use can generate make it less appealing than some other ingredients. While alpha hydroxy acid is beneficial for smoothing the skin's overall appearance, compounds such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are better choices for treating acne because they are not associated with high risks of sun sensitivity. Read our reviews of best acne treatment products.