Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are also known as the fruit acids. These acids are derived from various fruits and milk sugars. Alpha hydroxyl acids is a general name for a number of carboxylic acids found in these fruits.
AHA are either naturally occurring or synthetic. AHAs are well-known for their use in the cosmetics industry. They are often found in products claiming to reduce wrinkles or the signs of aging, and improve the overall look and feel of the skin.
AHA are also used as chemical peels in various concentration. Their effectiveness is documented. For more than a 1000 years, these fruit acids have been used to treat a number of skin disorders and lately have been claimed to improve facial rejuvenation.
It is recorded in the Egyptian papyrus archives that Cleopatra was an avid fan of these acids and frequently bathed in a mixture of the acids and sour milk.
In Europe, the French and the Austrian woman have been known to use topical application of these acids for rejuvenating their face.
Today there are many cosmetic creams which contain some type of AHA and these creams are generally sold to improve facial appearance. Almost all of the creams claim that the skin will become soft, smoother and have a fresh looking appearance.
Depending on the concentration, some have been shown to be effective as peeling agents and for facial rejuvenation.
Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the Î±-hydroxy acids most frequently used in cosmetics, although there are many others used in combination.
Glycolic acid is the most widely used of out of the group and is usually manufactured from sugar cane. It is fairly well known and considered the most effective of the AHAs.
Lactic acid, derived primarily from milk is considered to be milder and less irritating than glycolic acid, and is therefore considered ideal for those with sensitive skin. Its origins can be traced back to Cleopatra, who purportedly used sour milk on her skin.
Citric acid from citrus fruits, malic acid from apples and pears and tartaric acid from grapes are not as common and their effectiveness is still not clear.
Asides from cosmetic creams and lotions, AHA products are also found in various shampoos and cuticle softners.
To discover if the product does have an AHA the label should indicate the presence of one or more of the acids which include
- glycolic acid (GA)- lactic acid,
- GA plus ammonium glycolate
- Î±-hydroxyethanoic acid plus ammonium \Î±-hydroxyethanoate
- Î±-hydroxyoctanoic acid, Î±-hydroxycaprylic acid, hydroxycaprylic acid
- mixed fruit acid- triple fruit acid
- tri-Î± hydroxy fruit acids- sugarcane extract
- Î±-hydroxy and botanical complex
Glycolic acid has been shown to be an effective peeling agent and is available in a variety of strengths. Other AHAs ( lactic, and citric acid) applied topically, at 25%, have been demonstrated to increase epidermal and papillary dermal thickness, increase acid mucopolysaccharide, improve the quality of elastic fibers, and increase the density of collagen. All of them improve the skin texture and reveal a much youthful appearing skin.
The two acids, Glycolic and lactic acid are also the most frequently used in cosmetics, although there are many others used in combination.