The 'What the hell?' series is back. This series of blog posts is designed to give information as to what certain buzzword ingredients are and why they're used.
The first in the new series looks at Alpha Hydroxy Acid when used in skin care.
Take on me
AHA's (not the boy band) are basically exfoliants that are said to reduce wrinkles.
Well, firstly, they don't.
They can't actually reduce wrinkles, as wrinkles are caused by a break down of elastin and collagen all the way down in the dermis, and non prescriptive skin care products just can't work that far down the skin, however much many companies would you to believe this is the case.
What they do do, however, is act as a chemical exfoliant, breaking down the bonds of dead skin cells on the stratum corneum, the most outer layer of the skin. This level of chemical exfoliation has been proven to increase skin cell turnover, meaning that cells are produced more quickly at a basal layer and dead skin cells shed more effectively.
So how is this linked to wrinkle reducing benefits?
When the skin is surfaced with dead skin cells, light doesn't reflect evenly, as the mishmash of dead cells refracts light all over the place, making the skin appear dull.
This is no different in the case of wrinkles, with dead skin cells forming in the crevice and not reflecting light, but this effect can give them the appearance of being deeper than they really are.
Using Alpha Hydroxy Acids will gently and evenly remove these surface dead skin cells, allowing light to reflect beautifully off the skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles (a key beauty phrase to always bare in mind).
Are they for me?
AHA's are often suitable for sensitive skin but feedback is very mixed. Studies by the FDA saw around an 18% increase in UV light sensitivity meaning that you should definitely be applying at least an SPF 15 all day, every day when using products that contain these acids.
It has been greatly used in the treatment of acne as the skin of an acne patient still needs to be exfoliated to prevent the pores from blocking, but the use of a manual exfoliator causes more damage than it can fix, therefore a chemical exfoliant is needed.