What Does Alpha Hydroxy Acid Do for Skin?


Alpha hydroxy acid is listed on the packaging of many beauty products and claims to improve the texture of skin by reversing sun damage and diminishing fine lines and wrinkles. There is some truth to these claims, although alpha hydroxy acid is considered to be a mild acid and while it may improve the appearance of skin, it cannot remove wrinkles or significant sun damage.


Alpha hydroxy acids work by gently peeling away the uppermost layers of the epidermis, which is the top layer of the skin. This will allow the undamaged skin underneath to be exposed and create a smoother, more youthful appearance. Alpha hydroxy acids are best used to treat rough or dry skin because they do not remove enough of the skin to treat deep wrinkles, scars or intense discoloration.


Alpha hydroxy acids include glycolic, lactic and fruit acids. Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane, while lactic acid is found in milk, molasses and various fruits. These acids are the most mild acids used in chemical facial peels. They can also be found in many over-the-counter beauty products in diluted concentrations.

Time Frame

Treatment using alpha hydroxy acids will need to be performed several times to see significant results. When performing an alpha hydroxy acid chemical peel, the doctor may suggest weekly treatments until desired results have been achieved. Alternatively, using a cream or facial wash contain alpha hydroxy acids can be used regularly as part of a daily skin care regime.


Alpha hydroxy acid can be used to smooth dry or rough skin, help control acne and improve the texture of skin damaged by the sun. This is commonly done with a chemical face peel. The alpha hydroxy acids can also be mixed with a bleaching agent and applied to skin to correct pigment problems.


Skin may become more sensitive to the sun when using alpha hydroxy acids. During treatment, you should always wear sunblock to prevent additional sun damage


Products containing alpha hydroxy acids can be drying to sensitive skin. If this happens, the skin may appear to be sunburned. Stop using the product if redness, peeling, itching, dryness or other irritation occurs. While alpha hydroxy acids are considered the mildest acids used in skin care, they can still be too harsh for sensitive skin.

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