Alpha hydroxy acid is a chemical found in natural products. It has been used for centuries as a way to beautify skin.
The alpha hydroxy acids found in cosmetic applications are usually derived from fruit, milk or sugar. The most common types come from sugar cane (glycolic acid), sour milk (lactic acid), apples (malic acid), citrus fruits (citric acid) and wine (tartaric acid).
Look for AHA, BHA, glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid in the listed ingredients when shopping for skin care products. Using alpha hydroxy acids may cause minor skin dryness and flaking that will diminish with continued use. Start with a concentration of 5 to 8 percent and a pH of 3 to 4 to minimize skin irritation.
The use of alpha hydroxy acids may cause skin irritation and sun sensitivity. Symptoms of irritation include redness, burning, itching, sensitivity and pain. Scarring may occur in people with darker colored skin pigments. A good sunscreen should be used with alpha hydroxy acid products.