Guide to AHAs: Which should i use?
When was the last time you had an AHA moment (pun intended) in your skincare journey? For those who are not familiar with Alpha Hydroxy Acids, we’re here to bring another lightbulb moment.
AHAs are a class of water-soluble weak acids that act as an effective chemical exfoliant to speed up cell turnover. Some commonly used in skincare listed in ascending order of their molecule size follows: Glycolic, Lactic, Malic, Tartaric Acid, Mandelic, Citric.
So how do AHAs work?
Our skin naturally sheds cells every 2 to 3 weeks, with fresh skin cells moving up the stratum corneum. This skin turnover rate is crucial in healthy skin but is often slowed down due to aging, environmental stressors, and dehydration. When this process slows down, skin tends to become rough, scaly, and dull-looking due to the old skin cells that remain.
Here’s where superhero AHA comes into the picture! AHA works by loosening up the bonds between the stubborn, past-due dead skin cells so that new skin can be revealed.
AHA provides a quick-short term benefit of smoother skin texture and brighter complexion, sometimes just overnight! You will be surprised what it can do for you in the long term- AHAs are proven to treat hyperpigmentation, increase collagen production, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Say hello to clear & youthful skin, what a dream!
Choosing an AHA
When it comes to AHA, choosing the right molecule size for your skin concern matters. The smaller the molecule, the more effective it is as it gets to penetrate deeper into your skin. If glycolic is too harsh or irritating for your skin especially when you’re a beginner to acids, then start with something of larger molecule size such as lactic and mandelic acid.
Aside from molecule size, the pH and concentration of acid should be taken into consideration as well. Since AHAs are acidic in nature, they work better with a lower pH (nope, pH 0 is gonna burnnnn your skin till death). For most, pH 3.5 is usually ideal with a good balance of exfoliating benefits while having little chance of irritation.
AHA functions effectively at a relatively high percentage. For glycolic & lactic acid, the daily use level should be at least 5%, and preferably between 8% to 12%. Chemist’s pro tip: products that don’t disclose key acid concentration are not worth your $!!!
We recommend everyone to have a lower concentration acid in their routine for daily use and a higher concentration level for once a week masking. The high level AHA mask (~20 to 30%) can be left on for about 15minutes once a week or every other week. With acids, your skin may be more sensitive to sun exposure, so don’t forget to load up on your sunscreens and protect your skin!
Baby Steps: 30% PHA + 15% Lactic Acid Treatment
Launched back in September 2019 together with our Blank Slate Cleanser, Baby Steps is a highly effective yet gentle PHA/AHA booster for sensitive skin types and acid beginners. Among the other acid boosters in our line, Baby Steps will be a great start to experiment around exfoliating acids.
Both gluconolactone and lactic acid's larger molecular structure make this the least irritating chemical exfoliant that still brings exfoliating benefits. Get that better complexion- carefully! Both molecules' side benefits are hydration. Double yay.
For daily treatment, mix one drop into your favorite serum or moisturizer. If you’re using it as a weekly wash off mask, apply a thin layer to dry skin after cleansing and wash it off after 10-15minutes! Careful not to get them in your eye or it will burn!
The chemists wish you a fun time experimenting around acid types, pH, concentration, and frequency to find the sweet spot that works for you! We say acids are definitely a category where the combination can be highly personal, so take your time to figure it all out:)