Active Ingredients: AHA

Reyanna Ng Beauty Expert
Active Ingredients: AHA

What are AHAs? (Alpha Hydroxy Acid)

AHAs stands for Alpha Hydroxy Acids. They are derived from sugar cane or other plant sources and are often called fruit acids. AHAs are chemical exfoliants that help with improving the skin’s complexion and texture, revealing a dewy glow and enhance the natural moisturising factors within our skin.


Types of AHAs

There are various types of AHAs which are derived from different ingredients and all have different benefits.

  • Glycolic Acid = Derived from sugar cane. It is the smallest AHA, allowing them to penetrate deeper into the skin. Recommended for discolouration concerns and contains antimicrobial properties that help prevent breakouts.
  • Lactic Acid = Derived from the lactose in milk. Targets concerns of ageing skin, specifically hyperpigmentation.
  • Mandelic Acid = Derived from almond extract. Is the largest AHA, thus, suitable for sensitive skin or those trying out AHA for the first time as they do not penetrate too deep into the skin. Beneficial in improving skin texture and minimising pore size.
  • Citric Acid = Derived from citrus fruits extract. Its main purpose is to neutralise the skin’s pH and smooth rough patches of skin, and also soothe inflamed skin.
  • Malic Acid = Derived from apples. A type of AHA-BHA crossover, all depending on the formulation. Helps to soothe inflamed skin. It is not as effective as the other AHAs but they work well in making other acids more effective, hence, why they are often found in combination with others.
  • Tartaric Acid = Derived from grapes. Works to elevate signs of sun damage and after-effects of acne breakouts.


Benefits of using AHAs

It stimulates cell turnover

  • As stated above, AHAs are a chemical exfoliant and they stimulate the shedding of dead skin cells and cell turnover rate as it exfoliates both the outer (the epidermis) and deeper (the dermis) layer. 

Better product absorption

  • By getting rid of the layer of dead skin cells it increases product absorption as the dead skin cells will no longer clog the skin, ensuring that you are getting your bucks worth when applying your products. 

Perfect for anti-ageing concerns

  • AHAs help with concerns of ageing skin by stimulating collagen synthesis by fibroblasts (responsible for producing collagen in the skin) and decreasing degradation of the existing dermal matrix. By doing so, reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and the aftermath of UV damage as the skin will be more hydrated and plumper.
  • AHAs also evens out discolouration caused by scarring and age-spots (lentigines, melanoma). The new skin cells which are stimulated to renew are more evenly coloured, hence, your skin complexion will be brighter, showing a more youthful appearance.

Prevents acne breakouts

  • Breakouts occur when your pores are clogged with excess sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria. Chemical exfoliating can help with loosening and cleansing the pores of all the gunk sitting in there.
  • Long term use can prevent future breakouts from occurring and help reduce the appearance of enlarged pores.


What to note?

It is advised that any products with a 15% or higher AHA concentration should be avoided. The recommended is 10% and less, with less preventing irritation.

Some products are advised to be used only 2-3 times a week, especially those with sensitive skin.

Those with sensitive skin may come across a burning sensation, itching or dermatitis during or after use. This means that the product’s AHA concentration is too high for your skin.

VERY IMPORTANT: after applying any AHA product in the day, you must always wear sunscreen as the skin is more vulnerable to UV rays which can actually cause more harm, such as sunburn.


Products we recommend 

The INKEY List Glycolic Acid Toner

the inkey list glycolic acid toner

This lightweight AHA toner gently exfoliates by working to unglue dead skin cells on the surface that can brighten dull-looking skin and minimise enlarged pores. 

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

the ordinary glycolic acid toner

This 7% toning solution offers mild exfoliation for improved skin radiance and visible clarity. The formula also improves the appearance of skin texture with continued use. This formula contains a studied Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative to help reduce irritation associated with acid use. 


COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

cosrx whitehead power liquid

COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid is a treatment liquid essence that keeps skin clear and smooth by gently melt dead skin cells on rougher skin with apple water and AHA ingredient. This essence is recommended for skin with the concern of tone and texture. The formula contains glycolic acid-powered exfoliant that is targeted at whiteheads and refines uneven complexions. 


The INKEY List Apple Cider Vinegar Peel

the inkey list apple cider vinegar peel

A potent exfoliating treatment uniting 2% apple cider vinegar, 10% glycolic acid and a 5% multi-fruit blend to help protect, clear and brighten skin.This fast-acting peel withgentle fruit enzymes guarantees visibly brighter, clearer and smoother skin that's also protected and healthy. Also contains antioxidant-rich ACV to help reduce redness and refine the look of skin texture.


Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

paulas choice skin perfecting gel

SKIN PERFECTING 8% AHA Gel is a completely non-abrasive, leave-on exfoliant that gently and naturally helps shed built-up layers of dead skin, just like your skin did when you were younger. This unique formula revitalizes the skin’s surface, creates noticeable radiance, smooths the appearance of wrinkles, and makes your skin look and feel remarkably soft. With ongoing use, it can help promote firmer-looking skin.This exfoliant has an optimal pH range of 3.5–3.9.


The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

the ordinary mandelic acid

Mandelic Acid 10% + HA offers superficial dermal peeling that is gentler than other alpha hydroxy acids. This larger size allows mandelic acid to penetrate the skin more slowly which in turn makes it very gentle and suitable for all skin types. Formulated with Hyaluronic Acid, it also delivers hydration to your skin.


KraveBeauty Kale-Lalu-yAHA

kravebeauty kale lalu yaha

A Skin Refresh Button. Your skin kind of has a hoarding problem; it holds onto leftover residue from air and products you use. With these impurities sitting on the skin along with dead skin cells and pore-clogging bacteria, your acne is about to have a breakout moment. But never fear, Kale-Lalu-yAHA is here and its brought a broom. As you sweep Kale-Lalu-yAHA across your skin, sugar cane-derived Glycolic Acid unglues dead skin cells and lifts them away. Cue Hyaluronic Acid to add some soothing hydration and Kale to boost antioxidants. Now that’s a lean, green cleaning machine. 

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

the ordinary aha bha solution

This combined 32% AHA/BHA solution offers deeper exfoliation to help fight visible blemishes and for improved skin radiance. The formula also improves the appearance of skin texture and reduces the look of fine lines with continued use. 

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  • Rachel

    OMG thanks for the info and recommendations!


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