• Tiffany Turnham


Updated: Jun 13, 2020

Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHA’s are in tons of cosmetic products these days. I get asked

about them all the time and wanted to help you all learn more about where these acids

come from, why they are in your favorite skin care products and how they are supposed

to help your skin.

I am going talk about the primary AHA’s that you see in your skin care products. There are technically other AHA’s than just the ones on this list but they are not used much in cosmetics because of the lack of scientific evidence that they benefit the skin.

Glycolic Acid - This colorless, odorless AHA is derived from sugar cane and is highly soluble in water. It’s small molecular structure penetrates the skin more effectively helping to speed up the skins cell renewal process and it is often mixed with other compounds to aid in product penetration. You will see it in your anti-aging products like your favorite night cream and your acne products to help remove dead skin cells to help combat congestion. This is the most used and arguably the most effective AHA in cosmetic products today.

Citric Acid - Lemon, oranges, limes and other citrus fruits contain high concentrations of citric acid. Citric acid is widely used in creams, gels, and liquids of all kinds including chemical peels. This acid’s primary benefit promotes skin peeling and regrowth in your anti-aging products and protects the skin against free radicals that age the skin. I love it in a good daytime serum to protect my skin from the California sun.

Lactic Acid - This organic compound in cosmetics is derived from sour milk. Of course you also have lactic acid in muscle tissue but that is not the kind we are talking about here. Lactic acid is one of the top 3 AHA’s used in cosmetics today and you might wonder why by the lovely sound of it? Well, the gentle exfoliating properties of lactic acid help to brighten uneven skin tones and hydrate the skin. Remember how Cleopatra bathed in milk? She was definitely on to something...

Tartaric Acid - Grapes and tamarinds are where this AHA is derived from. You see this in cosmetics but not as much as the previous 3 acids mentioned. This is used in soaps, suntan products and hair care products primarily for its anti-oxidant properties to reverse the signs of age spots, wrinkles, and to stimulate collagen production for firmer skin. I like to look for tartartic in my body creams and hair care products to be sure I have anti-oxidants on my body as well as my face.

Malic Acid - Malic acid is a naturally occurring organic acid derived from apples. In nature malic acid is what is responsible for giving fruits and vegetables a tart taste. In cosmetics it’s chemical structure is more balanced than other fruit acids and has a better buffer capacity than AHA’s like citrus and lactic. It is used to help adjust a cosmetic products pH to work with your skins pH of 5.5.

As you can see AHA’s play a HUGE part in skin care products today. Scientists have been able to keep these compounds stable (so they don’t spoil in your cabinet) and extremely effective for improving the texture, tone, color and brightness of your skin. Be sure to look at the ingredients in the skin care products you buy and you will notice more now how many AHA’s are in the products you use every day.

To good skin!



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