Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Written by Rachel Arieff
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Alpha hydroxy acids are derived from sugars found in fruit and milk. Their chemical names include, phenol, resorcinol, salicylic acid, and trichloroacetic acid. These acids have become very popular in over-the-counter cosmetic creams that you can buy at your local drugstore. However, this is a relatively recent phenomenon. Before they became widely available to the public, alpha hydroxy acids--in a much stronger form--were chiefly used in dermatologist and cosmetic surgeons' offices.

Doctors have applied alpha hydroxy acids as chemical peels, which worked to essentially disintegrate the very top layer of skin to expose the fresher, "younger" layer of skin underneath. This treatment is effective for people who have a lot of sun damage, wrinkles, age spots, and other blemishes that they wish to remove. Alpha hydroxy peels can't remove every wrinkle or blemish, but they definitely reduce their severity and can yield a younger, yet natural look.

Over-the-Counter Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Alpha hydroxy acids can be found, in a much lower concentration, in today's over-the-counter age-defying and cellulite-treatment creams and lotions. The reason for their lower concentration is consumer safety. Chemical peels are performed in doctor's offices because of the sheer strength of the alpha hydroxy acids; if left on too long, they can cause deep burns.

Low concentrations of alpha hydroxy acids do the job of sloughing off old skin without posing a risk to the wearer. However, care still needs to be taken when using these products. Be sure to read the instructions and follow them. For instance, do not apply alpha hydroxy creams more often than recommended; also, avoid exposure to sensitive eye and mucous membranes. Finally, avoid the sun when using these products, as they can cause more vulnerability to damaging ultraviolet rays.


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