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Home > Cosmetics Knowledge > Are cosmetics safe? > Safety from AHA Products
Safety from AHA Products

AHA ProductAlpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) come from fruit and milk sugars. They are found in many creams and lotions. Many people buy products with AHAs, because they claim to reduce wrinkles, spots, sun-damaged skin, and other signs of aging. Some studies suggest they may work.

But are these products safe? FDA has received reports of reactions in people using AHA products. Their complaints include:
severe redness
swelling (especially in the area of the eyes)
burning
blistering
bleeding
rash
itching
skin discoloration

About AHA
The Alpha Hydroxy Acid Products include glycolic and mixed fruit acid complexes specially formulated to exfoliate your skin and in addition to removing dead surface cells, they cause the cells to work more quickly to reproduce. As you age, skin cell regeneration slows, causing lines and wrinkles to form. These products cause skin to act "younger." This improves the appearance of wrinkles and helps prevent new lines from forming. The removal of the dead surface cells also helps prevent/eliminate breakouts, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, improve tone, texture and overall appearance.

Those containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) have become widely used in recent years despite many unanswered questions about their safety. Recently, a study sponsored by the cosmetics industry indicates that these products may make users more sensitive to sunlight and especially to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation component of sunlight. UV exposure can damage the skin and at high doses, especially over a long period, can cause skin cancer. FDA is currently evaluating this study and is pursuing additional studies that will make sure these products are safe for consumers to use. It is wise to use sun protection before going into the sun (daylight). Adequate sun protection includes: wearing a hat with a brim of at least four inches, wearing lightweight sun protective clothing, including long sleeves, and applying a sunscreen with an SPF (or Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15. Sunscreens should be reapplied after excessive sweating or swimming. It is especially important to use effective sun protection if you are going to the beach and will be exposed to high levels of UV radiation. The recent study makes these sun protection precautions even more important if you use AHA- containing products. It is important to use sun protection, including a sunscreen, if you use an AHA product, even if you havent used the product that day. If the AHA that youre using contains a sunscreen, it is suggested that applying an additional sunscreen (SPF 15) product before going into \he sun will be beneficial. Even though your AHA product may contain sunscreen, it is primarily a skin treatment product-not a means of sun protection. If you use the AHA at bedtime, be sure to apply an additional sunscreen product in the morning before going into the sun. The agency has received about 100 reports of adverse effects with AHA products, ranging from mild irritation and stinging to blistering and bums. If you usually have sensitive skin, FDA advises you to tes any product that contains an AHA on a small area of skin before applying it a to large area. If you use cosmetics with AHAs and experience skin irritation or prolonged stinging, FDA advises you to stop using the product and consult your physician.

AHA ingredients may be listed as:
1. glycolic acid
2. lactic acid
3. malic acid
4. citric acid
5. glycolic acid + ammonium glycolate alpha-hydroxyethanoic acid
6. ammonium alpha-hydroxyethanoate
7. alpha-hydroxyoctanoic acid
8. alpha-hydroxycaprylic acid
9. hydroxycapry lie acid
10. mixed fruit acid
11. tri-alpha hydroxy fruit acids
12. triple fruit acid
13. sugar cane extract
14. alpha hydroxy and botanical complex L-alpha hydroxy acid
15. glycomer in crosslinked fatty acids alpha nutrium (three AHAs)

A consumer group and a major manufacturer made these conclusions final at a June 1997 meeting of the CIR panel in spite of serious safety questions submitted. FDA is reviewing these CIR conclusions, as well as the other available data about these products. Consumers should be aware that AHA concentration and pH are generally not noted on all products. (FDA does not require it.) However, the information should be available from the manufacturer. Cosmetics manufacturers are not required to submit safety data to FDA before marketing products, although they bear the responsibility for manufacturing safe products.

What Are the Benefits of AHAs?
Wrinkle Retaliation - AHAs remove dead skin cells in the outer epidermal layer which accentuates lines and wrinkles.
Soften Up - AHAs contain skin smoothing and toning components creating finer, smoother and younger looking skin.
Getting Clear - AHAs loosen acne lesions allowing sebum to flow to the skin in a continuous and uniform manner reducing the formation of new acne lesions.

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