· Always protect your skin before going out during the day. Use a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Wear a hat with a brim. Cover up with lightweight, loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, and pants.
· Buy products with good label information.
· A list of ingredients to see which AHA or other chemical acids are in the product.
· The name and address of the maker
· A statement about the products AHA and pH levels
The first two have to be on the label. The third is one is by choice. You can call or write the maker to find about a products AHA and pH levels.
· Buy only products with an AHA level of 10 percent or less and a pH of 3.5 or more.
· Test a small area of skin to see if it is sensitive to any AHA product before using a lot of it.
· Stop using the product right away if you have a reaction, such as stinging, redness, or bleeding.
· Talk with your doctor or dermatologist (a doctor that treats skin problems) if you have a problem. You also can report your reaction to the FDA. Write to Office of Cosmetics and Colors (HFS-106), 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, MD 20740-3835. Or you can call them at (202) 401-9725.
Alpha hydroxy is a familiar name to those seeking youthful skin; it is one in a long line of wonder ingredients in cosmetics and skin care products. Alpha hydroxy acids are an entire family of acids, which can be derived from fruit, milk or sugar. The most widely used in skin care is glycolic acid (made from sugar) and lactic acid (made from milk). These Alpha hydroxy acids are also called fruit or citric acids; women have been using lemon juice for bleaching freckles for centuries. Surprisingly, to those hardened by years of over-hyped product claims, alpha hydroxy does just what it claims it will.
Alpha hydroxy works by exfoliating the skin; that is, causing the surface skin cells to slough off, revealing newer, less damaged skin cells beneath. This can be done in a dermatologists office, using a high concentration of Alpha hydroxy acid, in which case it is known as a chemical peel. Lower concentrations of AHA applied over a longer period of time have a similar effect, but can take weeks or longer for the effects to appear.
Since Alpha hydroxy is an acid, it may irritate the skin, leaving it red, itchy or painful. In commercial, over-the-counter preparations, AHA should be in concentrations of less than ten percent. Its long-term use also appears to leave the user more sensitive to UV light (photosensitive) and therefore more prone to sunburn. The FDA warns that alpha hydroxy users should be sure to wear wide brimmed hats or strong sunscreen when outdoor, to prevent them from re-damaging the skin they have gone to such lengths to repair.
A recent competitor to alpha hydroxy acid is its close kin, beta hydroxy acid (BHA). Unlike alpha hydroxy, there is only one beta hydroxy acid, salicylic acid. Derived from the same acid as aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), beta hydroxy shares some of its anti-inflammatory properties and is less irritating to most skin types than alpha hydroxy, and can work at much lower concentrations. Unfortunately, it too makes the user more susceptible to sun-damage.
When shopping for skincare products, look for AHA, BHA, glycolic acid, lactic acid, or salicylic acid in the listed ingredients. They should be in products that stay on the skin, since they must be absorbed into the skins cells to be effective. But please, dont forget the sunscreen.