Alpha Hydroxy Acids
These naturally occurring acids come from a variety of biological sources, most notably fruits, and work to resurface away fine lines and wrinkles through two unique mechanisms. The first is that alpha hydroxyl acids loosen desmosomes in the epidermis, which is what holds the upper layer of skin cells together. When this occurs the skin is free to be exfoliated and consequently bring newer cells to the surface. The second way alpha hydroxy acids refinish the skin is by directly stimulating the production of collagen. This is especially true of glycolic acid, which has the smallest particle size of all hydroxy acids and thus is able to penetrate deeper into the skin effectively.
Because alpha hydroxy acids increase the speed of epidermal exfoliation they also have a powerful effect on reducing the appearance of freckles and “age spots.” Both freckles and age spots are concentrated deposits of melanin in the skin that create an uneven, flawed look to the complexion. Because these unevenly distributed melanin pigments primarily reside in the epidermal skin layer they can eventually be pushed to the surface for eventual exfoliation. Hydroxy acids expedite this process to reveal more even skin tonality at a quicker pace.
Likewise, because they encourage the growth of newer skin cells through accelerated skin turnover, alpha hydroxy acids have a highly effective impact on reducing blackheads and acne. When pores are unable to be clogged because they are constantly being exfoliated this prevents the collection and oxidation of sebum oils in them, thereby reducing both blackhead formation and the formation of acne lesions. This quality of hydroxy acids makes them popular in products that treat both skin aging and acne conditions simultaneously.
The most notable alpha hydroxy acids are: glycolic acid (extracted from sugarcane plants), lactic acid (extracted from many sources, but botanically from bilberry plants), tartaric acid (extracted from oranges), malic acid (extracted from maple trees), and citric acid (extracted from lemons). When extracted from these botanical sources studies have shown them to be up to four times more gentle on the skin (while equally effective in their actions) when compared to these acids being created from synthetic sources.