Alpha vs Beta…

I’m not talking personality here… I was thinking more along the lines of Hydroxy acids!

These days it seems that almost every product on the market has some form of alpha or beta-hydroxy acid in it, and for good reason. Thanks to the Baby Boomer generation, the anti-aging craze has taken over! 😉

The Breakdown:

Alpha-hydroxy acids, or AHA’s, include Glycolic acid (sugar cane), Lactic acid (milk), Citric acid (lemon and oranges), Malic acid (apples and pears), and Tartaric acid (grapes). Each of these share some common effects on the skin by dissolving that top layer, promoting cell turnover, and increasing the production of collagen and elastin. Individually, they each offer additional benefits. Glycolic acid and Lactic acid are, by far, the most common. This is because they have the ability to penetrate the skin deeper than the latter.

AHA’s are most commonly used as an anti-aging treatment to minimize the appearance of wrinkles, but they are also used to treat mild sun damage and even out overall skin tone. You will find them in a number of products. The idea is to get your dose in a product that will stay on the skin. Using them in a cleanser can often defeat the purpose since you’re rinsing the product right off. Most importantly, check out the value. If the AHA ingredient shows up in the middle or at the end of an ingredient list, chances are that you’re not getting much of its benefit, if any at all.

The downside… AHA’s are capable of causing irritation and can increase your sensitivity to the sun, potentially causing more sun-damage if you don’t protect your skin properly. Use an SPF 30 or more and try not to expose your skin to direct sunlight.

Beta-hydroxy acids, or BHA’s, include Salicylic acid (willow tree bark). BHA’s, like AHA’s, exfoliate the skin and lighten pigmentation caused by the sun, but it is most effective on Acne. Besides being less likely to cause irritation, its oil soluble which gives it the ability to dislodge sebum and debris from deep down in the pore. In addition, because Salicylic acid is derived from aspirin, it maintains those anti-inflammatory properties. A perfect combination in treating Acne!

As with AHA’s, BHA’s should be obtained from products that stay on the skin for better product penetration and since they can cause sensitivity to the sun as well, SPF 30 or higher should be used.

For persons with darker skin, caution should be used with both of these products since they can potentially cause hyperpigmentation if caution and proper care is not taken.

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