The use of alpha hydroxy acids in skincare has properties and benefits that make them perfect for helping in solving various skin problems. Let’s find out together!

What are the alpha hydroxy acid

Alpha hydroxy acid or AHA are exfoliant acids that have a plant origin – we know the group commonly called fruit acids in which we find glycolic acid, mandelic acid, malic and tartaric acid — or animal origins ( like lactic acid or pyruvic acid). AHA molecule is hydro soluble and is able to break the bounds in the layers of the skin cells, to reveal a new brighter, even layer without dead skin cells.

What are the benefit of alpha hydroxy acid

Alpha hydroxy acid have various benefits for the skin:

  • they exfoliate the corneal layer, which is the top layer of the skin, revealing a more even and brighter complexion, stimulating collagen production and skin cell’s renovation;
  • they are perfect allies in the fight against sunspot;

Not all the AHA are the same: they are mostly photosensitising and potentially more irritating for sensitive skin ( for this type of skin is always better using an enzymatic exfoliator) but depending on the AHA, it would give different benefits for your skin. The most known alpha hydroxy acids are glycolic acid and mandelic acid.

How to use AHA in your skincare routine

According to the various concerns of the different skin types, the Alpha Hydroxy Acid can be added to your routine in different ways. We can find them in:

  • cleanser, to exfoliate and brighten the skin from the first step
  • exfoliant toner, where they can be in more higher dosage
  • serum, in which we find AHA in various dosages balanced with soothing and hydrating actives
  • body or face creams, where they can be in different dosages with the aim or reducing wrinkles, small lines or sunspot

Like for BHA, they advise to use AHA exfoliating toner, to stimulate cell’s turnover and make more efficient the next step of the skincare routine, whether they also have AHA or not.

The best known and most used AHAs are glycolic acid and mandelic acid.

Glycolic acid: benefits and suited skin type


Glycolic acid is the most known of the AHA’s acid and it comes from sugar cane. It has a smaller molecular structure that lets the acid penetrate deeper than other AHA. It stimulates the production of collagen, gets rid of sunspots, even the skin tone and slows down the skin aging. You can find it in percentage up to 12% outside the professional beauty salon, but they handle it always with attention. It’s perfect for combination and oily skin, but also normal and in the lower percentage, even to dry skin. It’s photosensitizing and they recommend using it with less frequency in spring and summer ( only in your night skincare routine). You have to always apply sunscreen to prevent sunspots and protect the skin barrier.

All the properties of mandelic acid

Mandelic acid is derived from bitter almonds and it can often be found in anti aging products with brightening and exfoliating action, for its depigmentation and exfoliating properties. It is the most delicate AHA and they recommended using mandelic acid even in the summer season. You can find it in cosmetics products with percentage up to 10%, like in serums, face, hands and body creams, face peeling and face masks.

Don’t use AHA with this ingredients

There are some actives that can’t be used with AHA, to not irritate the skin and nullify our previous efforts:

  • AHA and BHA: unless they are already present in the products, its advised not to use alpha and beta hydroxy acid in the same routine. They have different ph and could cause reactions to the skin, mostly in sensitive skins.
  • AHA and Retinol: both have exfoliating properties, but retinol pH is higher than AHA and can nullify the effect of the hydroxy acid and irritate the skin.
  • Vitamina C and AHA: even in this case, using both actives in the same routine can nullify their benefits, taking to sensitive skin and formation of sunspots. They can be use in the daily routine, but apart from each other: you can use a products with vitamin C in the morning and one with AHA in the night.