Alpha and beta hydroxy acids have been utilised in modern skin care products for some time. They are popular additives that act as skin conditioners and exfoliants whilst stimulating the production of new skin cells. Hydroxy acids are organic acids found in natural sources such as fruits, or are synthesized in the laboratory.
Hydroxy acids are useful as:
- natural exfoliants
- loosening and dissolving dead skin cells
- regenerating new skin cells
- controlling acne
- smoothing damaged skin
- retaining the moisture of your skin
What is the difference?
The main difference between alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids is their solubility. Alpha hydroxy acids are water soluble only, while beta hydroxy acids are soluble in oils. Both need time to be absorbed into the skin to work effectively.
Alpha hydroxy acids are mostly derived from fruit and milk sugars. They work by reacting with the upper layer of the epidermis, weakening the dead skin cells there. This reveals the underlying skin and promotes new skin cell growth and is thought to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. Alpha hydroxy acids are also believed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, roughness and blotchy pigmentation. Because of their solubility with water, alpha hydroxy acids are better suited to dry, sun-damaged skin where acne is not a problem. Any skin care product should contain the recommended concentration of 5-8 percent of alpha hydroxy acids for optimum efficacy.
Beta hydroxy acids are more effective at penetrating the skin and eliminating the oily residues that build up there, and is why beta hydroxy acid is often an active ingredient in many acne treatments. Any skin care product should contain the recommended concentration of 1-2 percent of beta hydroxy acid for optimum efficacy.
What to look out for?
- Hydroxy acids can have side effects, most noticeably skin irritation and increased sun sensitivity, particularly with alpha hydroxy acids, so make sure you wear sunscreen if venturing outdoors
- Avoid using products containing concentrated extracts, or worse still, synthetically manufactured ones
You can also follow these simple lifestyle guidelines for a healthier skin:
- Protect you skin in the sun - wear sun block, UV protection sun glasses and a hat when you are outdoors, especially between 10am – 3pm when ultraviolet radiation is at its strongest and most dangerous
- Drink plenty of water - this will help keep your skin hydrated and lend your body a helping hand in keeping it healthy
- A balanced diet should include daily intakes of fresh fruit and vegetables which will help your skin retain its condition
- Always test any skin care product on your skin to determine whether it is receptive to the active ingredients
- Also look for products that have genuine organic certificationfrom a nationally or internationally recognized body. This will ensure the integrity of any ingredients in the product